Opinion: Half-time spectacle should have come with a warning
Was the Super Bowl halftime show obscene ?
That's the debate roiling social media the morning after the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. It was a great game, a fantastic comeback engineered by the Chiefs' young quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
But the halftime show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seemed to garner more buzz than the game itself. To some, the show was a joyful, Miami-infused explosion of dance and high-energy music that got you out of your seat — and not just for another fistful of nachos, either.
To others, it looked a lot like softcore porn.
Super Bowl halftime show sparks debate:Empowering or objectifying?
JLo, in particular, spent a lot of time grabbing her crotch. A popular meme on the social news aggregator Reddit featured " The three seconds you wanted from the Super Bowl halftime show " — a clip of the two stars shaking their respective booties.
And the 54th Super Bowl may have marked the first time a stripper pole was part of the big game.
It won't be the last.
We let my 9-year-old son stay up and watch, thinking — hey, it's the Super Bowl, so long as we're not talking another Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," how bad can it be?
Less than a third of the way through my wife started saying, "Ummmm ... "
Call it educational programming, I guess.
Now, I'm an old coot. I'll take the musicianship of the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Bruno Mars over spectacle and backup dancers any day of the week.
The last time the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, Carol Channing was the halftime entertainment. History does not record her employing a stripper pole.
But times change. There was nothing about the halftime show that shocked, from a cultural standpoint. Our culture, after all, is marinated in sex, with hardcore porn easily available on those smartphones you all gave your kids.
We've seen it all before. But it still retains its ability to shock when presented on one of the biggest stages in the world, reaching the widest audience — an audience that, indeed, included kids.
And that, to me, is the biggest problem here. JLo and Shakira shaking their respective rear ends? Who cares? That's what they do, I'm not interested, and in general I use the halftime show as a chance to hit the head and see what snacks are left.
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.
We regularly get such warnings before programs containing violence or other themes that might "trigger" susceptible viewers. Why not spectacles such as this halftime show?
Maybe the assumption is viewers could have guessed what was coming on the basis of who the performers were. But I think the NFL owes viewers with kids more than that.
The second question coming out of Sunday's performance is what comes next; what tops this?
Think of the distance, culturally, between Carol Channing and Sunday night's show. Fifty years from now — heck, 10 years from now — what will the halftime show look like?
It'll have to push the envelope beyond what happened Sunday night. That's a hallmark of our culture; we always have to up the ante. It's got to be bigger, badder, louder ... sexier ... even more suggestive.
So at that point, will we have actual strippers to go with the stripper poles? With nudity not a wardrobe malfunction — but the "wardrobe" itself?
That's where this freight train is headed. So maybe the NFL ought to capitalize on it with a new slogan:
Welcome to the Super Bowl, where the Roman numerals may change — but we'll always include a little X.
Gil Smart is a columnist for TCPalm, part of the USA TODAY Network. His columns reflect his opinion. Gil can be followed on Twitter at @TCPalmGilSmart.