Super Bowl Halftime Show Proves Nuance is Dead
There is no nuance in war. If you get to the point where you are are shooting at somebody else that means that all attempts at compromise have failed and any ability to see nuance has been replaced with an acute dichotomy between good guys and bad guys. This is not just in the political sense, but in the military sense as well where seeing nuance can lead to equivocation and indecisiveness which can lead to a failure to achieve objectives and more deaths for the good guys. This is why we strive to avoid war, because we know what war, actual war, means.
Except when it comes to the culture war. There, because it isn’t real war, we eagerly embrace such dichotomies and take great pleasure in destroying the opposition. We do not hesitate to destroy because we are convinced not only of our own moral superiority, but also of their moral degeneracy.
The latest culture war exhibit occurred on Sunday during the halftime show of Super Bowl LIV featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.
The basic argument against the show was that it was far too sexual for a football game, which is supposed to be a family friendly affair. The argument on the other side was that the performance was of two awe-inspiring women, one 43 and the other 50, and that those who worrying that it was too sexual are either fuddy-duddies, don’t like strong and confident women, or hypocritical.
What if both are correct? Our current cultural climate will not allow such thoughts, but it’s true.
First, the performance was very sexual. Anyone who says otherwise is just lying in an attempt to defend their argument. You can’t possibly say that this or this or especially this isn’t meant to be sexual. Performers, male and female, don’t take off their clothes or wear minimal clothing because of the warm weather.
There is a time and a place for everything, was the Super Bowl really the best place for that? It wasn’t the most comfortable thing to watch at the family dinner table and if the Super Bowl is going to be billed as a family friendly event, then parents should be able to expect a less overtly sexual performance.
It is possible to have a halftime show highlighting two good-looking women, again one 43 and the other 50, who are not afraid to show it, without such heavy focus on T&A.
They are also correct in saying there is a hypocrisy in those who claim to be in business of advocating for female empowerment. There is a fundamental disconnect between the movement that says the “male gaze” is the epitome of sexism and misogyny while also saying that shows that emphasize the female body in an overtly sexual manner are the epitome of empowerment.
Now for the side that says “get over it.” It is true that while one may wish the halftime show was more family friendly, what happened should have been expected. It’s Jennifer Lopez and Shakira after all. It’s not like the halftime show has a reputation for being family friendly and it’s not as if there was a wardrobe malfunction this year. As to the charge that it was sexually exploitative, Lopez and Shakira are two adults who were not forced to do anything they were uncomfortable with.
If it bothered you that much, just change the channel and have a talk with your children about why you changed the channel.
They are also correct in seeing selective outrage. Most of the criticism comes from more traditionalist conservative circles who, having backed President Trump on practical grounds, should be more humble when speaking on ideas that combine issues of morality and culture. Furthermore NFL cheerleaders routinely dance, often half-naked, in deliberately proactive manners. They even sell swimsuit calendars for crying out loud and nobody seems to care.
Do these people get all upset when a male performer takes his shirt off for no other reason than because he can show off his abs? Probably not.
Other people have pointed out that there may be some cultural ignorance here. What some may see as soft-core pornography, others see as another culture’s conception normal dancing (Shakira has both Latin and Arab heritage) and that the first group, mostly more traditionalist whites, need to lighten up and have more fun, which is always good advice in current political and cultural climate.
The culture war says there is no room for nuance, but perhaps there is some middle ground on these issues. Just because something is sexual, doesn’t make it pornographic and just because it isn’t pornographic does not mean that it isn’t sexual. We should be able to have an honest conversation about times and places and the world isn’t a dichotomy wearing turtle necks and that performance. The NFL could help by just being honest about what fans should expect in their halftime entertainment.