Super Bowl XLVI to Be Remembered as One of the Most Controversial in History

by on December 15th, 2010
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COMMENTARY | Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI broke many records. The telecast is the most watched TV telecast of all time, with a viewership of 111.3 million and a Nielsen rating of 40.5 among 18 to 49 years old. It is also the most controversial-from New England intentionally allowing New York to score, leading to the now infamous “Reluctant Touchdown” from Ahmad Bradshaw to the New England miracle in the final minute that never happened to the halftime show where Madonna finally showed her age by being upstaged by her own choreography and younger, more flexible backup dancers. Despite all of this, the biggest controversy occurred in unexpected places.

An example of this is M.I.A.’s performance during the halftime show. In the midst of her performance, M.I.A. “flipped the bird” to the camera, flashing her extended middle finger. The gesture was nearly instantaneous — a not-so-well-thought-out commentary to the “show” the Super Bowl tries to be and an attempt to overshadow Madonna’s performance, and maybe a nod to her own “bad girl” persona (she also seemed to mouth out inaudibly “I don’t give a sh-t”) — but NBC’s attempt to censor it only served to bring attention to it. While — eight years after the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” — the NFL and NBC are both quick to blame the other for this, the FCC may not be taking this incident too seriously. Recently, CBS’ fines assessed because of Janet Jackson’s nipple slip have been reversed, and the Supreme Court is currently arguing the lessening of obscenity rules for television. Despite moral outrage from conservative groups, the FCC may be served to only impose a nominal sanction against the NFL and NBC.

A Super Bowl ad has inflamed the ire of conservatives. In an inspired ad, Clint Eastwood points out that it is “halftime in America”. With powerful black and white images of auto plants returning to life and determined workers, Eastwood offers, “People are out of work, and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re gonna do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared because this isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again.” Eastwood, a lifelong Republican and former mayor of Carmel, Calif., insists that there is absolutely no political message in the ad at all. “It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. … If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it.”

However, Republican pundits were not so sure. Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, and Fox News blasted the ad as pro-Obama, partially in part of President Obama’s continuation of Bush’s auto industry bailout of 2008. Republic presidential nominee Mitt Romney famously penned an op-ed to the New York Times titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Chrysler and GM have since paid back their governmental loans and have credited the bailout with the resurgence of the American auto market..


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