I’ve been FOIAing viewer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about the Super Bowl every year since M.I.A. flipped off the world in 2012, and this edition was bountiful indeed, drawing the most complaints since that first year. The FCC received 94 complaints regarding last month’s CBS broadcast, and 58 of those took issue with Maroon 5's halftime show—specifically, lead singer Adam Levine’s bare chest. America still has a very complicated relationship with nipples.
There were a dozen or so complaints about children being frightened by the pregame airing of ads for the upcoming movie Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, and another dozen for the trailer for Us. There were a couple of complaints that were obvious trolling:
There were a handful complaints about Travis Scott’s brief appearance in the halftime show, which featured, to my ear, one bleeped profanity and zero audible ones. That wasn’t enough for some folks:
What viewers were truly fired up about, however, was Adam Levine’s performance, over the course of which he gradually disrobed until shirtless. Thanks to Poe’s Law and its corollaries, it is tough to discern the genuinely aggrieved viewers from those just having a laugh, and, more righteously, those making the valid point about the double-standard that brought CBS and Janet Jackson so much condemnation—and may have seriously damaged her career—after her nipple made an appearance at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. I’ve grouped those together at the end of this block, but it seems probable that many of the complaints that don’t specifically mention Jackson are still making the same point. (It’s also probable that at least some viewers were genuinely offended by both.)