Middle-Aged Hip-Hop Stars Bring ‘Sexual Anarchy’ To Super Bowl Halftime Show

screengrab of Eminem kneeling

This was apparently the first year hip-hop performers headlined the Super Bowl halftime show. I say "apparently" because while that’s how it’s been reported, Beyoncé’s 2013 Super Bowl performance was pretty damn Black. True, she’s more hip-hop-adjacent than a straight-up rapper, and last night, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and queen of hip-hop and soul Mary J. Blige turned it out.

The Super Bowl has previously featured the music of Gen X’s youth — Madonna in 2012, Prince in 2007, U2 in 2002, and Michael Jackson in 1993 — but this year's Super Bowl halftime show was a tribute to Gen X’s bold, brash young adulthood. Hip-hop dominated popular culture in the 1990s. It wasn’t just a Black thing. Middle-aged white folks were probably singing along to “The Next Episode” and “California Love.”

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However, I could tell from my Facebook feed that enough Black people were happy about the halftime show that the usual suspects would freak out. Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, who’s like a young Ralph Reed but without the sex appeal and hipness, denounced the halftime show as “sexual anarchy.” Yes, a 28-year-old used those words to describe performances from Black people (and Eminem) decades his senior.


Kirk tweeted, “The NFL is now the league of sexual anarchy. This halftime show should not be allowed on television.” Ah yes, when love and madness combine, there is ... Sexual Anarchy, the new scent from Calvin Klein. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez correctly dismissed Kirk as a “weirdo” for his 1980s teen movie dad music criticism. Sure, 50-year-old Mary J. Blige looked fine as hell in a crystal bodysuit, and the sexual tension between Dre and Snoop is well known in hip-hop circles, allegedly. It’s just unclear where the anarchy came in. Of course, it’s possible Kirk didn’t actually watch the performance and was instinctively ordering all those Black folks off his lawn.

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Anti-Muslim bigot Brigitte Gabriel declared at 7:09 p.m. Eastern time, “I won’t be watching the Godless Super Bowl halftime show. They need to do a better job selecting talent.” The talent has sold almost half a billion records combined and won dozens of Grammys. She tweeted at 7:41 p.m. Eastern time, “The Super Bowl halftime show was basically pornography on television. Absolutely disgusting. It shouldn’t have been permitted on cable television.” Oh, so I guess she watched it, after all? As a Wonkette commenter helpfully informed us yesterday, the Super Bowl aired on NBC, not cable television. I’m well into my 40s but I’d like to think I can still recognize pornography when I’m watching it, and there was nothing pornographic about the halftime show. I’ll watch it again because I dug that crystal bodysuit, but I’m almost positive.

Former "Dancing with the Stars" participant Sean Spicer tweeted, “Dear NBC/Pepsi: What was the message of the halftime show?” This fool’s requesting CliffsNotes for a hip-hop show.

Conservative crackpot Candace Owens, however, did enjoy the halftime show. Guess she hasn’t fully smothered the little Black girl trapped inside her. She raved, “This is an excellent Super Bowl halftime performance. Undeniable hip-hop and R&B excellence.”

What with all the sexual anarchy, no one seemed to notice Eminem taking a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. This is probably because unlike M.I.A giving the finger a decade ago, there’s nothing overtly disrespectful about kneeling. It’s something people do in church. The national anthem wasn’t even playing at the time, so there’s no reason for anyone to complain. However, the NFL had reportedly objected to any kneeling during the performance, which is how you guarantee it happens. It’s like they’ve never worked with musicians.

That concludes this year’s conservative freakout over the Super Bowl halftime show. See you next year.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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