Given past Super Bowl dubious spectacles—Nipplegate, a head-scratchingly shirtless Adam Levine, the Red Hot Chili Peppers playing Guitar Hero on live television—this Sunday’s half-time show hardly seemed like an egregious offence to human decency. But because America is the land where morality is a fluid concept, the Kansas City Chiefs–San Francisco 69ers showcase was immediately framed as an event where two flaming whores of Babylon ruined football for God-fearing families from New York, New York to Silicon Valley.
The offenders in question were, of course, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, two women of Latin American lineage who delivered 15 minutes of glitter-spackled entertainment during Super Bowl LIV’s half-time show. For those who missed it, Shakira was on deck first, using her six minutes to not only repeatedly shake what the good lord gave her, but show off her chops with a guitar that clearly wasn’t plugged in and tie herself up with rope sourced in the light-bondage section at Home Depot.
Then J.Lo arrived out of nowhere on a stripper’s pole in rump-baring black-leather chaps, spending her six minutes sliding crotch first into the camera and eventually wrapping herself in a boalike flag that somehow managed to incense half of America and all of Puerto Rico. The two of them then tag-teamed for a truly epic display of unadulterated ass-shaking, the finale of which had them not only grinning wildly at the camera, but looking justifiably proud of what they hath wrought.
Immediately, America lost its shit in a way that made one wonder if we’re talking about the same country that considers Farrah Fawcett’s nipple poster a national pop-art treasure. And treats porn stars like Ron Jeremy, Jenna Jameson, and Tommy Lee like rock stars.
Speaking of rock stars, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider was amongst the first to weigh in. The man who spent the ’80s for dressing like a trans version of an Australian’s nightmare—and who famously battled Tipper Gore and the PMRC, staunchly defending every musician’s right to be obscene and offensive—took about 3.2 seconds to work himself into a lather, taking to Twitter to rant, “Beginning to pole humping, ass slapping, ass shaking end. If that’s the requirements for a half-time show, none of the rock bands I know can or will do that.”
Whether he realized is or not, Snider was basically describing every video made by every hair metal band that called the Sunset Strip home in the ’80s. The point he seemed to be struggling to make in other tweets was that AC/DC would have made a better choice, although one has to wonder why considering one of guitarist Angus Young’s favourite live tricks is pulling down his school-uniform shorts and exposing his naked ass on-stage.
Snider wasn’t alone in his condemnation.
Working through all the morally outraged Tweets here would take three or four weeks. But one of the best came from Franklin Graham, whose day job is apparently President of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Evidently unaware that he lives in a country where films like Riveted Rectums 6 and Titty Titty Gang Bang are instantly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, he tweeted, “I don’t expect the world to act like the church, but our country has had a sense of moral decency on prime time TV in order to protect children. We see that disappearing before our eyes. It was demonstrated in tonight‘s @Pepsi #SuperBowl Halftime Show—w/millions of kids watching.”
A more astute observer might have hoped that millions of kids were paying attention to the fact that their fellow kids onstage as backup dancers were crouched in makeshift cages during the "Born in the USA" and "Let's Get Loud" portion of J.Lo's performance. But if sex is all you can see instead of subtle and subversive commentary on issues like the border crisis, then so be it.
What was perplexing was both Shakira and Lopez were wearing 10 times more clothes than, say, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who’ve spent decades working the premise that all-American football fans love camel toes and heaving cleavage. Evidently it’s okay for kids to watch cheerleaders shake their scantily-clad asses as long as the sex is being sold on the sidelines, not at centre stage.
USA Today columnist Gil Smart meanwhile penned an essay that started with “Was the Super Bowl obscene?”, and then went on to strongly suggest it was “softcore porn”. After twisted references to vintage sex-bomb Carol Channing and his preferred bathroom habits, Smart then concluded with “But if the Super Bowl is going to be touted as family entertainment, or at least not marketed as adult entertainment, perhaps the NFL has an obligation to warn people with children that what they’re about to see may be upsetting to some viewers.”
You know, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers hitting the Super Bowl stage completely shirtless in 2014, that evidently fine for family viewing because the band’s members are white, male, and weren’t wearing tube socks on their cocks like in the olden days.
Or Adam Levine starting out sporting a tank-top inspired by a ’70s-vintage sofa, and then stripping off said offending garment to showcase his shiny sweat-soaked nipples, thereby giving an eyeful to kids from the Carolina Coast to the Pacific Northwest. Funnily, no one cared, making this weekend’s outrage all the more puzzling. Not to mention monumentally fucking hypocritical.
Sometimes you can get away with plenty if you’re white, male, and will make a concerted effort not to shake your ass. Or if you’re an NFL cheerleader who’s part of a culture that has celebrated joyful ass-shaking and knocker-worship since Knute Rockne was king. Live and learn America, because it’s likely no accident J.Lo and Shakira left the Super Bowl stage laughing.