Watch M.I.A.’s Super Bowl Middle Finger

The biggest story to come out of last night’s Super Bowl was this: In a repeat of their historic 2008 victory, the New York Giants won a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the favored New England Patriots, with the Patriots botching their last-minute touchdown attempt. The second-most-important story was this: During her short appearance at Madonna’s halftime show, M.I.A. slyly flipped off the camera in a way that wasn’t immediately apparent to most of the people watching the show. Nice job, M.I.A.

As Entertainment Weekly points out, NBC and the NFL have already put out statements apologizing for the transgression and blaming each other. NBC’s statement calls the bird-flip a “spontaneous gesture,” but it came during a performance in which every backup-dancer hair-flip was meticulously and expensively planned-out. Either M.I.A. knew exactly what she was doing, or Madonna’s choreographers did.

As for the halftime show itself, opinion, at least on my Twitter feed, was pretty divided. The whole thing was certainly garish and ridiculous, and it did include a guest appearance from LMFAO, but I’d say it was the best of these Super Bowl entertainments since Prince did the honors a few years back. Madonna had promised to make the show as gay as she could, and she really made good on that claim. The Roman Empire-themed spectacle, with its madly vogueing backup dancers, made for some truly spectacular self-conscious camp. And besides the not-great comeback single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” (which featured that M.I.A. bird-flip and a quick Nicki Minaj verse), the setlist was bulletproof: “Vogue,” “Music,” tiny bits of “Open Your Heart” and “Express Yourself,” and a version of “Like A Prayer” that involved a gospel choir and NBC-synergy guest Cee Lo. Madonna herself, who almost certainly did not sing a note, looked pretty good; her death-defying backup dancers looked fantastic. And if she was trolling the NFL audience by making this thing so campy, she did a remarkable job. The only time I groaned was the end of the show, when the giant TV screen she was using as a stage erupted into the glittery words “world peace.”

Here’s the full halftime show:

And here’s that short, attention-grabbing M.I.A. moment, which will dominate almost every article you read about M.I.A. for the next few years:

(via Pitchfork)