Empowering and Disturbing- Shakira and Jennifer Lopez Superbowl Half Time Show 2020

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This blog post does not contain adult images or music videos (or links to them), but the content is for adults.  

It didn't take long for people to wake up.  This morning on the Today Show I was disappointed (but not surprised) to listen to Sheinelle Jones and Hoda Kotb praise the Superbowl half time show without any mention of controversy.  But less than 24 hrs later if you Google News search "half time show," these are some of the articles that are listed first:
  • Chicago Tribune: Column: Where Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s unapologetically sexy halftime show fits into #MeToo
  • Washington Post:  The Super Bowl poses the question: What’s more obscene, sex or sexism?
  • USA Today: Jennifer Lopez, Shakira's Super Bowl halftime show sparks debate: Empowering or objectifying
  • Charlotte Observer: Super Bowl halftime show was ‘sexual exploitation,’ evangelist Franklin Graham says
About a week ago, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue wrote a blog post titled It's Time to Grow Inpatient."  In it he argues that many of us are complacent about our "morally depraved" culture because it's become that way gradually over time.  He compares this to the science experiment in which frogs don't realize they are being boiled to death when they are put in a pot of warm water that is only gradually raised in temperature.  I liked his metaphor and found it a fitting description of how we become accustomed to bad behavior in general, but I disagreed with with his description of our society as morally depraved-- I thought the wording was too strong.  That was until last night watching the Superbowl Half Time Show starring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

It was a spectacular performance, but not what I would call "family friendly." For a televised event that many people watch with their children, it should have been less risque.  A lot less.  I reflected on Rabbi Goldberg's blog post and wondered about past half time shows and whether they have changed gradually over time.  When did it get this bad?  Have I been a frog, not realizing how unhealthy our surroundings are because it's happened gradually?  The answer is yes.  I did a little research on the past twenty years of shows and share with you my findings.  (Yes, I personally previewed the content.  I'm an adult, and for me the morally problematic part of the show was that it was intended for an audience known to include many children).

2001- Brittney Spears's outfit is noted in a Hollywood Life article called the "Sexiest Superbowl Half Time Outfits of All Time," but the performance, even together with two male vocal artists with her, was not as raunchy as our 2020 show.

2004 - Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake get too provocative during their last dance, but still not as bad as Shakira / JLo (leaving aside the Jackson wardrobe malfunction).

2007 - Prince's show was controversial because during the last song, Purple Pain, he carried a guitar with a suggestive shape and he had his silhouette displayed on a sheet.  Child's play, compared to this year, really. 

2013 - Beyonce's all female troupe was definitely as racy and inappropriate IMHO as Shakira/ JLo.  But, JLo and Shakira were still more troubling (for the reasons I will mention shortly)

2015 - Katy Perry - Adult themed grinding with Lenny Kravitz while singing "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It," but doesn't compare to this year.

2016 - Madonna seems positively quaint, feminine, and innocent compared to JLo and Shakira despite the unrelated lawsuit over the middle-finger given by guest performer MIA. 

2020 - In my opinion the parts of the 2020 half time show that made it the most inappropriate of all of the previous shows were Shakira with her ropes, JLo pole-dancing like a stripper with male dancers touching her at times, and JLo grinding in front of male performer J Balvin while he points at her behind.

I disagree with some of what Rabbi Goldberg wrote, but what I initially dismissed as unnecessarily alarmist about current society, I now reflect upon as food for thought.  Perhaps the most troubling (and somehow, also most moving) part of the show was that it ended with JLo's 11 year old daughter and girls her age performing on stage with the two women.  

Shocking and concerning!  
But I enjoyed the female empowerment theme.  
But I don't understand why we couldn't have had that same theme in a less explicitly sexual performance.  

It should come as no surprise to me or anyone else that mores have changed over time and what was once considered unacceptable for daytime television is now regularly broadcast at all hours.  In the world today, pornography can be accessed in a split second by anyone with a smart phone or computer.  While all of these things should give us pause, I suggest we leave the pornography to those that search it out and focus our attention on making mainstream media more wholesome again.