The Superbowl Halftime Show, Baby Boomers, and Wardrobe Malfunctions


I decided to write this blog to record my observations on the culture of politics and the politics of culture.  What better reference for such observations than yesterday’s clash of the  titans that was Superbowl XLIV (Geaux Saints!)

The  broadcast  garnered more viewers than any other television show in history, beating the 1983 series finale of M*A*S*H.  I won’t speculate on what the dethroning of the black comedy/medical drama  means during this time of endless war, but it certainly says something about the spirit of our times.  While  106.5 million people tuned into the Superbowl festivities, a mere fraction  of that viewership, some 1.3 million people watched President Obama’s first State of the Union address this January.  Go figure or you do the math?

Nevertheless, I rarely watch the Superbowl for the actual sport. I am much more concerned about what these widely shared mediated experiences say about the American condition.  While the commercials provide much fuel for feminist critique, I think the halftime show was far more interesting than bathing beauty Megan Fox hawking Motorola phones. 

The Who?  headlined the Superbowl halftime show this year.  My immediate thought was “who thought it was a good idea to get  The Who? to perform for the Superbowl.  A quick disclaimer, I do not follow The Who?   I am sure they have a large and respectable fan base, however, to me they looked like aging engineers playing dress-up.  Unlike Bruce Springsteen’s performance last year, The Who? lacked energy, charisma, sex appeal, and the rugged populist grit that is Bruce and his band of brothers (see Superbowl XLIII halftime show).  I hope this does not come across as ageist, but the choice of The Who? seemed wrongheaded and was most likely the choice of some baby boomer, who could not risk the antics of a more culturally relevant artist like say a Lady GaGa or I don’t know… Kanye West (clearly that will never happen).

Ever since Janet Jackson exposed her lovely lady lump to a Superbowl audience in 2004, we have had to sit through an annual line-up of baby boomer favorites. Here is the list:  Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. These are strange days when Mr. Pink Cashmere is considered safe.  MTV productions failure to reign in Justin and Janet’s strip tease (which I am convinced was planned) has meant young artist need apply for the halftime show.  You will not be hired.

Just like Gen-Exer Conan O’Brien’s recent departure from NBC, having been pushed out by baby boomer Leno, the youth of America are feeling the pinch of the baby boom generation well beyond there entertainment choices.  In looking at the State of the Union, we see a fresh-faced, youthful President Obama addressing a room dominated by largely pauchy old men.  The demographics of our leadership do not reflect the cultural kaleidoscope of the modern USA and perhaps explains why public policy is not lining up with majority opinions.  Old people shouting at town halls and just being crotchety in general are dictating to other old people in Congress what they want and as we are more likely to agree with people who are like us – BAM the Kabosh has been put on Healthcare. 

So on Sunday, I exercised my right to rage against the machine. I watched Modern Family instead of the halftime show.  The Beastie Boys said it best, “You gotta fight for your right to Partaay”.

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