Well! When I went to bed last night I figured I’d be writing about a couple of aspects of Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show, during which she ran through her catalog with the assistance of Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green, LMFAO, a marching band, a choir, and gladiators. There was the whole notion of bringing voguing, which she plucked out of the gay underground two decades ago, to the most heteronormative major event America’s spectacle has to offer; there was the nitpicking over the set list (sure, it’s a relatively minor hit in the Madonna catalog, but “Causing A Commotion” would have slotted into the medley nicely); and there was, of course, the cruel exclusion of Shufflebot from LMFAO’s cameo. (Seriously, what?) But this morning all the chatter was about the controversy stoked by the controversy-stoking M.I.A., who flipped off the camera as a way to put a period on her verse on the still-underwhelming new Madonna track “Give Me All Your Luvin.” Just when you thought it was safe to bring pop music back into the halftime show… a finger happens. The only way this could have inspired more silly outrage is if her finger had been drizzled with truffle oil first.
Is a raised middle finger still cause for alarm in 2012? In the context of a halftime show that despite being only about 12 minutes long had more pelvis-thrusting than your average night at Chippendales (not to mention that one bit where Madge did a cartwheel assisted by a dancer’s crotch)? Apparently so—the Internet Outrage Machine, after all, needs fulmination material at all times, and our weirdly puritanical world is still offended by a gesture that most people learn somewhere between preschool and third grade.
Let’s all hope that this outburst—which, seriously, I was in a room with a dozen other people watching a giant TV and did not hear anyone notice that this happened, although someone did notice the censors’ hasty attempt to blur out the screen immediately afterward, which inspired a joke that they were surprised by the word “shit” being in the lyric, and not on the screen—doesn’t result in the NFL playing it “safe” and going back to the classic-rock well for another seven years or so. Well, unless the higher-ups decide that the best way to guarantee greatness is to give the halftime show slot over to Prince for eternity! Because, come on, last night’s spectacle was fun and it got me listening to classic Madonna, but Prince has pretty much set a bar that nobody else can leap over. What other artist out there, after all, can make it rain—during “Purple Rain”?