Some Legitimate and Not-so-Legitimate Responses to Beyonce’s Halftime Show
Posted on February 5, 2013
The funniest thing I saw on Facebook during the Superbowl were parallel posts about Beyonce’s performance. In one, her performance was called “pornographic.” In the other, Matthew Paul Turner posted, “To all of my friends who are suggesting that Beyonce’s halftime show was basically 10 minutes of softcore porn… you obviously have never seen softcore porn.” I read it aloud to the folks I was watching the Superbowl with, and we laughed harder at that than any of the commercials. Turner later blogged about the claims that the show was pornographic, offering some great commentary that you should check out when you have the chance.
Having read a lot of responses to Beyonce’s performance, I thought I’d provide some a list of possible reactions to the show and categorize them as appropriate or maybe not-so-appropriate. If you find your reactions on the inappropriate list, you might want to ask yourself if the reasons for your opinion are rooted in some judgmentalism that really doesn’t look good on you.
10 Totally Legitimate Reasons to Have Enjoyed Beyonce’s Halftime Show
- You love Beyonce!
- You love Destiny’s Child
- You like to watch some pretty impressive dancing.
- You think a band and back up dancing crew made up entirely of women is an awesome concept, both theoretically and in execution.
- You appreciate the way Beyonce is incorporating a lineage of African American dance and get excited when you read analysis like this: “In fact, the shimmy, the Black Bottom, the Quiver and the Funky Butt — the building blocks of what Beyonce does so well — were popular at the turn of the 20th century, and themselves are rooted in the traditions slaves kept alive beyond the Middle Passage. All rock-and-soul era dancing stems from this stuff, of course; but as her Super Bowl routine so memorably demonstrated, Beyonce gets the connection like nobody else. She invokes the madcap, revolutionary spirit of the first great generation of African-American female stars of vaudeville and the cabaret: women like Josephine Baker and Ethel Waters, who once attributed her early success to her ‘completely mobile hips.’”
- You love that freaking awesome outfit and how incredible she looked in it.
- You like the music.
- You loved the technology of the show–the lights, the screens, the fire, and the fire guitar.
- You like sexy women, in general.
- You got a kick out of all those ridiculous faces that she made.
7 Totally Legitimate Reasons to Have Disliked Beyonce’s Halftime Show
- You’re not really into Beyonce’s music.
- You’re not really a fan of this thing called “dancing.”
- You’re a critic of the necessary egotism that seems to go hand-in-hand with being the kind of star whose stage is the shape of her face. Times two.
- You have some thoughtful, intelligent criticism of the objectification of women that takes place in the pop music industry and are willing to try to suss out the differences between objectification and sexual empowerment.
- You don’t care for sexy people.
- Sexy dancing isn’t really your thing.
- You thought she looked kind of silly with the whole “flip my hair onto the audience” thing.
4 Not-So-Legitimate Reasons to Dislike Beyonce’s Halftime Show
- You say it was pornographic. No, it wasn’t. Pornography depicts sexual organs and sex acts and exists for the sole purpose of causing arousal and sexual climax. Going back to MPT’s comments, there is no way that what Beyonce was doing was pornographic. Sexy? Sure. But being sexy is not the same as pornography. It’s okay if that wasn’t your style, or if it’s outside of your taste preferences. Just because something is sexier than you like it doesn’t mean that it’s porn. There is a whole range from “really boring, not sexy at all” to “way too sexy for me” that doesn’t even get close to being pornography. Beyonce’s performance may have landed in the “too sexy for me” on your personal spectrum, but you can’t call it porn. You just can’t.
- You say her clothing was inappropriate. Modesty is a completely relative concept. Had you been at the beach and seen Beyonce wearing less than she did on that stage, you probably would have been fine with it. Her costume both covered a lot and was revealing, but think of what it revealed. It didn’t just reveal her skin, but it revealed the awesomeness of her body and its strength. It revealed how she can move and stretch and dance in a way that few other contemporary entertainers are capable of doing. I like that I was able to see the curves and contours of her body, because that made the dance all that more impressive!
- You say it wasn’t appropriate for children. Really? It’s the Superbowl halftime show. During the hours that the Superbowl airs, you have a bunch of men violently slamming into each other, modeling a sport that some Christians argue is morally problematic if not flat-out immoral. Then, when the game goes to break, there are the commercials, which every year are filled with sex, sexism, violence, racism, materialism, and all kinds of other bad things. Does anyone expect the halftime show to be any different? If so, WHY? The Superbowl hasn’t been a family-friendly event for a long time. Just because you like to get together and watch it with your church friends doesn’t make it family entertainment. It’s fine to get upset about that, but don’t blame Beyonce’s awesome hips and finger licking for that.
- You want to make a joke about Beyonce making the power go out. Okay, you can make the joke–if it’s funny–but certainly you’re not really hinging your dislike of the performance on a cheap joke that 2.6 bazillion other people made on Twitter last night.
Here’s one final thought: when a person sees a woman’s body, there are a lot of totally appropriate responses, and a bunch of them happen to start with A: admiration, attraction, arousal, awe. When I see people lamenting a performance like Beyonce’s as inherently bad because it was so sexy, I worry that we are giving in to patriarchal rules that say that women can only be sexy/slutty or modest/maternal. It’s like we want to reduce all responses to just “aroused” or “not aroused.” There are lots of other things you can experience when you watch a performance like that.
If you were bothered by it because it turned you on, ask yourself why it bothers you to be aroused by someone. Why didn’t you change the channel if it bothers you? And if you did change the channel, did you feel the need to announce your disgust on Facebook or Twitter? Why? If you are concerned about the dancing turning on other people (your friends, children, spouses, etc.), ask yourself why that is a problem. Why are you concerned about the arousal of other people? If you and your partner share the same values and don’t think it’s appropriate to get turned on by watching other people, and your partner disrespected your agreed-upon framework for dealing with sexy situations, then I can understand your frustration. But outside of that, why does it matter if someone else is getting turned on? It could be that you believe sexual arousal should not be elicited by people who don’t share a sexual relationship, and if that’s the case, own that, but own it for yourself. Not for everyone else in the world.
I understand that some of us have a knee-jerk reaction against things that feel egotistical, self-indulgent, or like exhibitionism. I just want us to explore that gut reaction against something like Beyonce’s performance. If you disliked the show, figure out why–don’t fall back on lazy descriptions by saying it was pornographic or inappropriate for kids.