I want to thank Rudy Giuliani. As supremely unenlightened as I may be about pop culture, hearing the former New York mayor’s cranky critique of Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show makes me feel almost hip.
“I think it was outrageous,” he said, venting full You-Kids-Get-Off-My-Lawn geezer rage on Fox News Monday. “The halftime show I thought was ridiculous anyway. I don’t know what the heck it was. A bunch of people bouncing around and all strange things. It was terrible.”
For the record, the “bunch of people bouncing around” consisted of pop superstar Beyonce backed by her female dance team who wore Black Panther-style black berets atop huge 1960s-style afros and at one point raised a “black power” fist salute in the air.
All of which Giuliani interpreted as a salute to the Black Lives Matter movement and a slap at police.
“This is football, not Hollywood,” Giuliani grumbled, “and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”
Excuse me? If pro football is not entertainment, what the heck is it? And if police who behave badly and, by the way, make good police look bad are not going to be held accountable for it, who will?
Yet it didn’t stop with Giuliani. Over on Fox Business, Stuart Varney asked: “Is there anything in America which can exclude race? I mean, why is race brought into the halftime show at a Super Bowl game, why?”
And Rush Limbaugh called Beyonce’s performance “representative of the cultural decay and the political decay and the social rot that is befalling our country.”
Well, I’m glad they got something out of the show.
Normally, I would not jump eagerly into the culture war over Super Bowl halftime shows, but Giuliani’s complaint comes at a special time: an election year in which anger dominates discourse on both political sides more than it has at perhaps any time since, well, the Sixties.
Much of that anger plays out in tribal cultural wars, turning even such prosaic gatherings as pro football games into arenas for culture clashes.
Just ask Rosemary Plorin. The Tennessee mom’s open letter in the Charlotte Observer chastised Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for exposing her 9-year-old daughter and the rest of the world to his trademark “dap” dance after the Panthers scored a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans.
“I don’t know about your family life Mr. Newton,” she wrote, “but I think I’m safe in saying thousands of kids watch you every week. You have amazing talent and an incredible platform to be a role model for them. Unfortunately, what you modeled for them today was egotism, arrogance and poor sportsmanship.”
Oh, well, anyone upset by Newton’s little dance can gloat that the Denver Broncos gave him his comeuppance. After his team’s Super Bowl loss, there was no dance for the sports media from Cam. He did sulk a lot.
Meanwhile, the political correctness wars continued with a game of Spot the Politics in the Halftime Show.
There’s nothing new about politics popping up in the show. But no one complained, for example, about the Global Citizen armband worn by Coldplay’s Chris Martin to publicize that poverty-fighting organization.
I won’t say that’s because Beyonce is black and Martin is white. But it did remind me of the year that Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast during halftime – and put the term “wardrobe malfunction” into everyone’s vocabulary.
Almost forgotten was rocker Kid Rock’s entrance minutes earlier wearing an American flag as a poncho, which he threw into the crowd. The Veterans of Foreign Wars filed a lawsuit against CBS for letting that desecration happen, but blowback against the Kid paled compared to what Jackson endured.
Beyonce is accustomed to criticism from conservatives. Her reunion performance with Destiny’s Child in 2013 was called “tasteless and unedifying” by National Review editor Rich Lowry, whose colleague Kathryn Jean Lopez called on Beyonce to “put a dress on.”
But contrary to Stuart Varney’s complaint, there’s nothing new about race issues in sports. It’s just in today’s media age – and with an African-American president – it’s harder for people to pretend that our cultural divide doesn’t exist. It does. Maybe someday we'll learn how to talk about it.
Reach Clarence Page at email@example.com.