The Rev. Larry Hollon
The Rev. Larry Hollon
Commentary: Super Bowl Halftime Show Was Inappropriate Sexual Aggression

 By The Rev. Larry Hollon

It makes little difference if Janet Jackson’s breast baring was intentional or a mistake. In either case, it was an act of sexual aggression very inappropriate for any audience that includes children.

The Super Bowl halftime program revealed not only the lack of standards that result when we turn over our media to corporations whose primary concern is attracting eyeballs and building audience to build the bottom line.  It also reveals the disrespect, even contempt, they hold for the audience.  How could any executive of Viacom, CBS or MTV, having seen the rehearsals and heard the lyrics have felt this was an appropriate display of popular culture sent from the United States to the world?

It is also disconcerting that the Super Bowl is supposedly the showcase for this country’s most creative display of advertising talent. If that is the case, the advertising industry has been taken over by an eighth grade gym class trying to take crudeness to its most extreme.
Broadcast licenses are granted based on a commitment to serve the public interest.  The public owns the airwaves.  The public outcry this week makes it clear that these licensees did not serve the public interest. When the FCC seeks to avoid its own regulatory responsibility to ensure that licensees serve the best interests of the public, we now see quite clearly the results—the halftime show at the Super Bowl. The FCC’s recent history is one of betraying the trust placed on it by the public.

It is also disconcerting that the Super Bowl is supposedly the showcase for this country’s most creative display of advertising talent.  If that is the case, the advertising industry has been taken over by an eighth grade gym class trying to take crudeness to its most extreme. 

The use of violence, adolescent sight gags and sexual innuendo throughout the incessant advertising breaks reveals a bankruptcy that should be concerning ad executives around the nation.  What was revealed was the sorry state of creativity in the ad industry.  If this is the best we can contrive, creativity is in deep trouble.

Finally, one thing should be clear.  The entire sequence of musical production during the halftime show pandered to sexual titillation leading to Justin Timberlake’s ripping off Ms. Jackson’s costume. The lyrics of the song “have you naked by the end of this song” led to the conclusion that by its end she would be naked.  It is not prudish to suggest that society should not tolerate violence against women as entertainment.

In the Christian tradition, we are reminded that the body is the temple of God. That Ms. Jackson was willing to display her body as if it were an object to be used to garner attention for her upcoming album, as some have suggested, is simply too sad for outrage.
It was disconcerting that at least one parent interviewed on local news following the game said his sons had seen worse, and he was not especially concerned.  What does it say about us that we feed our children the detritus of violent video games and sexual exploitation in so casual a manner?

After my initial shock, I feel less outrage than pity for Ms. Jackson.  In my religious tradition the human body and, equally, the human personality are considered sacred because God creates them.  In the biblical tradition, we are told we are little lower than the angels in the order of creation, deserving of respect and dignity.  In the Christian tradition, we are reminded that the body is the temple of God.  That Ms. Jackson was willing to display her body as if it were an object to be used to garner attention for her upcoming album, as some have suggested, is simply too sad for outrage.

If the price of fame is to turn oneself into an object, making one’s own body a commodity, that’s too high a price to pay, for it denies the inherent dignity that should be revered for all of God’s creation.

The Rev. Larry Hollon is General Secretary of United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn. Before assuming his current position, he was an award-winning documentary producer.



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