There’s an art to aging gracefully, especially for the rich and famous.
We expect stars to stay forever young, while the artists themselves fight to maintain that image by any means necessary. Staying young isn’t always about appearances, though. Celebrities struggle to maintain their brands over time, even as the culture shifts under their feet. It’s what led Madonna to don an outlandish outfit over the weekend at the annual VMAs telecast.
The Material Girl, now 63, rocked a black leather bodysuit that left little to the imagination. The reaction on social media proved mixed, with many suggesting her days of barely-there wear should be behind her.
No pun intended.
The real message is clear. Once upon a time, Madonna shocked us on a regular basis to gin up publicity, separate herself from her pop peers, and, well, burnish her brand.
She was beautiful and fit, and while she remains fit to this day the image of a 60-something legend playing the sexuality card seems … desperate. She could have crushed a musical performance instead, letting fans talk about that, not her recycled shtick. And she might have done so wearing an outfit that flattered her still-svelte physique.
It’s not the first time the aging superstar tried to shock us. In recent years she’s shared naughty images on Instagram hoping to gin up some headlines. The moves feel desperate, not revolutionary. In short, her brand needs a makeover.
The same holds true for the self-described King of All Media.
Howard Stern once defied every conventional norm he could via his radio pulpit. He said all the wrong things, bucked broadcasting traditions and, of course, became an icon in the process. Even his shift to satellite radio in the early 2000s changed the game for broadcasters — then and now.
Stern isn’t the performer he once was, though. The years have seemingly reduced his edge, the signature rage he once aimed at his professional peers and Hollywood hypocrites alike.
He’s friends with Rosie O’Donnell, for example, their age-old feud long behind them. You might say he oh, so gently went woke, adapting to the new rules regarding “problematic” barbs. That positioning likely helped him survive a 2020 cancellation attempt when his blackface past, and copious use of the “n-word,” resurfaced.
It’s more than that, though.
Howard went Hollywood, embracing his insider status in a way that Stern of yore would mock for weeks on end. You can sense him holding back these days, knowing a classic Stern skewering might upset his new chums.
The most depressing part? He’s now part of the media borg, the groupthink he once mocked for attacking his fighting spirit in the first place. Stern sided with an elderly presidential candidate who hid at home for much of the campaign while trashing President Donald Trump. That decision earned him fawning press coverage.
Does anyone doubt he lapped it all up? “They like me … they finally like me!” Meanwhile, longtime fans wondered who this new Howard Stern was behind the mic.
It helps explain why Stern cozied up to Trump critic and future ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year. Sharp observers knew Cuomo was crooked to the core. Who pens a triumphant book about pandemic leadership after his state ranked near dead-last with COVID-19 deaths?
That hypocrisy didn’t bother Stern. He chatted him up during the worst days of the pandemic as if they were old friends.
The media loved Cuomo and hated Trump. That was good enough for Howie, now a true conformist.
Didn’t anyone in Stern’s circle realize how many old New Yorkers died unnecessarily under Cuomo’s watch, a fact most knew long before the media stopped covering up for it? If so, perhaps they were afraid to share that inconvenient truth with their boss.
The “new” Stern approaches free speech differently, too.
In the 1990s Stern went to war with the FCC, outraged that his bawdy bits had to follow certain rules … or else. He was Captain Free Speech at the time. Now, it’s hard not to think he waged that war because it impacted his livelihood first and foremost.
His current status as a free speech pioneer could come in handy in the Age of Woke. Yet Stern has been mostly quiet about the Cancel Culture revolution. Instead, he’d rather lean into his cushy SiriusXM schedule, which affords him the summer off and endless vacation days.
The new, “evolved” Stern roared anew this week, and in a way it sounded like old times. He ranted about the unvaccinated among us, cursing them out and wishing them, well, death. How dare they disagree with him on a situation with many nuanced variables.
Stern even slapped Joe Rogan around, the podcaster who took over the shock jock’s mantle as broadcasting’s biggest star.
“I heard Joe Rogan was saying ‘what are you busting my balls [for]? I took horse de-wormer and a doctor gave it to me.’ Well a doctor would also give you a vaccine, so why take horse-dewormer?”
The attack felt petty, like a fading athlete attacking the rookie about to replace him.
It’s ironic that a man 30-odd years older than both Madonna and Stern could teach them a thing or two on aging gracefully.
Clint Eastwood’s latest drama, “Cry Macho,” arrives via HBO Max and theaters this month. The 91-year-old legend directs and stars in a tale of a former rodeo cowboy coming to grips with his legacy and, of course, Father Time.
Eastwood looks every one of his 91 years, but he’s still making movies on his terms and flirting with the Oscar race.
Why does Eastwood endure? He knows what the public wants to see, both from him and his films. Think timeless tales that connect with our humanity, our quest to explore what it means to live in today’s world.
He’s not getting facelifts or prepping another “Dirty Harry” sequel. He’s tackling roles that fit his age and Hollywood status.
You can grow old in the public eye without sacrificing your dignity. Eastwood is doing just that, and making it look easy.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.