Of Beyonce, Great Praise, and Moral Outrage

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I have read a little bit more about the Super Bowl this year than usual because my hometown hosted it.  And I find it quite interesting that after one of the closest games we have seen in a bit in a Superbowl (with a disputed call at the end no less), after the lights went out in the middle of the game, and after some more unusual than normal Super Bowl commercials that what is generating the most conversation and disagreements is Beyonce’s half time show performance.

The controversy seems to be passionate on both sides.  On the once side we have mostly younger people, media reviewers, and the Super Bowl crowd themselves who feel that Beyonce just did an incredible job and this was the best Super Bowl halftime show ever.  On the other side we probably have mostly parents, older people, and people who generally don’t like any half time shows anyway.   They feel that the performance was overtly sexual and inappropriate for prime time viewing.

I think I understand both mindsets.  On the one hand, I’m not too old to remember being younger and being amused every time older folks got upset over the latest pop sensation.  I can remember older folks complaining about the likes of Elvis, the Beatles, and later Madonna (that their outrage made the artists more interesting seemed lost on the older folks).  I also found it interesting that older folks would get so upset about media performers and yet be so ho-hum about issues they had more immediate control over.

On the other side of the spectrum, I am a parent.  I am the man who sits at his nine year old daughter’s dance recitals and is thinking, “Is that ‘move’ really appropriate for children?”  I think the fear that a parent has is that when they learn a new dance move from anyone, including from Beyonce, it is what they will later replicate (or at least attempt to replicate) in other venues (which in some settings can surely be problematic).

For me personally, Beyonce doesn’t make me turn my head.  Her music is fine but there is little subtlety in her dancing.  A woman in a long dress moving with grace is easily more appealing to me than someone in Beyonce’s costume and moving as she was last Sunday.    But I also realize her performance is not aimed at folks like me.  I appreciate that she is a skilled artist though that attracts lots of fans.

As for being outraged, that’s not in me either.  In the future, if my daughter or son are watching someone like this, I hope to share with them what I feel is appropriate and inappropriate, and why.  But folks my age are fooling themselves if they think their children aren’t seeing stuff like this far outside of the Super Bowl.  And really, if we older folks are honest, it’s nothing we didn’t see when we were growing up.

Let’s save our moral outrage for things which cause suffering.  A few of my friends in the clergy sent me links on how the Superbowl is one of the largest events in the world to attract human trafficking.  Now, that’s a topic that is hardly covered by the national media at all.  That, more than any dances, should make us upset.  We also spend money beyond many peoples in this world imagination’s over a game when there are people who are nearby who are hungry and homeless.  That should make us uneasy more than anyone’s costume.  Our children are being saturated with images of violence which we collectively yawn over while we fret over dance moves our children may learn.  Is that even logical?

We do need to pass on values to the next generation.  We do want them to have values, maybe even better values than we have had.  But getting upset over a half-time show is not the way to do this.  Sharing our values and showing how we can make a difference more than shielding their eyes is what is going to make a difference to the next generation.  And younger folks are always going to like different artists than older folks.  It is just the way of things.

What do you think?

Until next time,

Tom

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