08 February 2012

The real context of MIA's finger gesture at the super bowl halftime show

If you watched the halftime show of this year's Super Bowl (rather unexciting, more of a carbon copy of the one after the 2007 season) you might've seen rapper M.I.A sticking up her middle finger for a moment. Then the screen suddenly cuts to an aerial view of the field and blurs very quickly. If you were wondering why NBC blurred the whole screen for a second after MIA finished her performance it was because the network realized what MIA did and thought the blur could censor the action on time. It didn't, and I presume that NBC had some sort of tape delay system. But it does confirm the opinion that MIA's action was so quick that many people wouldn't notice exactly which finger she was sticking up. In fact, Time magazine TV critic James Poniewoznik commented: "M.I.A...apparently briefly flipped off the camera in a gesture so shocking that I had no idea she even did it until NBC issued an apology for it." An Associated Press report also quoted a viewer who only realized the next morning what MIA did.

Here's the video.

And here's the official music video for Madonna's "Give Me All Your Luvin'". Go to the 2:39 mark, where MIA's part is. When she raps "I don't give a sh..." she points out her index finger as in mimicking firing a gun. Hmm. So could it be that MIA might've accidentally moved her wrong finger? A possibility. UK tabloid The Sun quotes an anonymous insider: "M.I.A. did nothing similar in rehearsals," and also alleged that Madonna disapproved of MIA's action.

And of course, the good ol' Parents Television Council had to weigh in. (No long-winded column yet about "OOGA BOOGA DECLINING DECENCY STANDARDS IN AMERICA!" by PTC founder/former president/now advisor/continuing columnist Brent Bozell.) Current PTC president Tim Winter was quoted in the same AP source: "Most families would agree that the middle finger aimed directly at them is not appropriate, especially during the most-watched television event of the year."

The PTC's full statement is here, and furthermore Winter stated: "It has been eight years since the Janet Jackson striptease, and both NBC and the NFL knew full well what might happen. They chose a lineup full of performers who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation." The performers in this year's halftime show indeed don't lack controversy. Headliner Madonna has been provocative throughout her nearly 30-year pop music career and has especially inflamed the "pro-family" crowd, for example in 1989 soft drink brand Pepsi canceled a planned TV commercial with Madonna because the American Family Association complained about the singer's "Like a Virgin" music video using Christian symbolism and boycotted Pepsi for planning the ad. And as i blogged about earlier Brent Bozell had gripes with co-performer Nicki Minaj, who also had a wardrobe malfunction on a Good Morning America TV performance last year. Cee-Lo had a popular hit with "Fuck You" (on the radio "Forget You"), of course that would inflame Bozell's sensibilities (the golden passage in this column? "Any radio edit is just a lame Band-Aid for a pus-filled boil."). Another Bozell-founded Cultural Guardian, the Culture and Media Institute, also targeted MIA over her song "Lovalot" because its chorus sounded like "I love Allah"...oh no, those evil pop musicians can NOT be singing about ALLAH and MUSLIMS to our precious kids' ears!!!! But other than the performers' controversial backgrounds, what other evidence does Winter have to claim NBC knew another Janet Jackson moment would happen? In fact Winter had nothing to say about the suggestive dancing in the halftime show, and had the middle finger incident not occurred would he even have issued a Monday morning statement? Furthermore, the song selection wasn't highly offensive (unlike the Super Bowl show with Janet Jackson with songs like "Rock Your Body" and "Shake Ya Tailfeather"). From wikipedia: The setlist included "Vogue," a medley of Madonna's "Music" and LMFAO's two largest hits ("Party Rock Anthem" and "Sexy and I Know It,"...), followed by "Give Me All Your Luvin'," "Open Your Heart," "Express Yourself" (in a duet with [Cee-Lo] Green), and the finale, "Like a Prayer"."

Wonder why PTC doesn't have a complaint form to the FCC on its front page (even as of right now) unlike back in February 2004 after the Janet Jackson incident? The "Hilicon Valley" blog at TheHill.com explains: "A spokeswoman for the Parents Television Council said the organization won't ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fine NBC over the incident, but "we're certain others will do so whether we encourage them to or not."" In fact, if the FCC decides to fine NBC over this incident, MIA is contractually bound to pitch in. It seems by not actively pursuing formal complaints over MIA's middle finger, PTC is silently acknowledging that this is a weaker case than Janet Jackson's breast.

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