The average British woman doesn't have a whole lot of interest in the Super Bowl. But it was a totally different story when Madonna took to the stage for the half-time show this week.
Dressed in a gladiator-style outfit by Givenchy Haute Couture and a golden Philip Treacy crown, Madge gave a 10-minute-long, crowd-pleasing performance, featuring five classic hits - Vogue, Music, Open Your Heart, Music and Like a Prayer - as well as her new single Gimme All Your Luvin.
Accompanied by a military band, acrobats and a gospel choir, Madonna was, by turn, a queen, cheerleader, warrior and high priestess - which pretty much sums up her role in popular culture.
According to figures released by NBC Sports, her performance was the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show on record - attracting more viewers than the game itself.
I couldn't wipe the smile off my face from start to finish.
While viewers took to Twitter to express their amazement that the woman doing cartwheels on stage was a 53-year-old mother-of-four, at least two - possibly three - generations of women found themselves dancing around the living room punching the air because the Queen of Pop is back in business.
This is Very Good News for those of us who have always relied on Madge to show us the way.
First she taught us how to dress (leggings, mini skirts, plastic bracelets, visible bra straps), then she taught us how to dance - let's be honest, how many women can honestly say that they've never been moved to 'Vogue' after they've had one too many at the end of a party.
But, most importantly, Madonna has taught us that we can have it all - and still be happy.
The significance of this shouldn't be underestimated at a time when women are still being slated for everything from having children too young to having children too old, rushing into marriage, rushing into divorce, having too much sex, not having enough, working too hard, not working at all and generally being selfish, shallow and self-obsessed.
So it's a good thing that we've got Madonna with her skimpy outfits, unapologetic attitude and cat-that-got-the cream smile to put it all into perspective for us, isn't it?
Men often miss the point, but women understand that it's Madonna's outlook - not her talent or the way she looks - that fascinates us.
And it's funny that all the critics who have been outraged by her raunchy performances, tendency to say the f-word in public and lack of respect for organised religion have totally missed the point.
While dancing in her underwear, posing nude for the infamous coffee-table book Sex in 1992 and snogging Britney on stage at the VMAs brought her notoriety, it's her lifestyle choices that have been truly radical.
For the last 30 years, Madonna has been busily doing all the things that women still aren't supposed to do - while looking like she's having an absolute blast.
She's been married and divorced twice, had two children by two different fathers at a point in her life when doctors write the word 'elderly' on medical notes (she was 41 when Rocco was born), adopted two more and has had relationships with a string of seriously hot younger men. Her current squeeze, French dancer Brahim Zabat, is 24.
She's had a go at everything from acting to directing, writing children's books to designing clothes. When it doesn't work out - and anyone who saw Swept Away will testify that she doesn't always hit the jackpot - she just shrugs it off and moves on to something else.
Madonna has never felt the need to take time out or put her career on the back-burner to raise her family, release a recipe book or try to convince us that, at heart, she's just like you and me.
She hasn't given up her workout regime, stopped going clubbing, started dressing sensibly or stopped speaking her mind.
Neither has she felt the need to reveal what she feeds her children or succumbed to the pressure to be a domestic goddess - she admits that she can't cook and doesn't bother to try.
So we shouldn't be surprised - or disappointed - that she's been tempted by cosmetic procedures to keep the wrinkles at bay. After all, Madge likes to get her own way and she's hardly going to give in to the ageing process without a fight.
Madonna doesn't do compromise or self doubt and her sense of entitlement is legendary. That's why so many women - me included - find her so inspirational. If we all shared her dedication to pleasing ourselves we'd almost certainly be happier - and we would also have perfectly toned thighs.
After a couple of disappointing albums I'd hoped that Madonna would manage to reinvent herself at least one more time - and now it looks like she might.
It would feel so wrong if she quietly wound down her pop career and stepped out of the spotlight.
After all, we need her to reassure us that our future doesn't have to involve sensible shoes, elasticated waists and hip replacement surgery.
We might not want to dress like cheerleaders and wear weird leather gloves when we're 53, but we're eternally grateful to Madge for showing us that we have the option - and reminding us to keep doing what makes us happy, even if other people don't always approve.
By Ceri Roberts
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