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2/7/04 12:55 AM
Copyright 2003 David C. Loebig

Halftime Moments Rub the Wrong Way

Let’s see, has anything happened lately that has the Christian right up in arms, 16-year-olds searching the internet and TV executives scrambling. Oh, yes, the Super Bowl, the extravaganza, the breast. (I don’t understand why the media are consistently specifying the “right” breast. There must be some kind of political symbolism in doing so.)

I’m a little put off by Jackson’s Super Bowl display--not insulted, not appalled, just put off. Clearly it was done for the shock value. It gets Jackson some attention because it is an affront to the collective standards of our society. And that’s what rubs me the wrong way.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with nudity, and I took no personal offense. In fact, it’s apparent that many people had an active interest in Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” It was the most replayed moment ever measured by TiVo, the maker of the TiVo digital TV recorders.

It’s not the nudity that bothers me but the spirit of it. Our culture has norms that restrict nudity, not to mention the formal laws against it, and Jackson chose to insult the collective standards. So be it. She has her rights, but let’s call it what it is. Jackson made a conscious affront to society. She did it to get more attention for herself.

This is nothing new. Clark Gable said “damn” in “Gone with the Wind,” and it was a shock for the times. Certainly the 50’s, 60’s and every decade since saw performers who shocked society for the effect or because our culture was just too stuffy. Sometimes it’s the best way to hold a mirror up to society. So it should be no surprise that performers push the limits. Generally, they have the right.

The Jackson moment eclipsed a more blatant affront to the national community during the halftime show, Kid Rock’s use of the flag as a poncho. He, the individual, used OUR flag to get attention for himself, the individual.

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with his wearing the flag. I believe people should be allowed to burn the flag if they want. It’s all part of free speech. But let’s just call it what it is. He used OUR symbol of OUR national community to get attention for Kid Rock, the INDIVIDUAL.

The flag is by definition the symbol of us the collective, of us the national community. Using the flag for INDIVIDUAL adornment is by definition a stark dissension from what the flag symbolizes. (By the way, his right to do so and CBS’ right to air it is also what the flag stands for.)

Kid Rock might say he’s celebrating our country with his display, and he probably means to. I wouldn’t suppose he meant it as an insult.

But it’s clear he doesn’t get the symbolism of OUR flag. The flag isn’t about him or any individual. It’s about US, it’s about the collective, it’s about the national community. If he were really celebrating the flag and its meaning, he wouldn’t use it for his own personal glory. He would submit to the collective norms regarding the flag. He wouldn’t wear the flag, he wouldn’t cut a hole in the middle so it would fit over his head, he wouldn’t pile it next to the drum kit when he was done sweating on it. The Kid misses the point.

There may be more meaning in all of this. It may be indicative of the “I’m cool” stars we celebrate and pay so well. It may be a symptom of the sports world’s focus on individual stars. But maybe not. So for now I’ll just say that one part of the halftime show was both bothersome and interesting, and another part was just bothersome. I’ll let you guess which one was which

Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. area. You can banter with him at


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