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Juliet Jeske Headshot

Was Madonna Too Old for the Halftime Show? Or Is This Just a Double Standard?

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I never watch the Super Bowl; normally I could care less. But this year the NY Giants were playing and after their dramatic win to the 49ers in the playoffs, I was excited enough to watch the game with a large group of friends. I knew Madonna was going to be in the halftime show but she wasn't the reason I watched the game. But, like her or not, the production value alone to her halftime show put many if not most prior attempts to shame. She started the whole affair with several dozen beefy marching men dressed as Roman gladiators and had male and female dancers all over her ever-expanding and changing stage. It was so over-the-top that love her or hate her, it was one hell of a show. The group of people I was sitting with sat mesmerized, again for the stagecraft if nothing else. They have something like eight minutes to put it up, it was beyond ambitious and it seemed to go off without a hitch. And if it was anything like her concerts, Madonna was instrumental in how everything looked down to the last detail.

I wasn't surprised that there was controversy surrounding her appearance as Madonna always seems to court controversy. Some were upset that another female performer, M.I.A., flashed an offensive hand signal and screamed an expletive. Apparently the rapper was going rogue as she did neither action in rehearsal. What I have found depressing is how most of the criticism about the performance has been about Madonna's age. Well, weren't The Who, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney recently in halftime shows? Then I went and watched clips of previous performances and well, let's just say when compared to the Black Eyed Peas' appearance, Madonna looked like an absolute genius. Even the Rolling Stones played it extremely safe as it was just the band performing on a stage in the middle of the field. Which is their prerogative of course, as the original halftime shows were just marching bands.

I wanted to do an age by age comparison of the male performers who have also graced the halftime stage with Madonna. I know there were some critics who said the male performers were also a bit long in the tooth, but there is something about our society that holds women to a higher standard. Women can't be past a certain age, and if they are then they can't go to any extraneous methods to try to keep their appearance youthful. If she didn't get plastic surgery, people would say she looked old; if she does get plastic surgery, people will complain that she has had too much plastic surgery. It is just a blatant double standard as many of the male have also altered their appearance to stay youthful. Or maybe Keith Richards' hair is really still that dark, with no gray? I somehow doubt it. So here we go by the numbers, the ages listed represent the ages they were when they performed, not their current ages.

2012 - Madonna - 53
2010 - The Who - Roger Daltrey - 63, Pete Townshend - 64
2009 - Bruce Springteen - 59
2008 - Tom Petty - 58
2006 - Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger - 62, Keith Richards -62
2005 - Paul McCartney - 62

A person could argue that the men weren't trying to be "sexy" and that Madonna was trying to pull off sex appeal at 53. Well, I don't think most female fans of the men listed would agree to that, and I hardly think Mick Jagger considers himself a non-sexual human being. Not even close! He doesn't exactly just stand there and sing... HA! Or Bruce Springsteen, for that matter -- he is not exactly a monk when he is on stage.

Love her or hate her stagecraft or music, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But calling Madonna "too old" doesn't make a ton of sense, especially since she is a decade younger than most of the men who have gone before her. And if the producers want to keep with the age as a theme... Cher is closer to their usual performer at 65! Just saying... that would be interesting!

And just for a comparison... here is the Super Bowl performance of the Black Eyed Peas:

And here is Madonna: