What used to be considered standard was the 24-hour news cycle, made commonplace by the advent of cable news networks.
However, social media never stop, meaning relevance lasts sometimes only a few hours.
With that in mind, the subject of my column today might seem anachronistic or aged-out.
But I don’t much care about news cycles, fresh perspectives, or timely reflections on cultural events.
Because I believe that human interests are timeless, and the stories of bold, brave, and brilliant acts of human persons need to be told whenever and however they can.
It is because of something like that that I can’t stop thinking about Pepsi’s NFL Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show in Miami Gardens, Florida, less than two weeks ago.
For many, it is a memory.
But for others, the show itself and its effects are still happening.
I watched the halftime show with my wife, Joy, and our four daughters, ages 17 to 10.
They are all participants in and products of both public school systems in Owensboro and Daviess County. They are Christian. They have literally the boldest and empowering role model for leadership, femininity, morality, and wisdom 5 feet away. They know about and are advocates of #MeToo and #TimesUp. They have their own minds, personalities, and opinions.
I can honestly say that there was nothing that happened on the TV that night that: A) they hadn’t seen before (reference the public school info above); B) offended us; C) bothered them; D) degraded or objectified women; or, E) negatively impacted our daughters’ identities as bold, empowered young women of faith and culture who know that poles are not just for strippers, that dance is not just for the ballroom, and that men, and the women who believe their job is to serve them, do not get to define a woman’s role, movement, bodies, or choices, whether on the stage, at work, at church, or in the home.
Then again, I’m wrong.
There were things our children hadn’t seen before during that show.
They had never seen two Latina female performers occupy what is arguably the most-watched musical stage event in the world with countless cross-cultural references.
Because it had never happened before.
Thank God they’ve seen it now.
I’m wrong, too, when I say we weren’t offended.
We were offended by the social media posts that began to roll in the morning after written by women, and some men, who said they were embarrassed or mortified or angry that their teenage boys were subjected to such unseemly things as those women dancing in some kind of way during a primetime, family-friendly event, such as the Super Bowl — you know, that billion-dollar business that owns three days a week in the fall, where grown men twice my size pummel one another, breaking bones and brains for a few million bucks every weekend, totaling 11 minutes of publicly-condoned violence and sensuality in what amounts to a contemporary version of the Gladiator Games, where the men don’t die as often on the field as they do years later with systemic brain injuries, lonely widows, fatherless children, and poverty, all of which is promoted by scantily clad female cheerleaders in less-than-glute-length skirts, who throw their legs over their heads every 15 seconds, smiling?
Yes, two women celebrating their heritages through dancing while surrounded by children singing should be what bothers us most about that night.
Parents, if you think that halftime show was ruinous or shocking to the eyes of your young children, go to school with them for a day and hear what they hear there; look over their shoulders at what TikToks they laugh at the most; check their YouTube viewing habits.
You’ll be shocked at what doesn’t shock them, and that nothing that happened during that show comes anywhere close to what your children see and hear on a daily basis at school and on their phones. Take note!
I was wrong again when I said our girls weren’t bothered by the halftime show.
They were very bothered.
They were bothered by how we interpreted the scene of child performers, dressed in white, sitting beneath lit-up structures that looked like tulips with their petals closed, to be a reference to and representation of our nation’s current immigration practices, where innocent children sit in cages, detained, separated from their families, for months, if not years now, and how no one with the power to change it seems to care.
Our children, sitting in a comfortable home, white and American, have every right to be bothered. All children should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be separated from their families on the basis of nationality. But persons of color and ethnic differences are mistreated in this nation. It is despicable.
If it were our children in those cages…
I was wrong yet again when I said that nothing happened during that show that degraded or objectified women.
It is degrading when male columnists and pundits try to tell a woman that she can’t wear that, say that, or dance like that.
Don’t forget: In the debate over whether something is empowering or objectifying, it is necessary to check who holds the power. Those performers did nothing that Sunday night if not command power.
Having a choice is what matters most. Questions about objectification arise when women don’t get a say, or when they feel pressured to perform a certain way. The empowerment comes from the women onstage deciding on their own terms that they want to show off not just the way their 40-plus-year-old bodies look, but all that they’re capable of doing.
Not a single critic of that show can perform one of those dance moves.
We are envious, if nothing else.
The only thing I’m right about it seems is that nothing happened during that halftime show to negatively impact our girls’ identities as brave, brilliant, bold, and empowered.
If anything, the opposite is true.
Now they know that two Latin female performers and a whole host of children can celebrate America, and its very own Puerto Rico, along with Arab cultures, with song and dance in multiple languages in an exhibition of human endeavor that bridges so many divides at one time.
If some people are offended by any of it, that’s OK.
In the words of Harvard professor, Laurel Ulrich, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Dr. Jonathan Eric Carroll, KLPC, NCPC, NCCE, is a state-licensed mental health professional, is an ACPE Psychotherapist, and is the Founder of The Clinic @ The Montgomery in downtown Owensboro. Dr. Carroll serves as the Grief Therapist for six funeral homes in the region. He also co-created and cohosts “You’ll Die Trying,” a podcast available everywhere. Visit www.themontgomeryclinic.com.