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The only good things to be said about the burlesque ambush of the NFL Superbowl LIV’s halftime show, is that Shakira’s and Jennifer Lopez’s vocal talent hasn’t waned, the stage effects were well coordinated and the choreography never missed a beat.

Beyond this, the scant clothing, right down to the provocative dance moves, presented another “sex sells” exhibit, displaying how far the overt sexualisation of Western culture has taken society back to a pre-Christian paganism, with its excesses and its abuses.

The principal message being sent to women by the 15 minute segment is twofold. First, if you haven’t got the sex appeal to sell talent, talent is useless. Second, provocative dance and stripping before cameras is where the money’s at.

On the outside, the principal message being conveyed to men is that the objectification of women is okay, just as long you’re willing to pay handsomely for it.

Franklin Graham was among the first to raise concerns about the overt nature of the event and its consequences:

Pastor Bob Beeman, founder of the heavy metal ministry, Sanctuary International, usually cautious in his agreement with the criticism of culture by some American Evangelicals, boldly declared:

“The Super Bowl half time show was very disturbing. With so many families watching all over the world, where is the outcry? Have we really become that desensitized? We used to call that pornographic. You can’t “unsee” that. Catering to the lust of male Super Bowl fans, and continuing the degradation of women everywhere!
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:16″

Likewise, Ryan Bomberger, Co-founder of The Radiance Foundation, stated:

“Unfortunately the halftime show ‘proved that cultural identification is apparently more important than character formation. Latino culture was not celebrated last night; it was exploited. Flashing and grabbing your crotch isn’t empowerment, no matter the “culture”. As a father of two girls and two boys, I want them to understand that their God-given equality, dignity and worth should be used to evoke love not elicit lust. (I understand this is my Christian worldview, and I can’t expect the world to share it; but fellow Christians *should*.) Funny how in this #MeToo era, entertainers seem to vie to be as naked and as sexual as possible–not on a director’s couch–but in front of over a hundred million sets of eyes. J-Lo, Shakira and the #NFL let down a generation of girls and boys who deserve so much better than the fake feminism on full display last night.’”

I’m not prescribing a return to a repressive, idea of Puritanism. Even though the idea of the Puritans being prudish, instead of prudent, is based on a misrepresentation, brought about by the post-modern disregard for history, which makes history too easily forgotten.

I’m simply stating that what people like to call post-Christian, is more a regression back towards the pre-Christian. Its deification of self and its subjugation of humanity to the idols of the old pagan world: money, sex and power.

Celebrity endorsement as a means to service an economic, social or political end is not a new phenomenon. Thomas Doherty calls this

‘the politics of celebrity’, writing that the ‘body of the Hollywood star had first been drafted into national service during World War One…In Leninist doctrine, the artist stood among the vanguard elite, a cadre whose shining example would lead the benighted proletariat into the dawn of revolutionary enlightenment…The Hollywood star, trading on stardom, is a valuable commodity that can drive heartfelt solicitation.’ [i]

Western society’s return to the inhumanity of paganism was brilliantly articulated in season five (2012) of the (modern day Robin Hood) TV series Leverage. In episode two, the crew have to thwart an owner of an Ice Hockey team, who’s turned a massive profit by turning the game into a blood sport – The CEO’s justification was backed up by his profits leading to him declaring: “People don’t pay to see a game; they pay to see my enforcers fight!” (slightly paraphrased).

The pattern established by participating stakeholders in recent years means viewers should know what to expect from the NFL half-time segment. So, vote with the remote. Let the TV fall silent for half-time, let the sound of silence be heard loudly by the industries represented, that they may bring back some class and self-respect to sport and entertainment.

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira have vocal talent. They shouldn’t need to sell their bodies, or have others sell a sexualized image of themselves, in order to showcase that talent. No woman should. The challenge for the rest of is to not buy into the voyeurism, lustful fantasy, and the greedy smiles, lies and hi-fives attached to the sex sells paradigm.

Lilly Allen’s apt sarcasm appears to have fallen on deaf ears:

‘Life’s about film stars and less about mothers. It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other; I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless ‘Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous.’ [ii]

Lying underneath all this is the question: Does this capitulation to pre-Christian paganism, and did the manifestation of it in this burlesque ambush just inadvertently declare the #metoo movement dead?


References:

[i] Doherty, T. 2013. Hollywood & Hitler:1933-1939, Columbia University Press (pp.111-115)

[ii] Allen, L.R. & Kurstin, G. 2009. The Fear, from the album, It’s not me, It’s You.  Sony Music

First published on Caldron Pool, 5th February, 2020

Cropped from a photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2020