With the Eagles going down in the playoffs, I was less than enthused about Superbowl 54 and last Sunday chose to skip it altogether. I awoke the next morning to several texts and DMs raving about the halftime show. What was the source of all the brouhaha? It certainly appeared to be much more than a wardrobe malfunction this time around.

I went to YouTube and watched it. Then I watched it again, and again, and again. Then I told two people to watch it; and they told two people, and they told two people … By now I am sure everyone in the world has watched it.

By any measure, it was a heck of a show that J. Lo and Shakira put on. The scantily clad, suggestive, brazen stars and cast danced, strutted and gyrated their way across the stage in what I gathered to be a cross between an old time Vegas stage show and a bacchanalian festival that invited the world to leave their seats and join in.

Great music and great choreography. What was not to like? I liked it! But then, I’m a hedonist. As I will explain, it was hedonistic in the literal sense. Whether it was intentional or unintentional, through a very well planned and executed usage of symbols, it wrapped decadence in a red, black, white, silver and gold shroud of virtue in a sophisticated attempt to rewire traditional virtues and values.

The show opens with Shakira singing her song “She Wolf.” She and her troupe of dancers are clad in red, and there is reason for this, as anyone who graced the rooms a brothel can tell you. The symbolism of red is important and shouldn’t be missed. “Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power and determination, as well as passion, desire and love. Red is a very emotionally intense color. It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate and raises blood pressure.” Well, the routine raised my blood pressure. The lyrics shouldn’t be overlooked either:

There’s a she wolf in the closet

Open up and set her free (ahoo)

There’s a she wolf in the closet

Let it out so it can breathe

S-O-S she is in disguise

S-O-S she is in disguise

There’s a she wolf in disguise

Coming out, coming out, coming out

Later in the routine Shakira performs a belly dance routine only this time with her hands bound. Bondage anyone? Well, one should be fit, to be tied, I suppose.

A bit later during her rendition of “I Like It Like That,” she lays herself on the stage in sexually suggestive poses, while rapper Bad Bunny, clad in silver from the shoes on his feet to his earring loomed large over her.

It is interesting that he was in silver, as there is symbology there too and silver will make its appearance again. The color silver is associated with meanings of industrial, sleek, high-tech and modern, as well as ornate, glamourous, graceful, sophisticated and elegant. Silver is a precious metal and, like gold, often symbolizes riches and wealth. So, who is in the power position there? The women in red, or the guy in silver? Sex for money anyone?

Then enter J. Lo looking amazing as she took over center stage grasping a pole belting out “Jenny from the Block.” If J. Lo’s shear physicality weren’t astounding enough, her performance on the pole would have put the best dancer I’d ever seen at a strip club to shame. And she is how old?

So, we have left the brothel, and are now at the strip club. Still with me, America?

At this point J. Lo and her troupe of dancers are wearing mostly black and leather to boot. Black is associated with power, fear, mystery, strength, authority, elegance, formality, death, evil, aggression, authority, rebellion and sophistication. Black is required for all other colors to have depth and variation of hue. The black color is the absence of color. The leather is of course emblematic of sadomasochism or appropriate attire when watching a band doing Village People covers. Well, they did spare us the hoods and dildos. And if there were any question to who is on top, I think J. Lo answered that for us.

Later in her routine J. Lo remounts the pole, only this time clad in silver. Yep, the message here being the stripping paid off and now throngs of dancers clad in white are massing at the base of her pole and at times holding her up while a few have poles of their own.

Let’s talk about the color white. White plays a pivotal role in the show. White is associated with light, goodness, innocence and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection. White means safety, purity and cleanliness. As opposed to black, white usually has a positive connotation.

Then enter Emme, J. Lo’s 11-year-old daughter, and things start to get really strange. Emme opens to the camera clad in white, singing from what appears to be a cage, possibly a bird cage, and she is accompanied by other children, also clad in white and in cages.

A camera angle from way above shows the entire stage. At one end are the children illuminated in their cages, and on the other end of the stage is J Lo and the other adult dancers. What appears to be separating them is an illuminated yellow cross on the stage floor. I won’t go into the symbology of the color yellow, but there is a reason buses are often painted yellow with black trim.

The scene then cuts back to Emme singing her song which is entitled “Let’s Get Loud”:

If you want to live your life
Live it all the way and don’t waste it
Every feelin’ every beat
Can be so very sweet you gotta taste it
You gotta do it, you gotta do it your way
You gotta prove it
You gotta mean what you say
You gotta do it, you gotta do it your way
You gotta prove it
You gotta mean what you say

Emme is joined in the song by a host of other children like her, clad in white, only on their tops are American flags in sequins, silver sequins.

The children make their way to the main stage where Emme is joined by her mother who approaches her draped in the colors of the American flag. The routine picks up as J. Lo is joined by Shakira now clad in a gold outfit and all the other adult dancers who are now clad in gold.

Gold is significant as it is a precious metal that is associated with wealth, grandeur and prosperity, as well as sparkle, glitz and glamour. So, we have moved from red to black, to silver, to white and then to gold.

There are those who say there was a political message to the halftime show. That it was not so much about showcasing Miami’s Latino culture as it was about promoting diversity and other woke culture themes. And if its intent was to promote diversity, why was Shakira the only Caucasian on stage? Surely there are Caucasians living in Miami! Isn’t it pretty much Cuban culture that makes Miami interesting?

If there were some kind of political subtext, its intent was to mask the didactic message of this exhibition. What was the didactic meaning you ask? What were the creators of the show (either wittingly or unwittingly) attempting to teach us?

Again, I do not believe the subtext was political. Rather it was cultural, ideological in a classic neoliberal context. You see neoliberalism is the unfettered movement of people and wealth across borders so as to maximize profits.

So, the message from America’s elites as portrayed by the halftime show is pretty simple; people of color from across the globe, come to America, surrender your virtues and family values to our special brand of consumerism and you too will achieve the success of your fantasies. Just look at J. Lo and Emme. Don’t you want to be like them?

Tragically, unlike the song, you won’t get to “do it your way.” The machine that keeps our stock markets propped up and the debt and death paradigm going demands fresh meat. And you are here to be milked, until you no longer can be. Then you get to experience the U.S. healthcare system which leads to debt and then the death of a thousand vicissitudes. Well, I suppose it beats seeing your village bombed by Team America. That is unless you are rich like J. Lo!

Am I being some old fuddy duddy who is reading way too much into the whole thing? Quite possibly. For certain, I doubt it was intentional, as creatives like Shakira and J. Lo better than most have a talent for tapping into the zeitgeist and crafting metaphors to describe it. And you can bet the deciders weren’t going to stop this show from rolling right along.

In closing, if this were really to be exhibition of Latin Miami culture where was all that is great about Miami’s Latin culture. The children of Cuban immigrants to America have much higher levels of tertiary education than the native born. They also pretty much run everything in Miami and pretty darn competently too. Why couldn’t that have been on display?