Is the Super Bowl a Family Affair?

February 4, 2013  |  

The day after the Super Bowl, everyone talks about the ads they saw, the halftime show performance and maybe even the big game. Today saw a lot of hand-wringing or plain outrage in the mommy blogosphere about Sunday’s big event, saying it just wasn’t the family-friendly entertainment they hoped it be. Under fire: Beyonce’s performance and of course, the ads.

There was plenty of build up to Beyonce’s big event, making her flashy, non lip synced performance, almost more important than the game itself. But plenty of parents criticized her show, calling her lyrics inappropriate, her dance moves raunchy and her outfit S&M-inspired. One commenter on the parenting blog The Stir said, “What message is she sending to young women (and men) about what to value and how to relate?” Some viewers have gone so far as to accuse Beyonce of a nip slip. Others pointed out that the costumes in the halftime show were no more revealing than the ones worn by the cheerleaders on the sideline—or any one-piece bathing suit, for that matter. The costume’s designer Rubin Singer admitted what Beyonce wore onstage was a lot less sexy than what he originally envisioned because of the NFL’s input.

In a poll on the Today Show’s website, the audience is split almost straight down the middle. As of this writing, 51 percent of said Beyonce’s performance was too sexy while 49 percent said it was just good entertainment. Even with this split, many parents have said they covered their children’s eyes during the halftime show, or had their children leave the room.

The Stir’s Sash Brown-Worsham was with the 49 percent of Today’s readers who thought Beyonce’s performance was pure entertainment. She even went further, saying her performance was empowering to both girls and boys because she’s an example of someone who’s built a business on her own terms and is now enjoying her sexuality, which is just as important as helping children navigate a hypersexual culture:

Beyonce is in her 30s. She is a mother. She looks fantastic. She has built an empire and knows how to sell herself. So what is so wrong with a little sexiness? I would never tell my daughter she has to button herself down if she feels good about herself.

A mother to both a boy and a girl, Brown-Worsham argues Beyonce is the sort of woman who enjoys being sexy for her own sake rather than someone who is forced to be sexual because of her marketers. “I want [my son and daughter] both to feel good about their bodies and their looks and know how to say no when they need to and yes when they want to.”

The commercials received just as much flack as Beyonce’s halftime show, especially the add featuring a sloppy kiss between supermodel Bar Refaeli and actor Jesse Heiman playing computer nerd Walter. Blogger Lisa-Jo Baker said nothing could “whitewash the embarrassment” she felt watching that commercial with her two young boys. It offered “no facade of intimacy, romance or relationship. There was just sex dressed up as a kiss that was intended to revolt.”

Many parents didn’t see Beyonce’s performance the ads as empowering, and definitely not the ads. Another blogger on The Stir said Calvin Klein’s fragrance commercial, which featured up-close images of a male fit model in nothing but underwear, was far too sexual. She said she was trying to teach her children that no one should see your underwear but that the commercial undermined her teachings. But some in the comments section of the post pointed out that Olympic swimmers wear much the same outfit and the ad had more to do with an appreciation of the human form.

What seems to be at the heart of these arguments is whether or not the Super Bowl should even be considered a family affair. Iis it the responsibility of a show that takes place on a school night and has a largely adult audience obligated to make sure everyone can watch all parts of it?

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  • kierah

    Young children are not the intended audience for the Super Bowl. The rest of us shouldn’t be forced to watch 20 minutes of Yo Gabba Gabba to appease the young adult set. Trust me, companies are not spending 4 million $ an ad to talk 5 year olds.
    Move the kids to another room with some games and age-appropriate DVDs and let the adults have their fun.

  • Aja

    To answer the last question, the Superbowl is a family affair, always has been. The game comes on at 6pm. I don’t know whose kids are asleep by then, and childcare on a Superbowl Sunday is non-existent, so people with kids are by and large watching it with their kids, so yes, I do believe that the network has some level of responsibility in ensuring that the program is kid-safe. This is no different than any programming that would come on network television at this time.

    Whether or not the ads and halftime show were appropriate–I am probably in the minority that believes that Beyonce’s performances are never quite appropriate for young children, so this was pretty much what I expected, and think it was somewhat tame for her standards. The suggestion, though, that Beyonce somehow represents someone “choosing” to be sexual rather than being sexual for marketers is laughable. That “may” be the case now, but Beyonce has built her entire career off of selling sex for marketers. Not trying to take away from her talent, but without the sex factor, she would not be who she is.

    That Go Daddy commercial was….ick.