- The Federal Communications Commission shared a list of over 1,000 complaints it received about Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl halftime performance.
- Many cited that the performance was too sexual and used harsh phrasing. Some complaints compared the show to pornography, accused it of promoting sex trafficking, and said their eyes had been “molested.”
- Last year, the FCC only received 58 complaints about Maroon 5’s performance, with most citing Adam Levine taking his top off. These are still far less than the 200,000 complaints received in the five days after the Janet Jackson incident in 2004. In general, the FCC receives a high volume of complaints about sex and nudity on television.
Complaints About Halftime Performance
When Shakira and Jennifer Lopez lit up the Super Bowl LIV stage for a lively halftime show, some audiences felt that their eyes were “molested” and that they had witnessed “harm to our society,” according to over 1,300 complaints to the Federal Communications Commission.
The complaints were originally obtained by WFAA, a news station in Texas. The performance was broadcast to the over 102 million people who tuned in for the February 2 game. As it was happening, many praised it online as one of the best halftime shows they had seen but it seems that others watched in horror.
The bulk of the complaints said that the show was too sexual and provocative, though many accused the routine of being far worse. Almost 400 of the complaints compared it to pornography.
“Completely inappropriate half time-show with simulated orgies, stripping, and borderline pornography. This is a family event during prime time and should never have happened.” – Fort Wayne, Indiana
“The performance during the half time show was raunchy, lewd and not at acceptable for all viewing audiences…The scantly clad butt shots of JLo, especially when she turned to the cameras and bent over, was nothing short of hard porn.” – Lexington, South Carolina
Some tried to argue that the performance was especially bad for efforts to stop sex trafficking.
“In an era where sex trafficking is increasing such programs only tend to feed the problem. If I wanted to see this type of activity I would go to a strip club,” Instead, my living room was invaded by this.” – Southlake, Texas
“During a time when we are trying to stop Sex Trafficking and prevent Rapes why are we showing children women who are scantily clad during the half time show? Why was the camerman so obsessed with showing us Jlo’s crotch and anus? Why are we showing our children a stripper pole dance? Is your network encouraging more rapes and sexual assaults? Disgusting display of sex on tv. There wasn’t even a parental warning.” – North Las Vegas Nevada
People even threatened to boycott Pepsi and the NFL as a whole. Others encouraged the FCC to fine the league and those involved in the show.
“From start to finish, both Shakira and JLo did nothing but cause harm to our society. If there is no consequences from the FCC, then there might as well not be one. And they will only get my outrageous.” – Fort Myers, Florida
Others used particularly bold language when lodging their concerns.
“We expected to watch football and a quick concert but instead had our eyes molested. Shame on you all for allowing that to infiltrate our homes.” – Spring Hill, Tennessee
“No one wants to watch a bunch of whores dancing half naked on TV. This has to stop. Our children are watching. And women wanted to be respected? Bull crap.” – Larkspur, California
“The super bowl half time shows have GOT to be changed. No sex period. You are part of the problem with kids turning into horrible adults. Get your shit together.” – Kerrville, Texas
Previous Super Bowl Complaints
Complaints about Super Bowl halftime shows are nothing new for the FCC. Last year they also received complaints about indecent attire when Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine took his top off. In total, however, the FCC only received 58 complaints about 2019’s show, just four percent of the amount they saw this year.
These are both nothing in comparison to the 2004 incident with Janet Jackson, which brought in 200,000 complaints within the five days following the show. As time went on, some reports indicate that the number of complaints more than doubled that.
The FCC did hit CBS with a $550,000 fine afterward. After years of legal back and forth, it was tossed out.
Sex on TV and the FCC
Sex and nudity are not the only things viewers complain to the FCC about. Beyonce’s 2016 halftime show brought in over 40 complaints, with many outraged that she paid homage to the Black Panthers.
Complaints outside of the Super Bowl vary too. Over 100 people lamented that the 2016 presidential debates were often required a cable package or streaming subscription to be viewed. Game of Thrones saw concerns about sensational cruelty, Stephen Colbert has been hit for mocking the bible, and plenty of shows have been hit for language.
Still, sex and nudity are among the top things viewers file complaints about. While the FCC does not provide a breakdown of the subjects of the complaints it receives, based on public documents, as well as materials collected by MuckRock, it is one of the most common. The aforementioned shows also saw complaints regarding sex and nudity. Other programs ranging from Seth Macfarlane’s hosting of the 2013 Oscars, to innuendo on the Big Bang Theory, to bits and jokes on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, to a sneaky 50 Shades of Grey references on Sesame Street have been the subjects of FCC complaints as well.
N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Championed by Jay-Z That Would Restrict Use of Rap Lyrics in Court
A companion bill currently sits in the state’s assembly.
“Rap Music on Trial” Passes Senate
The New York State Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would curb prosecutors’ ability to cite rap lyrics and other creative works as evidence in legal battles.
Dubbed “Rap Music on Trial,” the bill aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom,” according to a statement from State Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens).
“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” the statement continued.
Right now, all forms of creative expression, including rap lyrics, can be used as evidence in criminal cases. Rap lyrics, however, are more likely to be weaponized against those who wrote them in trial, experts say.
“The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey said in a statement.
Hoylman agrees that there is a double standard.
“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” he tweeted.
The bill would not fully ban the use of rap lyrics in court. If made into law, prosecutors would need “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case” in order to use these works as evidence.
Major artists including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke previously signed a letter in support of the legislation.
A companion bill currently sits in the New York State Assembly.
Rap Lyrics in Court
The use of rap lyrics against their artists is not an uncommon tactic. Earlier this month, an indictment charging Young Thug, Gunna, and two dozen others over alleged gang activity and conspiracy to violate racketeering laws used lyrics of the aforementioned artists.
While the case is in Atlanta and would not be impacted by the New York bill, the use of their lyrics has stirred controversy. In a motion requesting that Gunna be released from jail, his lawyers argued that it was unfair to cite these works.
“It is intensely problematic that the State relies on song lyrics as part of its allegations,” his lawyers said in court documents. “These lyrics are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal recounting of facts and circumstances. Under the State’s theory, any artist with a song referencing violence could find herself the victim of a RICO indictment.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis defended the indictment’s use of the lyrics and argued it did not violate the artist’s free speech.
In the letter signed by numerous recording artists, the authors said this kind of tactic “effectively denies rap music the status of art and, in the process, gives prosecutors a dangerous advantage in the courtroom.”
“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter, which was written by Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson, said.
YouTube Touts MrBeast and Mainstream Appeal in First Upfront Presentation
According to Nielson, over 230 million people in the United States used the video service in just one month.
YouTube Presents at Upfronts
During its first Upfront presentation on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company said it was joining staple broadcast and entertainment companies “because YouTube is the mainstream.”
“Viewers have more choices than ever about what to watch or where to watch it,” Wojcicki said while speaking at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. “And they continue to use YouTube.”
The company had previously done its Brandcast presentation at the NewFronts. This was the first time its pitch came alongside television competitors during the busy Upfronts season.
Many of YouTube’s primary talking points were highlighted in a company blog post. In its address, it marketed itself not just as the future of media consumption, but as the modern-day leader, too.
It said that over 135 million people watched YouTube on Connected TVs, representing every age demographic from toddlers to viewers 55-years-old and up. It also cited Nielson data that said YouTube has over 50% of ad-supported streaming watch time on TV screens.
Nielsen also found that YouTube reached over 230 million people in the United States in just one month.
YouTube Offers Up Its Talent
MrBeast, one of YouTube’s top creators, attended the presentation. The company boasted that if MrBeast were his own streaming service, he would “would have more subscribers than the next three most popular ad-supported streaming services.” In other words, with 95 million YouTube subscribers, MrBeast is ahead of HBO and HBO Max’s 77 million, Paramount’s 33 million, and Hulu’s 54 million in the United States.
Or course, subscribing to a YouTube channel is very different from subscribing to a streaming service, as YouTube subscriptions come at no cost. Viewers can subscribe to as many or as few creators as they please for free, while each streaming service has a monthly or annual fee to gain access to its content.
YouTube didn’t only show off its homegrown talent. Popstar Lizzo also took the stage to sing her praises of the company, along with a few of her biggest hits.
But the company’s most important appeals came from the strengths it offered to advertisers. It claimed that 2020 Nielson analysis showed that YouTube on average had a 1.2 times greater return on investment than television.
It also announced a frequency optimization tool for advertisers that would allow companies to control how many times viewers see their spots in one week. In its blog post, YouTube said this allows for “more efficient” spending and “a better experience for viewers.”
It touted this optimization as “a solution only YouTube can provide.”
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (TubeFilter) (Variety)
“Saturday Night Live” Faces Backlash for Sketch Mocking the Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial
Many fear that jokes about the case could hurt the everyday domestic abuse survivors that see them.
SNL Mocks Trial
After “Saturday Night Light” parodied the ongoing defamation trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in its cold open this weekend, many are criticizing the show — and media at large — for making a mockery of the case.
Ever since the trial began in April, there has been an onslaught of TikToks, tweets, videos, and other posts turning the happenings in the courtroom into clickbait content. Most of the posts use Heard as a punchline as the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp narrative prevails online.
Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” While she never mentioned Depp by name, many believed the piece referred to previous abuse allegations she had made about him. Depp, however, alleges that Heard was actually the abuser and concocted the claims to ruin his career. She countersued for $100 million.
In its most recent episode, “Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch starring Kyle Mooney as Depp, Cecily Strong as the judge, and Aidy Bryant and Heidi Gardner as lawyers in the case. The sketch took place in the courtroom as the involved parties discussed allegations that Heard defecated in her and Depp’s bed. They then watched “video evidence” of house staffers, played by Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim, Melissa Villaseñor, and Chris Redd, finding the fecal matter.
At various points, Strong’s judge said they should continue watching the video “because it’s funny” and she and Mooney’s Depp both said they find the trial “amusing.”
“This trial is for fun,” the judge proclaimed at one point.
Many online did not see the humor in SNL’s parody, arguing that a case involving domestic abuse accusations should not be a punchline. Some said the sketch was “disgusting and desperate.”
“Domestic violence is not a joke. Rape is not a joke,” writer Ella Dawson tweeted. “Abusers using the legal system to continue to terrorize their victims is not a joke. Abusers using accusations of defamation to silence their victims is not a joke.”
“In twenty years people are going to look back at this trial and all of the media coverage and be disgusted,” Dawson continued.
“You’re free to have absolutely no opinion on the Depp/Heard trial, but thinking it’s ‘for fun’ is for someone with a diseased heart and brain,” Meredith Haggerty, the senior culture editor at Vox, wrote.
Many felt that regardless of how someone feels or who they support in this case, those making fun of Heard are “making a joke of victims everywhere.”
Criticism of Media’s Trial Coverage
Others argued this sketch was part of an overall disturbing trend in the media’s coverage of this case where serious allegations were being played up for laughs.
The hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has trended on Twitter several times throughout the trial as fans defend the actor. Many also use it to mock Heard, share clips of her crying, and in some cases, spread misinformation about her courtroom claims. The tag is also popular on TikTok, where it has been viewed over 11 billion times as of Monday morning.
Many of the videos involve jokes about the case, memes, fan cams, and other content meant to belittle Heard. On TikTok, the tag #AmberTurd has raked in over 1.6 billion views. Some videos involve animated renderings of courtroom videos meant to make Heard look careless or dumb. Others use audio of Heard alleging that Depp hit her along with silly imagery to make those claims look like a farce. Many involve people making fun of the way Heard has cried on the stand.
Experts have told numerous media outlets that by ridiculing Heard, Depp’s supporters are potentially harming abuse victims that may come across these posts.
“I can’t imagine what this might be doing to someone who may eventually want to seek safety and support,” Ruth M. Glenn, the chief executive officer of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NBC News. “Whether it’s Amber Heard or Johnny Depp, how dare us make fun and make light of someone who is sharing something very personal — no matter how we feel about that person.”
The trial is being broadcast live so interested parties can watch it unfold in real-time. The viral clips have allowed the case to become a massive entertainment spectacle.
Public discourse of the trial has sorted people into either “Team Depp” or “Team Heard,” and just a quick glance online will show that Depp has so far won a good portion of public favor. Still, no matter how one views the trial, many think jokes at the expense of Heard’s claims are a bridge too far.
“In the commentary, it’s almost as if people are forgetting that this is real life, that this is not a show that we’re all watching,” Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA Today. “Many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will go into a courtroom at some point and have an experience that is largely outside of their control, in a setting like this.”
“There’s such a strong desire in the public discourse for [Heard] to be the villain, for her to be the example of the fact that there are victims who have ulterior motives, that there are victims who are not telling the full truth,” Palumbo continued. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of folks thinking critically or wanting to understand the nuances of abuse or of unhealthy relationships.”