The moral outrage of the Super Bowl halftime show

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Guest Columnist
Posted 2/7/20

Many of my Facebook friends post cute pictures of children, grandchildren, and fur-babies. Many Facebook users also post rants about the immorality of our culture, making known what they are against …

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The moral outrage of the Super Bowl halftime show

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Posted

Many of my Facebook friends post cute pictures of children, grandchildren, and fur-babies. Many Facebook users also post rants about the immorality of our culture, making known what they are against and who are their opponents.

On Sunday, though, my Facebook timeline lit up with moral outrage following the Super Bowl’s Halftime Show featuring J. Lo and Shakira. Post after post expressed dismay at the clothing worn by these superstars — actually, the lack of clothing. Parents, in particular, lamented the example these women had set for their daughters.

As the father of a daughter, I am sympathetic to the claim that young women (and men) are negatively influenced by the popular culture’s image of the female body. Certainly, “beauty” is often defined and limited to a type of physical appearance and, tragically, women are objectified.

That said, it was striking to me that these posts were made by my white Facebook friends. As a white man, I wonder if we missed a subtle message of this performance. What were these African-American and Latina entertainers claiming should evoke our moral outrage?

At one point, J. Lo was joined on stage by her daughter. In front of the stage, other children sat under lighted arches. Look closely: these children were in cages. There was also a sampling of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” sung underneath both the American and Puerto Rican flags. These political messages were subtly placed in the midst the music, glitter, lights, and choreography. While I initially overlooked them, these messages were not lost on all of my Facebook friends. People of color celebrated J. Lo and Shakira for taking a moral stand against injustice and for equity.

In pointing this out, I can imagine a critical response: The Super Bowl should not be about politics, especially race or so-called identity politics. Football teams wear different colors on their jerseys, but what about the contests between blue versus red (political parties) or black/brown versus white? I anticipate the frustrated response: “Can’t we leave these subjects alone just for one game?”

It is true that many people — white, black, and brown — understand sports as a unifying factor. But we do not live in a colorblind society.

Entertainment can hold up a mirror for us to view our actions, assumptions, and prejudices. J. Lo and Shakira challenge us to see the devastation in Puerto Rico from recent natural disasters and see that we have failed to support our fellow American citizens. To see the young adults known as The Dreamers and see the need to provide a pathway to citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children. To see the practice of separating migrant children from their families and see those kids in cages.

To see what should evoke our outrage. To see and understand that we can then do justice and love kindness with humility and conviction (Micah 6:8).

Halftime shows, along with football games, come and go. But, as a white man and a father, an American citizen and a person of faith, I believe we need to start seeing people of color as our teammates — not just on Facebook but in the policies we support.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the poet pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and the author of the book Gently Between the Words.

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