by Paul Moomjean
On Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, approximately 100 million people got together to watch the Super Bowl. Think of Sunday football, and especially Super Bowl LIV, as the secular American church, but sponsored by Bud Light. Football has been part of the American fabric for over 50 years now, with the sport being a staple in the growth and conditioning of young men through pee-wee football teams all the way to high school and college. Yet, while the NFL has had its ups and downs in both ratings and public relations, the league has tried to sell itself as family-friendly entertainment, while also attempting to appease the drunken, sex-obsessed young male demographic, too. The results seem to directly conflict with each other every few Super Bowl halftime shows every few years, as women dance, the crowd goes nuts, and once again America proves she hasn’t come to terms with the sexual revolutions of the past.
The NFL isn’t new to having controversy overshadow the other aspects of its brand. Remember when Janet Jackson’s nipple was revealed by Justin Timberlake on stage back in 2004?
This past halftime show saw international music stars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira shaking their butts (literally) to the sounds of their most popular songs over the past 20 years. Lopez’s album ***On the 6 was showcased as well as Shakira’s most popular song, “Hips Don’t Lie.” Not everyone was a fan, though. The “hypersexual” dance moves, along with men grinding up against the singers in the Miami halftime show, created a stir in the Twitter-verse, ranging from comments questioning the dancing to the Latin-themed concert. The Washington Post summed up the frustration like this:
“Sunday may have been the most Latino Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls. In Miami, a city that is 70 percent Latino, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira delivered a showstopping halftime show, featuring Latin urban superstars Bad Bunny and J Balvin — a memorable performance that has continued to generate buzz. Indeed, underlying the discussion of the show’s sexuality are deeply rooted stereotypes of Latinas as hypersexual, the same stereotypes that fuel xenophobic rhetoric and policies.”
Personally, I enjoyed the halftime show and the nostalgia it brought back. As a teenager in the 1990s, it reminded me of a simpler time, when the president was being impeached for sex instead of blocking funding to other countries. Yet, the fact that we are still outraged about the sexual nature of halftime dancing only proves that America hasn’t had “the talk” yet with itself.
Our puritanical roots seem to tighten deeper into the ground after these events, and while the NFL can claim it had no idea that this type of response would occur on its “family-friendly” show, the league loves the outrage, because it becomes the trailer for next year’s show. While 100+ million people will tune in to watch the game, many will tune in just to see the sexually charged show — if only to be upset by it. Super Bowl LIV just guaranteed Super Bowl LV can already start selling ad space at a higher rate.
While America has no right to act shocked that a game with cheerleaders in similar clothing dancing around populates the screen time weekly, I do understand that, to a conservative family watching with their kids, how J-Lo and Shakira strutting their stuff could create an awkward conversation: “Well Bobby, her hips don’t lie because . . . Jesus doesn’t want any part of our body to lie. Especially our lips. But especially our hips.”
Yet, considering the NFL has had to deal with its stars being labeled unpatriotic and cheaters, as well as the science community claiming massive brain damage is in store for the men wearing pads, all of this seems to point to the idea that manufactured outrage is just that — manufactured. We love the NFL and we aren’t going to cancel it.
While people can cry about the over-sexual nature of sporting events, they won’t stop watching. There’s too much invested. Our kids play football, our families watch football and the community loves football. My suggestion is that next year, if you are afraid of the halftime show, during it just put on Netflix and literally chill.