Who Cares About M.I.A. Flipping the Bird?

The Super Bowl half-time show is supposed to be edgy and controversial.

Assuming that both NBC and the NFL have the ability to read, what, exactly, were they expecting from Madonna’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLVI?

Had they taken 30 seconds to skim the lyrics to her new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin,” they might have grasped the possibility that performing it live on the most-watched telecast of the year could lead to all measure of mishaps.

If, by some miracle, the two brain trusts had experienced that epiphany some time before kickoff, imagine the scene in the pre-production meeting: “You think it’s too late to book Paul McCartney again, fellas?”

No worries. Everything went according to plan Sunday …  until British hip-hop star M.I.A., who was accompanying Madonna on the massive stage, belted the following verse:

Me it. Licks. I’m so swag shit
Glad, no one gave you this
It’s supersonic, bionic, uranium hit
So I break ’em off tricks
Let’s pray that it sticks
I’mma say this once, yeah, I don’t give a shit.

In place of “shit,” M.I.A. raised her middle finger to the camera—a gesture she had not done in rehearsal, Madonna insists. (NBC said the same thing in 1992 about singer Sinead O’Connor after she ripped apart a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.)

In both cases, time stood still throughout the known universe.

M.I.A.’s bird flip hardly rose to the level of Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple, but given that it happened on the most-watched halftime show (114 million viewers) on the most-watched TV broadcast of all time (111.3 million), an uproar instantly ensued.

Twitter logged 10,245 posts per second during the halftime extravaganza, which featured 813 performers. Had Twitter been around for  Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction in 2004, the barrage of tweets is unimaginable.

NBC blamed the NFL. The NFL blamed NBC. They both apologized to viewers. The Parents Television Council accused the NFL, which had hired the performers and produced the show, of having lied about its promise for an “appropriate” program. Instead, the league had chosen artists “who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation,” said PTC president Tim Winter.

Speaking of shock and titillation, PTC raised no public objections to the Super Bowl commercial in which a red-shelled male M&M candy stripped and began dirty dancing to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” in order to impress his chocolate-shelled female counterpart, voiced by Bebe Neuwirth.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “hard candy.”

PTC was equally silent about the H&M spot featuring a bare-chested David Beckham in tighty-whiteys. CNN’s Roland Martin picked up the slack, however, tweeting homophobic slurs throughout the game. Now he’s on the hot seat with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which wants him fired.

I wish everybody would stop and take a breath. It’s the Super Bowl, remember? It’s supposed to be a bunch of cool, edgy commercials and an overproduced, pseudo-controversial halftime show, all wrapped around a boring game.

I can’t wait to see who performs next year.