When I was younger my brother always used to say to me, “How many fingers am I holding up?” The answer was always one. The middle one. Did I care? Not at all. It’s just a finger. Well at least it is to me.
British rapper MIA’s middle finger moment at last month’s Superbowl Halftime show, fuelled a media storm of outrage. The incident was barely noticeable to the average American viewer, with many taking to Twitter in baffled bewilderment at not even catching the bird being flipped. As per usual, the American press had a field day.
US blogs, papers and online magazines were a buzz with, to be frank, fairly poncey opinion pieces on the history of the middle finger, eventually picking on us Brits, claiming that we don’t understand the deep-rooted pride embedded in traditional American values.
In my eyes the Superbowl is a pretty dull watch anyway, and just an excuse for testosterone crazed yanks to scream at a plasma screen whilst drinking copious amounts of Bud light. But is it right that our “special” stateside friends can judge MIA and British society so quickly after the gesture?
Yes the Superbowl’s audience is roughly 117 million people, and flipping the bird during such a cherished event within American culture, is naïve to say the least. But what’s more annoying, is that MIA was rapping the line, “I don’t give a s**t”, and for many of us back in Blighty, that sentiment is synonymous with raising the middle digit.
She told BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe that, “The reason I’m performing with Madonna is because we’re two women and we represent two opposite sides of the world, and if we can come together at the Superbowl, I think that’s a cool thing to see this year… its kind of inspiring”.
Surely this should be the lasting message that the US media take from the performance. The fact that MIA, a Tamil refugee turned rapper, has made it to the biggest televised stage on earth thanks to one of the most successful female artists of all time, is far more of an inspiring story than a critical analysis of the middle finger.
And America’s deconstruction of modern day British etiquette was even more infuriating. The angle many blogs seemed to take, was that we have no pride for our country or national values. Therefore, we must all be running around rioting in Tottenham, looting Basmati rice and sticking our middle finger up to everything, a stark contrast to the ‘sipping tea’ stereotype.
However, America has recently been obsessed with Tottenham’s finest; one of Britain’s biggest transatlantic exports, Adele. And at this year’s BRIT Awards, Adele was more than happy to flip off ITV executives when they cut her acceptance speech for Album of the Year prematurely.
I applauded Adele’s middle finger response. Considering she’s the only famous spokesperson for frowned upon Tottenham, Adele telling us all that she was “so so proud to be British and flying our flag around the world”, was a positive statement. And the BRITS was the perfect platform to voice this. The fact she was cut off was pretty pathetic by ITV standards, and the gesture was more than deserved.
It seems that over there in the US, they’re fond of a drama. Here in the UK, we’re a little bit more jovial when it comes to the middle finger. Take for example the clip below of BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker, and his little blip. A mistake? Yes. Headline news? No.
In the wider scheme of things, it’s just a finger.