Sex shocks--and sells, no matter the era. In 1863, Manet's "DejuenerCK SP sur L'herbe" shocked Parisians with its nudity. Now it's hanging in the Musee d'Orsay, one of the most venerated of Impressionist artworks. In the late 90s the Young British Artists “Sensation” exhibit, featuring explicitly sexual works by artists like Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, managed to whip up controversy even in avant-garde New York City.
But the kind of provocative commentary on sexual politics that motivates many artists evades some others, who prefer to rely on cheap titillation instead of genuine intellectual provocation.
Which brings me to the Super Bowl.
Beyonce dazzled millions of viewers on Sunday with a high-energy performance of some of her best-loved songs. She sang (live!) and danced well. And she punctuated the performance with aggressively sexual gyrations, crotch grabs and a suggestiveness that wouldn't look out of place in a strip club.
She isn’t alone in her approach. Madonna, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson--they all offer skimpily clad lap dances, and whether we asked for it or not, we are the collective lap.
Fun for some, I’m sure. But Super Bowl producers should know that women are also watching. So are dudes who like dudes. So are old people. And so are children.
Sex appeal is all some performers have. But Beyonce is no half-talent pop tart. It struck me as odd that someone so immensely talented would choose to make her sex appeal the main attraction.
Watching her sing “Single Ladies,” her ode to female empowerment and self-worth, while humping the stage and flashing her lady bits to the camera, was a strange, sad commentary. Doesn't she know that she's too good for that?
Look, I don’t need to see Beethoven’s 9th symphony performed at the Super Bowl. But are my only options aging rock stars or nearly-naked strip teases? Krystal has suggested Adele might be a good choice. Steve wants to bring back the tradition of marching bands. Toure wants to see Jay-Z and Kanye. But he says more Beyonce never hurt anyone.
I realize we might be too far gone to book the wholesome and corny “Up with People” kids from the halftimes of the 70s and 80s. But the Super Bowl halftime show should just be fun, the kind of fun all audiences and the whole family can enjoy. Now get off my lawn! And no, you can't have your ball back.