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Madonna's children

By Timeri N. Murari

Children of the privileged everywhere have lost their childhood as they have long been seduced by our consumer societies.

BELIEVE ME, as a novelist, I am not writing this out of envy and jealousy. Writers do not harbour such mean emotions about other writers. Not if they can help it. Why shouldn't the pop diva Madonna write a children's book, be paid a fortune and have it sold in a hundred countries?

Admittedly, I did not know she could write. But the world is meant to be full of the unexpected. Most singers can't write; they're expected to sing. A talented few may pen a few lines called lyrics but, for the most part, others write the words and singers read them as they sing. I knew Madonna could sing well although I am not the best judge as I've never bought any of her CDs. But she made her first fortune from this talent. I know she has acted in a few movies which, with some luck on my part, I have managed to avoid seeing. I've been told she does not do this very well which is why I haven't seen her name on the `Best Actress' list of any film festival or the Oscars.

However, she does have an amazing talent for self-publicity that, despite my ducking and weaving, I have not been able to avoid. I do need to watch the television news and read the newspapers and she's somewhere there without fail. I know when she married there were more photographers at her `secret' wedding than flies around a wedding cake. And recently, she blazed across my sight lines by giving a mouth-to-mouth kiss to another pop diva Britney Spears (I think). This was done on stage in front of a `live' (as opposed to dead) audience and in front of the television cameras and the usual million photographers. Britney said she'd not been kissed for months. Hopefully, Madonna broke that jinx. But Madonna specialises in the outrageous for its own sake.

Her book (I can't say `new' book as this is the first) is a work of fiction for children. It's called `The English Rose' and I thought it was a very imaginative title, although I wondered why she didn't call it `The American Rose'. Probably, the title will change when it is published in America as she's a very chameleon kind of character. Of course, she had a lot of television publicity on the book and BBC-TV interviewed her potential young readers. They had heard of Madonna but were not too confident they would buy her book. One child judiciously said she would see what it was like. Children cannot be conned all of the time, although we do try hard.

I do wonder whether Madonna's the right person to write a novel for children? I know she is the mother of a four or five-year-old girl only because I read a sociologist's report on how the wealth of nouveau rich parents distort the reality of their children's lives. Madonna was quoted as one example. Her daughter has a wardrobe worth around 40,000 and this includes a child's mink coat. Among the child's dresses are the designer labels of Gucci, Versace, Donna Karen and other exclusive, and expensive, designers. The child must get a headache trying to figure out what to wear to school every morning. Another example was David Beckham's son. The boy not only goes to sleep with the soothing sounds of a 10,000 audio system in his bedroom but also a very expensive gadget that projects stars across his ceiling. I would only guess that Bill Gates' son would have a live orchestra playing Strauss' waltzes nightly and NASA beaming him a live feed of the universe from one of its satellites.

The point the sociologist was also making was that the children of the rich and famous have little hope of leading normal lives. They will also never be able to equal the talents of their famous parents. Madonna's daughter will not perform as well as her and Beckham's son will not play football as well as him. However, this does apply to the children of the privileged everywhere, whether in America, Europe or even India. They have lost their childhood as they have long been seduced by our consumer societies. They are the targets of hype and marketing as they have the purchasing power, through their parents, to buy computers, books, movie tickets, designer labels. They have become sophisticated too quickly, and now have little chance of enjoying a long summer of innocence. They're all Madonna's children.

Harry Potter is no longer a book of fiction for children, it's been corrupted into a marketing phenomena. Unless you've read the book and seen the movie you're an outcast child in your school. And an outcast parent if you have not indulged your child. Is `The English Rose' a book for children or a platform to hype an already over-hyped Madonna? It is not the content that counts any longer, it is the publicity. Children are meant to buy the book as they have seen Madonna on television or have CDs of her singing.

But why blame children? It is the adults who control the marketing and hype machines. And we're pretty ruthless when it comes to commerce. We all end up the victims of our insatiable desires.

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