Youth Culture Window
It’s by far the most-watched television event of the year…any year. It garners over 100 million viewers and features some of America’s most popular entertainers in a highly anticipated halftime show. And it’s the one time each year people actually want to watch the commercials.
So, what does Super Bowl 48 have in store for us this year?
Real Warnings or Crying Wolf?
In the aftermath of last year’s game, we received emails all week about Beyonce’s half time performance:
"Did you see Beyonce's shocking halftime performance? I had to cover my kids' eyes!"
"I was astonished. I had to quickly shoo the kids out of the room!"
Don’t get us wrong. Offended? Sure. Annoyed? Yeah. After all, Beyonce was doing her signature hip thrust all night long. It’s just what Beyonce does. (If your kids jump on iTunes right now and click the preview of any of her new videos at the top of the charts, they’ll see the exact same moves.)
But, shocked? Surprised? Far from it. In fact, if you pay attention to what’s streaming into every facet of our kids’ lives, you won’t be either. That’s because unless your kids have been locked in a dungeon, they’ve seen these kinds of images on the screens in Wal*Mart checkout lanes, on TVs in school cafeterias, at friends’ houses, and even at youth group activities. In a country where over 70% of 12-17-year-olds have a smartphone in their pocket, it’s pretty difficult for young people to dodge Miley swinging naked on a wrecking ball. (Maybe that’s why her video is one of the most downloaded videos in YouTube history.)
Don’t think we’re becoming desensitized. Like you, we lament the destroyed lives of young people left in the wake of our sexually-charged culture. But complaining after the fact won’t do our kids any good…nor will “crying wolf” help them, either.
Instead, we need to be aware of what has happened in the past so we can best be prepared to dialogue with our kids in the coming days, as needed. That said, here are a few legitimate warnings to consider when turning on the Big Game Sunday afternoon.
Live Performances, Outrageous Commercials…and a Little Football, Too
Yeah, the Super Bowl showcases the two best teams in the league slugging it out for a huge trophy, some gold rings, more endorsement contracts, and the highly-coveted trip to Disney World. But let’s face it, only Bronco fans and Seahawk fans have a dog in the fight.
The rest of us will be watching for the halftime show and the commercials.
The Super Bowl’s halftime show has a history of being memorable for very different reasons. Super Bowl 48 is looking to make its mark by appealing to a wide ranging audience during its halftime show. Young fans will love seeing Bruno Mars as the headliner, but those beyond their teen years will be just as excited to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers round out the night.
Some may be wondering which Bruno Mars will be taking the stage. Will it be the sharp-dressed, piano playing, heartbroken guy from When I Was Your Man…or will it be the overtly-raunchy, completely irreverent, unapologetically sexist dude who sang the following lines from Gorilla at the 2013 VMAs?
Ooh I got a body full of liquor
With a cocaine kicker
And I’m feeling like I’m thirty feet tall
So lay it down, lay it down
You got your legs up in the sky
With the devil in your eyes
Let me hear you say you want it all
Say it now, say it now
If the neighbors call the cops,
Call the sheriff, call the SWAT we don't stop,
We keep rocking while they’re knocking on our door
And you’re screaming, “Give it to me baby,
Give it to me mother***er!”
Oh, you with me baby making love like gorillas
You and me baby we'll be f***in’ like gorillas
The same question could be asked concerning the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Will they sing songs like Snow (Hey Oh) that talk about overcoming the struggles in life...or will they sing about the hedonistic life pursuits of Dani California? Better question: will their bassist, affectionately known around the world as Flea, be wearing any clothes? And will lead singer Anthony Kiedis invite females to throw their tampons toward the stage (again)?
Both Mars and the Peppers will probably fall somewhere in between their known extremes. The fact that they’re playing on the world’s biggest stage isn’t lost on them. Will there be course and vulgar lyrics? Probably not, due to FCC regulations. Will there be suggestive antics on stage. Perhaps. Remember, artists who perform at the Super Bowl’s halftime show don’t get paid a penny. They’re doing their best to endear themselves to one-third of all Americans who will be tuning in during the halftime show. And it usually pays off.
A few years ago, in February 2011, I (Jonathan) was sitting in the Chicago O’Hare airport during the Super Bowl halftime show when The Black Eyed Peas took the stage and opened with their hit song, I Got a Feeling. I pulled out my phone and looked up the song on iTunes. It was sitting at No. 13 (which was pretty resilient, a song that truly dominated the top of the charts back in 2009). I boarded my flight, flew to California, and as I stepped off the plane I jumped on iTunes to see how things had shifted. I Got a Feeling had moved to No. 1 and it sat there most of the rest of the week.
See why they do it for free?
Yet, the halftime performance is just one kind of entertainment being highlighted during the game. The best Super Bowl commercials are still talked about a full year later…but they should be, considering they will cost $133,000 per second this year! But while some commercials aim at funny…others shoot for sexy. Of course, there are also ads that are banned (or prove hugely controversial), like this pro-gun one and a few over-the-top sexually-charged commercials.
Overreaction or Interaction
So how will you handle the big game this year?
We’ve seen numerous people skip the Super Bowl altogether… in fear another Timberlake/Jackson incident. But is banning the Super Bowl the best play to call when it comes to tackling the big game?
You can use several elements from the Big Game to help cultivate desirable virtues in their kids. For example:
- You can talk about the determination, sacrifice, work ethic, and team unity that was necessary to bring these players to the biggest moment in their careers.
- You can use the commercials and halftime show to discuss important points like the power of materialism and what constitutes appropriate entertainment. And maybe do like I (Jonathan) do—record the game and start it about 30 to 45 minutes later. This gives you the freedom to hit the 30-seconds-forward button when you see the beginnings of a Go-Daddy Commercial.
- The journal PEDIATRICS recommends parents “co-view” programming with their kids. The Super Bowl is a great time to practice this. Enjoy watching the big game on TV as a family (since kids take their TV viewing cues from us, anyway).
- For those who are scared the halftime show may go the same direction as the Grammys, feel free to plan other activities and/or show other videos during the halftime show.
Youth workers have shown time and time again that the Super Bowl can serve as a fantastic outreach event if it’s well-planned and well-staffed. For years now, The Source for Youth Ministry has been providing great ideas and even a free Super Bowl Quiz to help your event score big in your community. This year is no different.
We need not fear the Super Bowl if we’re well-prepared. So, share a few invites and put out some soda and nachos, but don’t forget the most essential preparation of all. Do a little research on the elements your kids will be exposed to on Super Bowl Sunday so they’re not sacked.
Then you’ll be ready for kickoff.
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new
Get Your Teenager Talking,
The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket,
The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager
, and youth ministry
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation
, and the
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across
North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents
on his websites, TheSource4YM.com
. You can follow
Jonathan on his blog
, getting a
regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and
their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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