Thursday, February 09, 2012

MIA and what's M.I.A. in the Super Bowl Halftime Show

It was reported that if any fine is levied about MIA's obscene gesture during the Super Bowl halftime show that she will foot that bill, as the NFL and NBC had indemnity clauses in their respective contracts. Somehow I think she'll find a way to pay or to get out of it. But the money's not the point anyway.

Although a source claims it was not intended as a statement, I find myself unconcerned with what the performer meant by it; she did something on international TV that stirred up controversy, and when I ruminate on it, her intent is also beyond the point.

I must admit there's a small part of me that kinda-sorta-in-a-tiny-way applauds not so much the stupid action but the way it subtly reminded the NFL that no matter how safe you think you can make the halftime show by selecting aging rockers or pop stars, rock (including pop and hip-hop in that general musical idiom) should not be sanitized. The rebellious element of it largely has been hollow, but it's not absent.

It also showed the network that even with a six-second delay and bleeping of profane lyrics there's no way to blur out a split-second waving of a middle finger if the performer is so inclined.

Don't get me wrong: I think it was juvenile and stupid, and really accomplished little more than working up the Twitterverse into a lather, but the NFL and CBS (who airs next year's big game) will have to take this into account when they decide who will bore us during halftime: There's no completely taming this art form.

And they shouldn't try.

Actually, if one watched the Madonna spectacle, the way the backup dancers were gyrating their pelvic regions certainly should be more offensive to those with timid tastes than M.I.A.'s digit extended for so brief a period that I think a lot of viewers, like me, missed it. Also, let's not overlook that this is Madonna, who started her career by playing up her sexuality and actively courted controversy in her videos ("Like a Prayer" video, anyone?) and, oh yeah, with an erotic photo book.

Might mid-'80s Madonna be disgusted at the thought of someday be considered family-friendly by implication? Perhaps. I suspect that '60s Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend would scoff at the notion of someday be seen as "safe," and yet the Rolling Stones and the Who were hired by the NFL with that implication.

It's almost certainly a naïve and outdated notion to think rock is still dangerous, but without that ostensible aspect it may as well be jazz or classical (both of which were rebellious in their times of prominence, let's not forget). Whether we choose to admit it or not, and whether we were consciously aware of it or not, that played a part in what made rock appeal to those of us who got into it in our youth.

Everything the young do that was alarming to the older generation becomes mainstream when that demographic becomes middle-aged. Heck, Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" was okay to be the Patriots' entrance music, but decades ago Ozzy would have been completely out of the question to even attend the game much less have his song be featured. But the NFL doesn't need to clamp down even more than society already does on its own.

So, to conclude, to the extent I have any… "respect " is way too strong a term—perhaps "vague, roundabout, nostalgic appreciation for some ideal that never really existed but we like to pretend it did"—for what was done, it's only because this person who's barely still one who could be considered part of the "new guard" of music (i.e., someone who's not yet middle-aged or flat-out elderly) at least mimicked that "sod off" attitude that rock should have. Even though it probably only seemed like it had that 'tude. It leaves us our delusions, and perhaps for that I can begrudgingly give M.I.A. some tiny shred of inadvertent… well, "credit" is too strong, but… perhaps "facilitation" may have to suffice.

And that brings us back to the way the NFL and TV network shouldn't try to contain the halftime show performers: Whether we fogies like the direction the contemporary artists are taking the rock idiom, the kids and young adults of today presumably do. So, NFL, unless you're seeking to render the halftime show utterly ostracizing to that prized demographic, you should accept that you cannot possibly put on a show that won't offend at least someone. (I imagine Up With People are probably available.) Or at least, if you do, you'll end up putting on a show that is not entertaining for anyone.

(Perhaps you should just team up with Animal Planet and air Puppy Bowl.)

1 comment:

  1. I agree... people who are actually offended by the halftime shows probably stopped watching after Janet Jackson gave them an eyeful. I stopped. The remainder really don't have an argument. If you don't like it, don't watch. And by now everyone should know what to expect from Super Bowl halftime.

    A friend told me about Puppy Bowl last week. I had never heard of it before. I think it's a very cute idea.


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