M.I.A. Raises a Finger During Halftime Show

Why did M.I.A. make an obscene gesture during an upbeat song?

It only took an instant for M.I.A. to flip off the cameras during Sunday night's Super Bowl, but the memory could last a long time.

In 2004, Justin Timerberlake joined Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl to sing "Rock Your Body," which ends with the phrase "gonna have you naked by the end of this song."  And indeed he did, ripping off part of her top to reveal a bare breast with a shield covering her nipple.

The moment went by in a flash, but kicked off a protracted battle with CBS (who aired the Super Bowl that year) and the Federal Communications Commission, who wanted to fine the network on indecency charges. 

Timberlake apologized, calling the incident a "wardrobe malfunction" and said only one layer of fabric was supposed to be ripped off, not the entire thing. CBS said they had no knowledge of the move ahead of time and that it had not been rehearsed.

Who knows what M.I.A. or Madonna will say about this year's incident, where M.I.A. gave the middle finger to the cameras as she performed with Madonna in "Give Me All Your  Luvin" Sunday. It is not even clear how many television viewers saw it, but the story and photos quickly made their way to the Internet.

A spokesperson for NBC Sports said, "We apologize for the inappropriate gesture that aired during halftime. It was a spontaneous gesture that our delay system caught late."

For  those in America who don't know who M.I.A. is, they probably will now. M.I.A. is a Sri-Lankan born a British rapper/singer with a strong global following.  Her music has often taken on the Sri-Lankan government for their persecution of rebels of the Tamil Tiger movement.

At the same time, she has a distinctive personal style that often wins attention from the art and fashion worlds. It will be interesting to see if she says her move was a political or artistic one -- or maybe both.

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