The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Ellen Grace Jones Headshot

Forget M.I.A's Bird-Flip, Worry About Pop's Sexual Moral Decline

Posted: Updated:

It's hard to believe it's been eight years since Janet Jackson's 'Nipplegate' and the Superbowl has been seriously lacking a good scandal until now.

Yes we all love a spot of moral outrage and thanks to naughty M.I.A's, ahem, 'finger malfunction' during Grand High Priestess Madge's Egyptian-Greco-Roman Superbowl spectacle, under the terms of M.I.A's contract, she now faces a fine to the tune of hundreds of thousands levied by the United States' Federal Communications Commission. Ouch.

Given the track was mimed and pre-recorded, evil side-eyes should be thrown at other parties for allowing this to happen rather than M.I.A herself. In a playground-esque blame game of 'I didn't do it, he did!' the NFL finger-pointed at NBC, "The NFL hired the talent and produced the half-time show," they cried! Whilst NBC are framing the NFL, "There was a failure in NBC's delay system. The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologise."

M.I.A's camp just blamed nerves. Right. Cue Operation Damage Control.

Sure the bird-flip was pretty ill-judged - but when you book a provocative performer like M.I.A what did they expect? Given the utter degeneration and hyper-sexualisation of our current crop of female pop performers (Rihanna, Katy Perry, Gaga et al - you know who you are) in terms of debasing, offensive, inappropriate performances, M.I.A.'s middle-finger salute was little more than a cheeky nose-thumbing.

Now don't panic, I'm not gonna get all Daily Mail on your ass wailing, "Won't somebody please think of the children??" I'm no prude right-winger but this moral outcry over a daft rebellious gesture serves only to illustrate how Western society's collective moral compass is seriously askew. If we can froth and pant and seethe over a one second gesture yet simultaneously, gluttonously, ravenously consume toxic pop imagery damaging to impressionable young girls then I have to wonder what the hell is up?

The Parents Television Council accused the NFL of booking "performers who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation. Either the NFL and NBC will take immediate steps to hold those accountable for this offensive material in front of a hundred million Americans, or they will feebly sit back and do nothing."

I do wonder, how many of it's members have taken their daughter to a Nicki Minaj concert.

The recipe for an archetypal MTV music video now goes a little something like this: take one large slice of hooker-ish attire, mix throughly with a dollop of gyrating and crotch-flashing, add a splash of ghetto-chic, serve it up with S&M overtones and optionally season well with some dark, satanic symbology thrown in for good measure. Yummy!

A new pop star's contract is more Faustian pact than record deal and it frightens me how dumbed-down and culturally-opiated the West has become to accept this as the norm. Music videos are a hypnotic portal of lethal influence: the current pop landscape is awash with over-sexualisation, dehumanisation/transhuman, mutilation/ritual and militarization /police state themes. Clever purposeful programming to debase and disassociate us from social norms.

The age-old retort of, "It's not the pop star's fault it's the parents for letting them see it" is moot. That there should be parental responsibility is not in doubt - it goes without saying - but is it possible for parents to police the TV, internet, radio and magazine stands at all times? I think not. This imagery is omnipresent, pervasive and corrosive whichever way you look.

Anyway, all the above aside, Madge's turgid Gimme All Your Luvin' song was frankly more offensive than M.I.A's mid-finger-flip. Madonna's talent has always lied in hijacking a subculture before it permeates the mainstream and intelligently bringing it into our consciousness. For all her commendable gymnastic ability (homegirl sure worked those moves) her last few albums have been a case of idly rent-an-already-huge-star rather than appropriating a bubbling-under trend making it your own. It's literally a case of cool-by-association 'If I can't beat 'em nowadays, I may as well rope 'em in to make me cred.' Madge now appears more lazy coat-tail rider than the radical pop-pioneer she once was.

Maybe she only has herself to blame? After all, she flaunted those overtly sexual vibes in a pop arena first (albeit with subversion and wit) thus opening the floodgates for the new blood to follow, pushing her sexual agenda - both worryingly and potentially - to the point of no return.