What Beyonce’s Halftime Show Reveals about the Evangelical Love/Hate Relationship with Human Sexuality
Beyonce is like mushrooms – people either love her or hate her. My Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up as soon as Beyonce appeared on the Superbowl XLVII halftime stage.
I had visual whiplash as “Beyonce sucks” scrolled by immediately before “Way to go Beyonce!” Some complained that the show wasn’t family-friendly and compared the performance to soft-core porn and stripper shows in Vegas.
Two of my favorite responses to this were this from my friend Matthew: “To all of my friends who are suggesting that Beyonce’s halftime show was basically 10 minutes of softcore porn… you obviously have never seen softcore porn.” and this satirical sarcasm from Jake: “Bob Dylan would have given a better half time show. I would have rather had my ears and mind stimulated instead of my loins.”
It fascinated me to contrast what admirers said with what critics said. Consider these:
- Halftime show equals all women. #girlpower
- I have a Beyonce hangover.
- I stand in awe of Beyonce. WOW. (literally, I stood through halftime. slack-jawed.)
- I screamed out loud *only* during that half time show.
- Wow. Beyonce just killed it dead. Amazing. There are no questions about whether she was lip synching that one. you go girl.
- Being a preacher and speaker, I really appreciate the time Beyonce puts into sharpening her craft!!
- I loved this amusing video of some Amish dancing to the halftime show:
I watched her entire performance this morning, and I was impressed. She is a strong, beautiful, talented woman who works to empower other women – note the all-female band and cast. I also think that the conversation her performance has sparked is much-needed.
Just this morning, one father explained that while he appreciated her talent, the show displayed false ideas about authentic womanhood. He said he talked with his boys about how Beyonce has so much beauty and talent, but how do you steward it? Those of us who admired and enjoyed the performance pressed him to explain what he believes to be authentic womanhood. He said:
Real values of how to be a woman, I guess. Not fake, not hair extensions, fans blowing hair, flaunting power and sexuality…not beyonce on a stage designed after her image. Not idol worship. Not fake and shallow.
I’m just commenting on what seemed to be a “girls can receive a positive message and good values about womanhood through this half time show”. It was indeed a performance, and I would say the values portrayed were negative when it comes to girl power. And yes, violence, aggression from football also portrays negative values about manhood, correct! I would never tell my sons “hey look at these players! THAT is a man there!
As I think through all of these reactions and conversations, I conclude two things.
One: the Superbowl is just as inauthentic and showy as the Superbowl halftime show. You’ve got muscular men wearing massive padding and skintight reveal-every-ripple spandex running around, dancing, tackling, chest bumping, and more. This is just as much flaunted power and sexuality as the dancing and costuming of the women performing at halftime.
Two: Why are we more comfortable with displays of masculinity and sexuality than we are with displays of femininity and sexuality? Why do we not have a problem watching football with our kids, but we attack and belittle the halftime show. Why is female sexuality so offensive? Why is male sexuality NOT offensive?
Is this a manifestation of the modesty wars, in which women are made responsible for men’s lust? Is this our societal discomfort with strong women? Or does this rise from a deep-seated Gnosticism* that views all that is physical to be evil? Perhaps evangelical views of sexuality are heavily influenced by this heresy?
I’m going to delve into this subject more deeply this month. I think we need an open conversation about sexuality and faith, about purity and pleasure, about manhood and womanhood. I don’t have answers, but I’d love to have a conversation. So let’s start here – what do you think the polarized reaction to the halftime show reveals about our views of men, women, and sexuality?
*Gnosticism is the thought and practice, especially of various sects of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries, distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis (knowledge).