Madonna’s New Face Is a Brilliant Provocation

Jennifer Weiner in The New York Times:

With blond braids looped over her ears, dressed in a long black skirt and black jacket accessorized with a riding crop, one of the best-selling female recording artists of all time stepped into the spotlight at the 65th annual Grammy Awards Sunday night. Madonna was there to introduce Sam Smith and Kim Petras, a nonbinary performer and a trans woman. She began by referring to her four decades in the music industry, and praised the rebels “forging a new path and taking the heat for all of it.” Was anyone listening? Social media’s loudest roars weren’t about her speech, her longtime L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy or her upcoming world tour. They were about Madonna’s preternaturally smooth and extravagantly sculpted face.

All of Madonna’s features looked exaggerated, pushed and polished to an extreme. There was her forehead, smooth and gleaming as a porcelain bowl. Her eyebrows, bleached and plucked to near-invisibility. Her cheekbones, with deep hollows beneath them. The total effect was familiar, but more than slightly off. People noticed. “Madonna confuses fans over new face,” wrote The New York Post. People posted her picture side by side with that of Jigsaw from “Saw,” or Janice from “The Muppet Show,” and made jokes about “Desperately Seeking Surgeon,” while extremely online plastic surgeons hastened to guess about exactly what procedures she had undergone.

Beyond the question of what she’d had done, however, lay the more interesting question of why she had done it. Did Madonna get sucked so deep into the vortex of beauty culture that she came out the other side? Had the pressure to appear younger somehow made her think she ought to look like some kind of excessively contoured baby?

More here.