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Angry Viewers Complain to FCC About Rihanna's "Overtly Sexual" Super Bowl Performance

"Where has decency gone? How about respect for others and self?"

The Super Bowl halftime show is always going to lead to both compliments and criticism, and this year was no different. Rihanna performed the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show, and while some viewers praised the music, the dancers, and the singer's pregnancy reveal, others found the show to be low energy and lacking guest stars. As for a small fraction of the audience, their issues with the performance went beyond the urge to tweet or text a friend. Some viewers contacted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with complaints about the show.

Read on to find out what these upset viewers had to say about Rihanna's performance and how those complaints compare to the ones received by past halftime show stars.

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Some viewers found the halftime show too sexual.

TMZ reports that it obtained 103 FCC complaints related to the Super Bowl with most of them being about Rihanna.

According to the site, a viewer in California appeared to question Rihanna's religious beliefs and called her performance pornographic. "I don't care what someone worships but children shouldn't be exposed to pornography and as an adult I don't wish to see it," the complaint reads. "Where has decency gone? How about respect for others and self?"

One viewer in Utah complained, "This year the halftime show was so indecent I had to turn off the TV because of the pornographic content."

Another person filed a complaint that was itself sexually explicit in the way it described Rihanna's body and her movements.

Others were upset by her song lyrics.

Rihanna performing at the 2023 Super Bowl
NFL / YouTube

The FCC received complaints about "overtly sexual dancing"—with one critic saying that Rihanna's backup dancers made gestures that were "were patently offensive and completely inappropriate for children." But some took issue with Rihanna's lyrics, finding those too sexual, as well.

During the show, Rihanna performed songs including "[Expletive] Better Have My Money," "Rude Boy," "Work," "Umbrella," and "Diamonds."

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Over 113 million people watched the game.

Rihanna performing at the 2023 Super Bowl
NFL / YouTube

Even if all 103 complaints TMZ obtained were about Rihanna, that number is still a drop in the bucket compared to how many people tuned in for the event. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this year's Super Bowl averaged 113.1 million viewers. Even more turned the TV on for Rihanna specifically, with that section of the broadcast drawing in 118.7 million viewers. This makes Rihanna's the second most-watched halftime show on record. (First place is still held by Katy Perry, who headlined in 2015.)

Another halftime show generated many more complaints.

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performing at the 2004 Super Bowl

It probably won't surprise you to hear that the most infamous Super Bowl halftime show of all time also led to the most FCC complaints. After Janet Jackson's breast was exposed at the end of the 2004 halftime show that she performed with Justin Timberlake, the FCC received 540,000 complaints, which The New York Times described as "record-breaking."

For comparison, as reported by The Hill, for the 2022 halftime show featuring Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem, the FCC received 33 complaints. A number of those were from viewers upset about the outfits worn by backup dancers. The 2020 show, starring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, brought about 1,312 complaints. According to CNN, those viewers found that performance too sexual and inappropriate for children.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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