Almost, I mean. Football is still a shockingly violent sport that produces more brain injuries than a John Wick movie, but for the sake of this post, let’s say I’m a fan. After all, I currently attend a school that’s renowned for its football team, and I should at least make an effort to get on board.
My friend came into class the other day demanding if we had seen Rihanna’s spectacular halftime performance during the “Superb Owl” on Sunday, February 12th. I regretfully informed her that I had not. I watched the first quarter of the show (solely for the commercials and to try and be a good sport), and then I ran errands. The highlight of my day way buying two dog-themed paintings from Marshalls, so all thoughts of football and expensive commercials had evaporated from my mind.
My friend told me that Rihanna’s performance was so inspiring and empowering that I was doing myself a disservice by not watching it. And since I didn’t want to miss out on being empowered, as well as that creeping feeling of dread that takes over me whenever I hear other people discussing some element of pop culture that I’m not yet familiar with, I made a point to watch it.
For those unaware, this football event is so tied up in Copyright that I’m not even sure I can say it’s name without getting a “cease and desist notice,” let alone post any videos from it, so I’ll link to the performance here.
A few notes on my experience with public performance and show choreography and how that makes me qualified to talk about Rihanna: I have none, and I am not qualified. I’m not even sure I qualify as a real Rihanna fan – I never liked the song “Umbrella,” and as a kid, I mostly knew her as a famous lady in the awful “Bring It On: All or Nothing.”
Actually, scratch that. Rihanna is a huge fan of Geordi LaForge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and she sang the theme song “Sledgehammer” for “Star Trek Beyond.” Any Star Trek fan is a friend of mine. She also turned in a very cool performance as glampod Bubble in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” which not nearly enough people watched.
I’m mostly commenting on Rihanna’s performance because other people I knew had strong feelings about it and because it’s culturally relevant, and sometimes I don’t feel like writing about random TV shows from the early 2000s. And there were definitely a few things about Rihanna’s performance that made it the topic of discussion.
The Halftime show was awesome. Rihanna “sang” a compilation of her greatest hits while dancing on a series of impressive floating platforms that made me more than a little nervous for her and her dancers. I thought it was incredibly cool that Rihanna, a pregnant woman of color, went onstage and drew the eyes of millions of people, something that would have been completely unthinkable when “the big game” was first conceived. (The first “big game” was held in 1966, and the word “pregnant” was just allowed on TV in the 1960’s)
This was Rihanna’s first live show in over five years, and while researching for this blog post, I also learned that she had boycotted the NFL in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Eventually, Kaepernick and the NFL reached an agreement, and Rihanna consented to perform.
Rihanna is arguably one of the most beautiful people in the world, and she looked stunning in her all-red suit and accessories. She made me think I should go out and wear that outfit, except I’d look like an unemployed mall Santa instead of a Dior spokeswoman.
Some viewers have suggested that putting Rihanna in red and surrounding her with male backup dancers clad in white was more than just a fashion choice. I heard that the performance’s color coding was meant to be reminiscent of reproductive organs and the act of conception. Therefore, her performance was a combined celebration of life and commentary on reproductive justice. There has already been quite a bit of conversation about this from both sides of the debate.
Truth be told, I don’t know if that was anyone’s intention during this show’s planning, but given this event manages to draw a conservative audience, and the program’s prolific evangelical advertisements for “He Gets Us,” I think it’s worth mentioning.
In addition, Justina Miles killed it as the ASL interpreter during Rihanna’s show. However, I only learned about her great performance after a CODA influencer I follow on Instagram talked about how great she was. I wish the ASL interpreters were given more screen time, so I hope that since Miles’ signing has gone viral, the NFL will consider giving the interpreters the airtime they deserve. And when I say “the airtime they deserve,” I mean the interpreters should be shown during the whole game.
Some viewers were critical of the Fenty Beauty product placement, but I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was a cheeky nod to her cosmetic empire, and it lasted all of two seconds, so it didn’t seem like a huge deal. If more people are buying Fenty Beauty setting powder, well then, kudos to her. It was the best ad of the evening. There was also some criticism of Rihanna’s lip-synching during some portions of her performance. However, considering she’s a million months pregnant, and the baby was probably pressing up against her diaphragm, I think she deserves a little pass on that.
Rihanna gave an incredible performance that almost made watching football seem fun. Before this performance, I was mostly ambivalent to Rihanna’s music outside her trippy science fiction endeavors. Now, I think I’ll be paying more attention to news about her next album.
6 thoughts on “Rihanna’s Halftime Performance Almost Makes Me Want to Watch Football”
I couldn’t have loved this post more. Pure perfection.
Why thank you, Sarah Williams! I hope Toby is recovering from his stay at the Goblin King’s castle!
I love Rihanna’s performance and I love your article! I thought her performance was so powerful!
I liked Rihanna’s performance. I think she’s a good artist but there were some parts that distressed me a bit. I think she diminished the beauty of pregnancy with acts of lewdness. Some of it wasn’t necessary to make her statement. I guess I’m inadvertently showing my age! I’m more impressed by the quality of your writing than Rihanna’s performance. Well done!
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me! I spoke with my friend about your thoughts on the performance, and we thought it was interesting how we interpreted the same performance differently. I think millenials and Gen Z have a tendency to interpret acts of sexuality as empowering, although other people may not feel the same way. It’s something that I need to consider moving forward!
– How did I not know you do not like the song “Umbrella”… I am weeping
– Bring it On: All or Nothing was so unnecessary, where to begin
– Wait I did not know Rihanna played an alien stripper… WHAT
– I didn’t know the word pregnant was not allowed on TV till the 1960’s WHATTTTT
– I didn’t know about the kick ass ASL interpreter until social media. Would have been NICE if they showed her on TV
– To be fair to Rihanna, I think everyone lip syncs
– I don’t think Rihanna will give us another album… *sad lol*