I’d like to note upfront that I am not “shocked” or “outraged” by the halftime spectacle at the Super Bowl. The NFL has pulled this stunt plenty of times before. Bring in an aging, irrelevant pop star and invite her to debase herself on stage for 12 minutes in an effort to reclaim the sort of attention she once attracted, back before she was an AARP member. It‘s too rote and cynical to produce real shock or outrage.
But that doesn’t mean we should pretend it’s acceptable. Even less should we meekly nod in approval for fear of seeming like the only prudes left in the country who think football games shouldn’t have strip shows at halftime. This is how the forces of degeneracy operate in our culture; this is their strategy. Have the hyper-sexualized performance with a woman rubbing her crotch on camera and gyrating on a stripper pole, and then loudly shout down with charges of “puritanism” anyone who dares breathe even the mildest protest about it. People who know better are berated into silence, and soon enough it is seen as “normal” and thus perfectly fine and healthy to air crotch shots and simulated sex on network television at 8:30 on a Sunday. Eventually we may get our first actual halftime sex act — perhaps they’ll hire performers from a Vegas Bunny Ranch or just find a pop star particularly starved for publicity — and we will no doubt be assured, even then, that only puritanical fundamentalists object.
And so I think it is still worth pointing out that the Super Bowl once was and ought still be a family affair. There is no reason why parents should have to usher their kids off to bed before half time. And there is absolutely nothing unreasonable about advocating for more family-friendly content during the biggest television event of the year. A television event that, we should note, is not aired on HBO at 10 p.m. Nobody is suggesting that everything on TV should always be appropriate for all audiences. Rather what we suggest is that some things should be, and not just the Nick Jr. cartoons. A football game is one of the things that should be. The only reason this one isn’t is that the producers go wildly out of their way to be as inappropriate as they can be without getting sued. They are free to make this programming choice, and we are free to point out that it is obviously an unethical and rather shameful choice.
The underlying point here is that children exist. They are members of our society. It is reasonable to insist that the NFL take the existence of children into account and refrain from staging a simulated orgy on stage during the Super Bowl. This is not an extreme demand. Nobody is calling for mandatory burka laws. We are merely calling for only the most basic, most minimal level of decency. And of course that is too much to ask for these days. But that doesn’t mean we should stop advocating for it.