How J-Low Can You Go?

I've been hearing complaints about the indecency of the Super Bowl halftime performances. What am I missing? Half naked women wiggling their back sides and writhing on a stripper's pole?   This is the America we live in. This is mass entertainment at its best, the realization of the American Dream.

Does anyone really think there is some line that one one can draw between the pornograpny of cable TV and the pornography of the NFL?  Of course there are differences between XXX porno flicks and the pop performances of Madonna, Britney, Lady Gaga,  J-Lo, and Shakira, but the one thing that can be said in defense of hardcore pornography is that it is not on the Disney channel or part of the nation's most highly regarded religious ritual.

Man ist was man isst, as we learned in German I, but it is not only what we eat that degrades us.  Fast-food destroys the body, but mass entertainment, in corrupting our taste, destroys our soul.  A church that entertains its congregations with dancing, pop music, and the Muzak of Marty Haugen and company is serving Baal, not the God of Abraham and Isaac.  It is not the Church of Jesus Christ, but the Church of Harvey Weinstein.   When I saw clips from the halftime show, I thought immediately of the filthy orgies alluded to by H.P. Lovecraft in "The Horror of Red Hook."

Mass men and mass women enjoy degrading mass entertainment, and if you choose to be one of them, you forfeit the right to express moral outrage.  There are alternatives to the culture of rape and death, and, paradoxically, the electronic media that fill our lives with violence and sadism can also be used to bring Haydn, Bach, and Shakespeare--or even George Shearing and John Ford--into our homes.

In the end, though, there is for civilized men and women a more radical strategy, which I encapsulated decades ago in a parody of Timothy Leary:

Turn off, tune out, drop in.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Ken Rosenberger says:

    They’re not racist, and, as we know, that’s the main thing. This is indeed the America we live in.

  2. Vince Cornell says:

    Instead of the Super Bowl, which I don’t even think it’s possible for me to watch as I haven’t had cable in decades and don’t have one of those digital antenna thingies, we watched Chaplin’s “Modern Times” – it seemed appropriate, and much more entertaining. Truly, the most American thing about the Super Bowl are the gobs of people saying, “The commercials are the best part” – I don’t know if there’s ever been anything that better encapsulates the modern American experience than that phrase.

  3. Ken Rosenberger says:

    I just wanted to call attention to Dr Fleming’s reference to the Lovecraft story in this piece. I pulled out my HPL collection the other day and read the story cited. I enjoy reading a few Lovecraft stories every now and then, and have read a fair number of his oeuvre by now. To read too many consecutively might be a little daunting, given the unrelenting hopelessness and bleakness of his themes. But as far as the horror genre goes, there is Poe in the 19th century and Lovecraft in the 20th, as far as I’m concerned. Interestingly, for an atheist, Lovecraft seemed to believe in the existence of Satan, or at least a pervasive and overwhelming evil that existed long before man showed up on Earth, and will be here long after man is gone. It’s good to read a few of his stories and contemplate how this relates to our own sad times. The analogy of the Super Bowl halftime show to the practices of Lovecraft’s imaginative cults is very apt, I’d say. Lovecraft’s creation of the Cthulhu Mythos is an awesome achievement, sort of a Middle Earth that’s all just Mordor. And I still think the best political bumper sticker I’ve ever seen is the one reading “Cthulhu for President; Why Vote for the Lesser Evil.”

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Someone named Stuart Falk, former marketing director for the NY Times, wrote a series of hostile comments on my Super Bowl post, over on the Foundation’s FB page. Never thinking he he’d be taken in, I praised him for his satiric wit in parodying leftists. In response he posted video links instead of arguments and when I praised his comic genius, this advertising mogul finally got wise and deleted it all. I just posted a brief account of this one his own FB page and am counting the minutes until the brave man deletes my comment.