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Madonna has kicked off her new world tour in Barcelona, her first since 1993. Critical reviews are decidedly mixed, to put it kindly, but fans are snapping up tickets and they love every shock filled moment.

The show, from all reports, is quite a spectacle. It’s clear where the production money was spent – loud music, special effects, props and lots of costume changes. According to some critics, it’s a bit short on performance content – i.e. songs with lyrics that are barely a chorus – but who cares? It’s show biz!

But there’s something more about the show that is decidedly “today” and definitely something decidedly “Madonna.” She, her show and her costumes are in your face.

Showing off her moves, her body and her attitude, Ms. Madonna – bride (again) and new momma (again) – is decidedly not the girl next-door. Her language is rude and crude both in her material and in her asides to the audience.

To reinforce her attitude, she puts her language and her in-your-face intent right on her clothes. One shirt has “mother” on the front. On the back, is the rest of the expression that we cannot use here. If you’re particularly creative, you can figure it out. It starts with an “F” and – oh well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.

OK. It’s show biz and Madonna is nothing if not savvy about how to reinvent herself to cash in on the ever changing demands of today’s MTV public. One of the things that the public loves today is outrage in slogans – not on bumper stickers but on clothing. T-shirts with invective and vulgarities are not uncommon. Kids and people old enough to know better wear them with impunity.

In schools, sometimes such articles of adornment get the kid suspended. But there’s always the fear that someone might be offended, or worse – the ACLU might steamroll in with a lawsuit defending the right of the brat to be obnoxious and offensive.

What would Nathaniel Hawthorne think? Remember his classic piece of literature “The Scarlet Letter?” The title referred to the big, red “A” that an adulterous woman was to wear on her chest as a symbol of shame. In his novel, the plot centered on the letter as the woman’s public rebuke for their unacceptable sexual behavior – in this case, sex by a married woman outside of marriage.

How gauche. What would Hawthorne write about today? What letters would fit on the chests of today’s young women who choose to flout traditional sexual mores? Thank goodness for implants – a lot of those chests can now be big enough for all those letters to fit.

“A” for adultery could still be used for those who indulge in sex with others than their legal mate – although today, it would be “A” for affair. Affair is not as offensive and more acceptable to the enlightened.

For those who are not married and decide to do the deed, there’s always “RF,” in this case, random fornicator. If the woman involved is even more random in her sexual activities, “MRF” would be appropriate – multi-random fornicator. (Be careful with this one if you’re dyslexic.)

Then there are those who just answer every call of sexual nature, regardless of who and where and when just as long as individual desires are satisfied as soon as possible. What would they be labeled?

I would suggest “SAT” – sex-addicted tramp. I know women (and men) who would qualify to wear that one. Actually another more masculine one here would be “AC” – alley cat.

The problem with all this is that if Hawthorne were writing today, he’d never sell the book. Not because he couldn’t write, but because it seems today that anything goes as far as the media are concerned.

There is no shame in activities that not too long ago were considered sinful at their worst and offensive to the public at the least. Remember the old line that people could do anything they wanted to as long as they didn’t scare the horses? Good thing we have cars today or the horses would be freaking out.

While certainly there are people who have moral standards in their lives, families and religion – the public display of bad behavior, foul language, disrespectful attitudes toward moral guidelines has pervaded every aspect of American life.

It permeates media at every turn making it almost impossible to protect our young children from the taint and to keep ourselves away if we so choose.

It’s not that Madonna and others don’t have the right to “express themselves,” it’s that those who are tired of being “expressed on,” don’t seem to have a way to stop it.

Let’s see now, what slogan could we wear? Uh oh. I think I’m in trouble already!

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