MIA, Bird Flipping, and Anger

I admit it. I did not see the alleged obscene gesture thrust on America by an “artist” during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl. But enough has been said and written about it to surmise what took place. I was watching, generally, but apparently missed the most controversial moment. Silly me, finding conversation with the friends gathered in my home to be of more significance than a program headed by Madonna. What was I thinking?

What I did catch on the tv between conversations revealed what seemed another instance of how what I can only describe as anger music seeping into the mainstream of American pop culture–of which the Super Bowl itself has been morphed into the iconic symbol. Not sure how that happened; give me a game and a good band–marching variety, please–to fill the time between halves, which by the way should be twelve minutes. But I digress. That’s what sextagenarians do with increasing proficiency.

Anger music was first manifested in hard rock or acid rock, when screaming into microphones overtook actual singing. The rhythm and the drive of the guitars, wailing with dissonance, the insanely raised volume levels have coupled with the protest and culture of rap, together finding their way more and more into what is now mainstream fare in contemporary music. The black, the leather, the draconian make-up, the edginess of it all cannot help but convey one simple, underlying message: anger. One might be forgiven for thinking that much of it is simply an act that has proven commercially successful; to an extent, I suppose that’s true. But the fact is that it is successful for a reason. It gives expression to what a consuming public is feeling, and it’s not isolated among the young. There’s a lot of anger to go around these days.

The gesture mentioned is but another manifestation; in fact, it has become itself the quintessential expression of anger along with its verbal form, the so-called “f-bomb.” That was once, not so very long ago, a word never spoken by men in the presence of women or the young; now it is not only routinely said among them, but by them. People are angry. They may not know why, though most can come up with a few surface items they believe to be responsible; but they are mad at the world, at life, at people, at God.

What is the woman who “flipped the bird” angry about? I don’t pretend to know. Maybe she was simply expressing an “I’ll show her” attitude toward Madonna and her emphatic announcement to the network audience that there would be no wardrobe malfunctions or other bits of provocative material in the show to bring (angry?) responses from the broad viewing public. Maybe she is angry with that American public itself for whatever reason. In general, however, the anger so frequently observed in our culture has to do with an inability to believe that life will come anywhere close to meeting expectations. Those expectations can have many forms and many contributors to their shaping, not least of which is that same media glamorizing the impossible, offering everything that approximates it, and then selling us the musical means to express the frustrations over not meeting it.

The search for meaning is certainly not new. What might be new is the ever-expanding plethora of ways to distract us from thinking deeply about it, deeply enough to ask into the wisdom of the ages. When we do not look there, and into their source, we will continue to be frustrated and angry. Perhaps we owe it to the younger generation for pointing out the many holes in our veneer of satisfaction. Now if only we can point them and ourselves to the Truth.

I’m sounding out some ideas here; I’d like very much to hear some of yours as well as responses to what’s offered here.

7 thoughts on “MIA, Bird Flipping, and Anger

  1. We need music and tv to tell us we are angry so that the interspersed commercials can tell us what to buy to be happy. Who needs “meaning” when Kohls is having another midnight madness sale? Many people put their brains in neutral and turn on their tvs. Then the tv tells us what to feel so we don’t have to think about it for ourselves. People often sit in church with the same habits of sitting in front of the tv. I sat in a large church recently that turned bulletin announcements into 30-second video “commercials.” There was even a commercial for the upcoming sermon series. That was weird. I kept feeling around for the remote.

  2. I watched the halftime show, but didn’t notice the bird. I saw it later on the Internet. The entire presentation from Madonna felt very egotistical and rather eerie to me, especially the last part.

    There have since been many criticisms about satanic ritual too, which looking into it a little bit, do seem to have some validity.

    I agree with the marching band idea. Shouldn’t the best marching band in the land be showcased at the Super Bowl, instead of what we normally get? Show biz, I guess.

  3. Music is a vehicle for all kinds of expression, and anger is a valid emotion that can be expressed through music. Anger itself may not be the issue but how it’s expressed. There’s certainly appropriately angry music, like a song by the Christian band Ten Shekel Shirt that addresses human sex trafficking or a Caedmon’s Call song that speaks of the unjust class system in India.

    I didn’t see any of the halftime show, so maybe I’m speaking out of turn. Silly me, I was putting tired kids to bed.

    I wonder if the “bird” and even the “f-bomb” even have meaning anymore. They’re used often enough that maybe they’re overused and therefore who even knows what they mean when they use it. I have college friends who used both expressions toward other friends when a joke hit too close to home. Others used it to tell people off. Sometimes it seems to be the equivalent of telling someone to “go to hell.” Maybe the bird and the f-bomb are less “offensive” because there are no religious associations.

    I understand it was network TV, but when you can see the same thing at Wal-Mart or around town or out on the street minding your own business, is it such a big deal?

    That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth.

    • Thanks for the two cents! Artsitically, I suppose anger is one of the emotions legitimately expressed; it just seems to have taken over a disproportionate share of today’s offerings.

      It’s interesting to note generational perspectives here on the use of “the word.” Those of us who grew up with a very definite sense that this was the worst possible word to use cannot easily enduring walking down a street and hearing people of a younger generation speaking it so freely that they have little opportunity to squeeze other words into their utterances. It doesn’t make sense, but it does sound angry. For us, it would have taken a extrordinary amount of anger to utter it once; and even then, we’d be sure that someone would have told us to watch our language. Then it’s a matter of civility and decency, commodities in ever decreasing supply. I don’t know which way cause and effect run here–the degeneration of language and that of common respect for others do seem connected, however.

      The gesture is similar; I grant that friends may use it jokingly (though that, too, signals to us old folks a degeneration of interaction; there are certainly other ways of bantering). But the public expressions always come with an angry look, including the one in the halftime show. I have a suspicion that the original vulgar sexual meaning of the word is not entirely lost; its use signals what is undeniably the case–sexuality itself has been cheapened and, one might even say, desacrelized.

      My three cents.

  4. I agree with anger being expressed in profanity, though I have no idea if that’s why the woman did it during the song. I disagree that the entire halftime show/music was expressing anger. However, I grew up with Madonna and her music. The songs featured, with the exception of the one new single “Luv” or whatever it’s called, were her biggest hits.

    Um, not that I agree with it (due to many teachings about it by Dr. Buckwalter), but Madonna’s “prayer” of her final song “Like a Prayer” ended with the words “world peace” ablaze on the field. It seems to me that she was going for the antithesis of anger.

    • It’s not every song, for sure (and I don’t really know what my colleague has to say about Madonna or world peace). It’s the overall aura of so much of the pop scene that I am thinking of–dark, loud, edgy, with an in-your-face sort of undercurrent. Maybe that’s just the old guy talking.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dr. Buckwalter mention Madonna :) , but he often speaks about the cliche of world peace. He says that people want peace by making everybody happy, ie. through TOLERANCE of everything. For instance, if we all just accept the homosexual lifestyle/marriage, then there will be peace. If we all just allow one another to worship as we choose, there will be peace. This comes at the cost of Truth and is not a true peace. Jesus did not come to bring peace, but the sword (Matt 10:34).

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