Last Words on Last Week’s Super Bowl Show

Despite the storm of charges and counter-charges over this past week, I conclude that it isn’t racism, or prudery, to find yourself appalled at the Super Bowl halftime show last Sunday. You just have to be a decent human being.

I know, I know. Lots of clever people are defending the Shakin’ Shakira and Jumpin’ J. Lo show with all sorts of pseudo-feminist claptrap. These two, we are told, are strong women making vital political points while being empoweredly body-positive, et cetera. And critics of this high-class burlesque supposedly are racist white Trump-supporting misogynists who insist on policing women’s bodies while hypocritically ignoring Adam Levine’s shucking off his shirt in last year’s show.

Let’s just say this about that.

First, there are regimes in the world today that really are policing women’s bodies. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran come readily to mind at one end of the scale. France and Quebec come to mind at the other. The Muslim-majority countries demand that women wear more, while the secularist governments insist that they wear less. All of these regimes truly police women’s bodies with…police.

To equate those nightmares with mere disputes about how American women freely comport themselves in public serves only to divert our attention from real and significant abuse to honest disagreements about taste and propriety.

Second, I can appreciate that many heterosexual women and gay men might revel in the undeniable beauty and athleticism and precision of the dance team. But speaking for all heterosexual men everywhere, what Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, and their female troupe were doing pretty obviously elicited a determinate reaction from such men. And that reaction was not, “My goodness gracious: What fierce, empowered, autonomous females those are there on the TV, assertively moving about like that. I respect them more than ever.” If you want further elucidation as to how straight men typically respond to such dance moves, ask your husband, father, brother, or son. Let’s get real, please.

Third, yes, the show offered some political commentary on Puerto Rico’s vexed relationship with the United States. And the message was…uh, well, I’m not completely clear what it was, but I remember flags and spangles and Spanish. So no doubt the needle was decisively moved on the questions of Puerto Rican statehood and disaster relief and the significance of Latinx culture in the United States. Or maybe not.

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