A fresh lesson in the un-American cost of chilling online political speech.
Halftime's sound and sexy signified nothing.
The morning of the big game, I predicted that the elderly singers poised to take the stage would appear in opaque nude panty hose and vinyl leotards, since legally the older the performer, the more skin they are required to flaunt.
My prediction was very close to what they wore, except with slightly less fabric. And yet, how could I, a tradwife with no inside knowledge of the various show producers, costume designers, and choreographers who work with J-Lo, possibly know this?
The day after the now infamous halftime show, a million outraged tweets declared the shockingly scantily clad performance lewd, crude, and tacky, a pornographic strip show unsuitable for American football families hunched around platters of nachos semi-eagerly awaiting their annual helping of America’s Entertainment™.
A second group lavished praise on Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s “stunning” show, heralding it as a proud celebration of “Latinx” heritage and culture in the age of Trump. (And now, happily, we know what the X in “Latinx” means.)
A third group, mainly white feminists and corporate marketeers (but I repeat myself) proclaimed the spectacle a bold statement of women’s empowerment. These ladies were leading from behind, using their behinds! The gameday marketing theme was a “Make Space For Women” campaign that featured a hashtag and a commercial by Olay showing women blast into space on a giant dildo-shaped, Olay-branded rocket.
(Side note: I am 100% in favor of sending feminists into space on lengthy expeditions, the more the better.)
So, which was it? A sleazyy strip tease, an unapologetically sexy Latina pridefest, or a bold third-wave feminist statement?
In my opinion, it was actually none of the above. Instead, it marked the total collapse of mainstream pop culture into its final singularity: a tired, exhausted banality obsolete from the moment of its birth.
THE BANALITY OF DIVA
The halftime show, starring 43-year-old Shakira and 50+ year-old Lopez, had no actual nudity, or even a wardrobe malfunction like Janet Jackson’s split-second boob flash back in 2004. It did feature an excess of pole dancing, copious gluteal jiggling in ludicrous, unflattering costumes that were basically full-body G-strings, and heavy hip thrusting on the floor and with a troop of male backup dancers.
Shakira wore a fringe mini dress, which compared to Lopez was like being in a full niqab, but she quickly found a way around her modest skirt with a camera-level squat that generously allowed for close up looks at her crotch.
Lopez arrived in a black leather S&M catsuit that she stripped off into skimpier and then skimpiest outfits, finally left only in a nude body stocking with tiny silver pasties over the few inches of flesh she wanted to cover.
For good measure, she made sure to draw our eyes to her covered bits, tantalizing as they already were, by sliding towards the poor unsuspecting cameraman on her knees rubbing the millimeter-wide strip of fabric stretched across her crotch as if to tease and say “don’t you wish you could see what’s under here?”
In truth, her attempt at self-groping was half-hearted, and you could almost sense her reluctance. The depraved choreographers and creative directors are firmly in control of these ladies, but sometimes even the best-trained marionettes balk.
Did anyone even hear the songs? I recognized a few of them, and they sounded much worse than I remembered. The whole wretched affair derrière was not what it was, ahem, cracked up to be.
I asked my 14-year-old the other day as he sang along to “Tainted Love” on the car radio, why do they still play all the songs from when I was your age, and why do you like them?
“Because music today sucks.”
TWERKING AND TWERKING IN THE WIDENING GYRE
Ladies have been proudly shaking their collective tuchuses for many decades now. It’s tiresome, at this point, to muster up any degree of libidinous excitement or even offense at the (diverse!) multi-hued array of butt cheeks jiggling in our faces from all directions.
I suppose in the beginning it was thrilling to catch Josephine Baker at the Folies in Paris, wiggling in nothing but a tutu made of bananas. Ziegfeld’s chorus girls showed plenty of skin, and were the first real pinups. When the Hays Code was introduced in 1934, Hollywood was forced to clean up its act, so skin was not in again until the late 60s when the entertainment industry realized skin was going to sell a lot of tickets.
Still, when Madonna strutted onscreen in a bustier and fishnet stockings in the mid 1980s, teenage girls were thrilled and parents were genuinely appalled. Her entire persona was about epater-ing the bourgeoisie, and shock them she did.
But then, the look she pioneered devolved into the standard workaday uniform of the average pop superstar. Tight, high-cut leotards and nude legs became the dress code and have remained unchanged for the last 35-odd years.
Please, can someone put on some pants? Imagine the shock value!
Recall that Cher wore a nude body stocking in the 1997 video for her hit “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
Then came in rapid succession Britney Spears, Nikki Minaj, Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Ariane Grande, and grande dame J-Lo—all of them without exception adopting the onstage leotard and bare legs look, in various colors and fabrics.
So many female mediocrities twerking their way into cultural irrelevance. Less fabric! More twerking! Faster pussycat! It’s all so very cringe.
Beyoncé’s 2008’s “Single Ladies” video featured her and two back up dancers in leotards. Nowadays, every time I fire up the Daily Mail for my Meghan Markle fix, I am treated to lavish wide-angle close ups of the obese rapper Lizzo in what looks like a piece of string stuck to her posterior, grabbing her ankles and gyrating inches from a camera’s lens. I do not desire to commit to memory the contours of other women’s inner thigh protrusions and camel toes; does anyone? When did Lizzo’s taint and Lopez’s labia become marketing gimmicks to sell Pepsi?
No wonder American men are forced to gobble ED pills by the handful! Women’s bodies have been stripped, literally, of their mystique and power to titillate and turned into gross anatomy lessons.
Perhaps this is why 18-year-old singer Billie Eilish was able to break out so fast last year. Her shapeless sweatsuits and baggy overalls seemed radical, and set the fashion standard at our local public high schools. Her talent, youth, and surprisingly lovely face just landed her on the March cover of Vogue. Perhaps her recent dominance at the Grammys over almost all of the women mentioned above is a hopeful sign. Eilish beat Gaga, Grande, Lizzo, and even Swift, among others. Of course, she currently sports a black Joan Jett shag haircut with the roots dyed neon green, but nobody’s perfect.
Could her rocket to fame mean we are ready to #makespaceforwomen that don’t fit the hooker/stripper mold? Do young women prefer to gaze upon the face of a beautiful teenager who can actually sing, and whose figure is literally shrouded in mystery, over the proctologist-eye view of middle-age has-beens having seizures in sequins in desperate efforts to seize your attention?
I hope so. It’s not ideal, but I suppose Eilish is the radical pop savior we deserve.