The internet is fawning over the “sweet” note Sean Penn wrote his ex-wife. But there’s nothing sweet about it.
Trigger warning: this post deals with domestic violence.
Pop veteran Madonna, 57, shared that news with her adoring fans at another show on Saturday and it was reported as a regular tidbit of celebrity news by gossip sites around the world.
“Madonna touched by Sean Penn’s note after concert”, one headline declared.
“Madonna and Sean Penn getting close again after he attends her concert,” another read.
“Madonna has gushed about her ex-husband Sean Penn after he sent her a touching note,” an article by prominent news agency Australian Associated Press began.
Sounds like a sweet tale of amicable divorce, doesn’t it? Sounds like 55-year-old Penn and Madonna are thick as thieves again despite their 1989 split, right?
This is what Madonna said about the “touching” note:
“I did a show at Madison Square Garden the other night if you heard about it. And my ex-husband was there! Could you imagine?
“He had been at my show 30 years earlier when I was at Madison Square Garden, and he was very upset with me for wearing a costume that was too revealing. [When the crowd began to laugh]. That’s not a lie!
“Anyway, after the show he wrote me a letter and said he finally appreciates my art.
“And that is what I have to say about marriage, OK? Thirty f**king years later.”
Watch the announcement here. Post continues after video:
Penn and Madonna did not amicably divorce. Far from it.
During their four-year marriage in the 1980s, Penn reportedly struck Madonna over the head with a baseball bat, an incident for which she required an X-ray at the Cedars Sinai hospital.
In 1988 Penn was charged with domestic assault against her. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor — but his abhorrent behaviour did not end there.
His abuse allegedly culminated in an horrific, alcohol-fuelled incident spanning nine hours.
During that frightening 1989 incident, he allegedly tied 31-year-old Madonna to a chair, beat her and threatened to cut off her hair. According to a report filed by Madonna with the Malibu sheriff’s office, he told her he owned her ‘lock, stock and barrel’ — and when she told him she was leaving the house, he tried to bind her hands with an electric lamp and cord.
The alleged incident only ended when a terrified Madonna escaped to a police station, where an officer who saw her described her as: “Weeping, her lip was bleeding and she had obviously been struck.”
Madonna filed for divorce a week later.
It is true that Madonna later dropped the assault charges, so we cannot fairly report that Penn definitely perpetrated the alleged abuse.
What we can report is that she once made those claims about her then-husband — and that Penn’s background of alleged domestic violence provides a very different backdrop for the letter he recently wrote her.
That note is not “sweet”. It is peppered with hints at the controlling, dismissive, undercutting behaviour he allegedly perpetrated on her during their time together.
So while the internet fawns today over the note Penn wrote to his ex-wife, let’s not gush. Madonna certainly wasn’t.
Some images of Madonna over the course of her career: