Once we're all done hyperventilating over M.I.A. using a lewd hand gesturewhile lip syncing a pop song on national TV, perhaps we can return to the real story here: Madonna. And her spectacular spectacle of a halftime show that was either a sonic validation of her undisputed pop reign, or a stiff performance conducted in costumes suggesting she was history's first Egyptian viking.
To illustrate the point, let's go to the one place where the public is always eager to immediately tell us exactly what they think: Twitter. In the 90 minutes surrounding Madonna's halftime show, there were approximately 7,600 tweets that included both the words "Madonna" and "awesome," according to social trend site Topsy.com.
However in that same time, there were about 6,000 which combined "Madonna" and "bad" -- to say nothing of "awful," "terrible" or "WTF". 2,000+ mentions for that last one, by the way.
Maybe there was such a split on her performance because there was just so much in the performance -- enough for anyone to find something to love and something to trash.
You had the "Hey Mickey" vibe with all the cheerleader n' hand clap stuff, lots of aerobics, LMFAO, aerobics with LMFAO, the Richard Simmons-looking acrobat, the Vogue-ing, the new song-dropping and lots and lots of Beijing Olympics opening ceremony-style special effects. Plus the obligatory drum line and choir.
The Washington Post provided a live blog of the event and noted "She looks tentative, as she should. It’s wrong to try to do gymnastics in thigh-high boots with heels like that" and also that "Madonna is on top of one half of LMFAO and singing “Party Rock Anthem.” Remember how “Shanghai Surprise” once seemed like her greatest embarrassment?"
And from Time's James Poniewozik: "I ended up -- well, not loving it, maybe, but admiring it, respecting Madge’s continued ability to strike a pose and put on a show ... it all could have been so much worse. Have we forgotten the Black-Eyed Peas already?"
All around Twitter, the bulk of the criticism had to do with the most vicious three-letter word in pop -- that Madonna is o-l-d. It was a familiar gripe on the HLN Facebook page, as well, and provoked plenty of Madonna's defenders.
"Oh for God's sake people! She's 54 [actually 53] years old how fast do you want her to move! You can say what you want, but I'll take her over Gaga any day!" wrote Monica R.
And Lisa L. joined in, writing, "Awesome! 53 and still has it all! Best show in years! Eat your heart out Lady Gaga!" Apparently, part of the foundation of a good Madonna defense is ripping Lady Gaga.
The age defenders were out on Twitter as well, with one user drawing a sharp comparison to a certain other halftime performer known for his rooster walk and lack of satisfaction: "The "Madonna is 53" trending topic: shorthand for "We'd rather see a 69-year-old man prance in leather than a woman over 30 do anything."
The one thing a lot of people seemed to agree on though was that the huge " World Peace" graphic which covered the field at the end of the show rang a little bit hollow. Time's Poniewozik said it was "like a parody of a lame pop message."
But there was nothing lame about the massive interest Madge provoked. At its peak, her performance was generating 10,245 tweets per second. And the halftime show actually drew a higher TV rating than the game itself.
It's appropriate, then, that she was dressed as an Egyptian/Nordic/haute couture warrior, because once again Madonna divided -- and conquered.