A Whole Lot of Twerking Going On

I didn’t intend to write a column about Super Bowl LIV, but I changed my mind after watching it. I don’t often tune in to pro football and confess that I didn’t catch Titan fever until they made it to the play-offs. I was disappointed we lost the AFC championship but impressed with how Kansas City played.

So I became a Chiefs fan, if only until the 2020-2021 season starts.

My Super Bowl plans this year didn’t include any parties. Home alone, I intended to keep one eye on the TV and the other on a stack of mail and newspapers I needed to go through. Maybe I’d clean out the refrigerator. Do a little yoga. Find a needle and thread and tighten up some buttons that were about to fall off. None of that happened. I immediately got caught up in the back-and-forth scoring and in the commercials. I loved the Tide #LaundryLater and Bill Murray Jeep Groundhog Day ads. But my favorite was the Cool Ranch Dance Doritos commercial starring Little Nas X and Sam Elliott because (duh!) Sam Elliott.

I considered skipping halftime to eat a bite of supper and get ready for bed but by then I really wanted to watch every minute of everything because I hate being left out of any conversation, especially one about the Super Bowl. So yeah, I saw Shakira and J-Lo’s performance. I admit I’m so out of touch with popular culture that I’d never heard of Shakira. All I really know about Jennifer Lopez is that she dates Alex Rodriguez and that, a long time ago, I watched her in a cute movie called “Maid in Manhattan.”

My takeaway from the halftime show? It was a twerking extravaganza.

If you’re not of the generation who knows the definition of that word, don’t feel bad. It’s unfamiliar to a lot of us. According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, twerking is “sexually suggestive dancing characterized by rapid, repeated hip thrusts and shaking of the buttocks especially while squatting.”

In case you missed halftime, that’s what happened. A bunch of people wearing skimpy clothes got up on stage with lights flashing and music blaring and twerked.

Reactions varied. Some folks called the show energizing. Many praised the choreography. Others pointed out how strong and fit 43-year-old Shakira and 50-year-old J-Lo looked. A male friend of mine, clearly walking on eggshells, described it as “scantily-clad women being really active.” Fans of the show pointed out that it made important and meaningful references to the immigrant crisis at our southern border and to the continuing plight of Puerto Rico, which continues to be pummeled by storms and indifference.

Point taken. Those issues do need to be acknowledged and addressed. Maybe the Super Bowl is an appropriate place to do that. But not, methinks, in the midst of all that twerking.

I long for the days of wholesome entertainment. If that makes me a fuddy-duddy, so be it. Let’s put Alan Jackson or Garth Brooks or Dolly Parton up there on the Super Bowl stage. Let’s invite marching bands to perform. Let’s watch kids compete in punt, pass and kick contests. Let’s listen to the talking heads yammer on and on about what happened in the first half and what might happen in the second half. Better yet, let’s hire Sam Elliot and Lil Nas X to dance.

What’s the point in running commercials about female empowerment during the game—“Make Space for Women” and Forty-Niners coach Katie Sowers and “Before Alexa” come to mind—and then broadcasting a halftime show that degrades and debases women? I wish we’d banish stripper poles and crotch-grabbing and twerking to the sleazy dance clubs where they belong. And make football family friendly again.

(Jennie Ivey is a Cookeville writer. Visit her website at jennieivey.com)