Madonna means many things to pop culture, and many of them are awesome. The problem: Some are life-sucking voids of horror. The list below documents the parts of her legacy -- strange, fleshy and unfathomable -- that involve ruining things with such subtle ferocity that we simultaneously nominate her to be the next Tarantino heroine. That is, if she doesn't ruin that dream of ours first.
5. Realistic expectations for what a woman's bicep is Look at this photo. Did you cry? If not, you're a tougher person than A to Z -- and maybe a sociopath. This woman is 52, a truth we fact-checked, mentioned twice in this post and still can't easily believe. She was born in 1958 and has reinvented herself approximately every six months since then in ways that are crazier, sexier and require progressively more unitards than the previous time. The only way to explain what this picture shows us to be true is to assume that Madonna wakes up each morning, talks to her daughter in that inexplicable hybrid accent, puts on a unitard, eats some raw eggs and then bench presses two full-sized African forest elephants. After that, she moves on to helicopters full of anvils. When did the Material Girl become the Terminator?
4. Catholic fantasies Madonna started ruining things early, especially if you consider the runner-ups (Sean Penn) that we considered adding to the list. In 1989, as the dawn of the '90s grew closer and a generation of modern college students and Lady Gaga fans was being born, she ruined their future sex lives. The video for "Like a Prayer," which features more Catholic imagery than the Pope's Easter special, covers burning crosses, the stigmata and the ultimate dream of having sex with a saint. That leaves those of us with similar dreams firmly marked as poseurs while Madonna's just like, "Been there, ruined that."
3. Britney Spears So maybe Britney was already in pretty bad shape, but Madonna ruined her more. This is one part of this list where a "Like a Virgin" joke does not compute. Hypothesis: The moment the two pop phenoms locked lips at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards was both officially more lady action than that time t.A.T.u. performed -- and the very moment that Britney fell into oblivion. Cut to: Bald head, umbrella attack, lack of underwear, precarious driving habits, generally crazy shit.
2. Her own Midwestern accent In the same way that we forget Gwyneth Paltrow is American, Johnny Depp has a home and Tom Cruise is a human being, it's hard to remember that Madonna is from the Midwest. It all depends on whether you consider Michigan to be part of the Midwest, but we're going to claim her as our own to help the argument. Madonna was born with a last name (Ciccone) and an Italian-American family, but 52 years later she speaks like she got stuck in a BBC miniseries or a rerun of Ab Fab that someone has paused and slowed down. We see her lips moving, but we don't understand why her speech is dubbed.
1. Guy Ritchie's penis We're just going to go for the gold with this one. In a lengthy profile published recently in New York Magazine, we learned a lot about Madonna's career, her attentions to kabbalah and her ability to impose both her will and that respect for kabbalah in mortifying ways by asking her husband to be circumcised. As an adult. This sounds like the plot of a post-30s American Pie sequel, minus the fact that it's scarier and actually happened. We tried not to make a "Like A Virgin" by way of Weird Al "cut for the very first time" joke here. Sorry.