M.I.A.'s Finger is Shocking to Adults, Normal to Youth

Artist M.I.A. sparked controversy when she gave audiences the finger, but her behavior is nothing new to younger fans.

Parents may have been surprised by the young artist's behavior, but fans knew to be prepared for anything. In light of her act, the Parents Television Council has released the following statement: "It has been eight years since the Janet Jackson striptease, and both NBC and the NFL knew full well what might happen. They chose a lineup full of performers who have based their careers on shock, profanity and titillation."

"Instead of preventing the incident, they enabled it. M.I.A. used a middle finger shamelessly to bring controversial attention to herself, while effectively telling an audience filled with children, '*-you.'"

It has become almost common for something shocking to happen during the Super Bowl half-time show, ever since Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." Yet provocative stars are still being booked in the interest of ratings. Youth tend to be more familiar with the younger stars, including M.I.A., who is mired in controversy.

M.I.A. is a British performer, songwriter and producer who has used her music to address issues such as genocide, political oppression and violence. Her songs are best sellers, but their titles belie very graphic, violent and sexual videos.

For example, "Born Free" depicts the genocide of young, teenage boys, who are rounded up, taken to a camp, and forced to run while being hunted. You Tube has labeled the video "age-sensitive," but even adults may want to avoid the violence.

People who watched the halftime show took to Twitter to express their feelings about M.I.A.'s actions, which reveal something startling about our society. "I had to explain to Ava (5) & Ella (3) why people spontaneously combusted and died in a car ad. They didn't notice/care about MIA's (sic) finger," tweeted Richard Robbins. William Owen asked, "Why are people surprised MIA (sic) flipped the bird? Do none of these idiots know who MIA (sic) is, know her music or her politics?"

Children often don't think about the actions of their idols, which can lead to desensitization towards violence and sexual images. It is of note that more adults are upset by M.I.A.'s actions than are youth who are more familiar with her work. Much research has been done on the subject of desensitization of children, with data proving a direct influence on youth. After one such experiment, Professor L. Rowell Huesmann concluded, "Exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively and affects them as adults years later."

In a variation of a similar experiment, Craig Anderson, Nicholas Carnagey, and Janie Eubanks came to the following agreement: "There are now good theoretical and empirical reasons to expect effects of music lyrics on aggressive behaviors to be similar to the well-studied effects of exposure to TV and movie violence." Some of M.I.A.'s lyrics are explicit, with one chorus being: "Some I murder, some I let go. Some I murder, some I let go." How can these words not have an influence on the ones that hear them?

For its part, NBC issued an official apology saying, "We apologize for the inappropriate gesture that aired during halftime. It was a spontaneous gesture that our delay system caught late.