There is little surprise in the unseemly media scrum and enthusiastic finger pointing generated by Madonna’s apparent attempt to adopt a one year-old Malawian boy.

The latest installment of this unsavoury story saw the child being flown into the UK allegedly in defiance of a court order.

It is inevitable that so much media attention is being focused on this story as we are talking about one of the world’s instantly recognisable singers – recognisable to all, that is, apart from those bemused villagers in Malawi who seemed non-plussed at the attention they were receiving thanks to the excitable, middle-aged, white blond woman with the funny accent and a willingness to dance at the drop of a hat.

It was just as certain that the welfare of the little boy concerned would somehow get lost amid the opportunity to indulge in some celeb-baiting.

What happens to this boy should be the first and last issue of this particular story. 

Yet instead we get discussion and commentary on everything from whether Madonna is simply following the latest celebrity trend – the adopted, underpriveleged orphan as a fashion accessory – to an incredibly earnest and yet completely fatuous segment on one of the 24-hour news channels about how much, “legally and morally”, the adopted child would stand to inherit when compared to a particular star’s “proper children”.

Firstly, describing Madonna’s decisionas part of a “trend” among celebrities is as laughable as it is inaccurate – we are talking about a handful of shining stars amongst the vast constellation of celebrities in the world. Secondly…no, I don’t think it is even worth commenting on the “legal and moral” inheritance rights of adopted children compared to “proper children”.

There is something unpalatable about the whole story and although much of it has been shaped by the media there is a perception that yet another celebrity has simply bought whatever they wanted.

It is a fact of our celebrity-obsessed life that anything approaching the truth of this particular story will take a long time to emerge.

In the meantime, there are so many more pressing and important issues that need to be addressed that are closely related to this particular story. But only once the welfare and future of this little boy has been decided in a more civilised and apparently legal way than it seems to be at present, preferably far away away from the media spotlight and the cameras of Madonna’s husband Guy Ritchie.

These issues, such as the current adoption laws in this country and the age restrictions placed on potential parents, need to be raised and discussed sensibly. There are as many as 4,000 children desperate to be adopted in this country at any one time and just as many potential, loving, caring parents excluded because of their age.

Traditional age boundaries no longer exist in our society – we are constantly being told that the “grey pound” is the strongest and most active in the economy, that 40 is the new 30 and other catchy soundbites. As a nation we’re also expanding – our waistlines rather than our horizons – and yet there is a weight limit on potential parents too.

These changes in our collective make-up are a fact, despite the often nonsensical surveys that accompany such statistics, so why do laws such as those covering adoption not reflect the shifting nature of society?

These are the questions that need answering but which no doubt will continue to get lost among the more superficial issues that seem so important in a society gripped by the shallow cult of celebrity.


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