In the sensitive, post-wardrobe malfunction world, some are asking whether a guitar was just a guitar during Prince's Super Bowl halftime show.
Prince's acclaimed performance included a guitar solo during the "Purple Rain" segment of his medley Sunday in which his shadow was projected onto a large, flowing sheet. As the 48-year-old rock star let rip, the silhouette cast by his figure and his guitar (shaped like the singer's symbol) had phallic connotations for some.
A number of bloggers have cried "Malfunction!" including Sam Anderson at New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer. Daily News television critic David Bianculli called it "a rude-looking shadow show" that "looked embarrassingly rude, crude and unfortunately placed."
CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said Tuesday the network has received "very few" complaints on Prince's performance. CBS last aired the Super Bowl in 2004, when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's "wardrobe malfunction" sparked criticism and a crackdown on broadcast decency from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
But this time, it was the National Football League that produced the halftime show, while MTV had in 2004. NFL Spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has received no complaints.
"We respect other opinions, but it takes quite a leap of the imagination to make a controversy of his performance," Aiello said. "It's a guitar."
The majority of the reaction to Prince's performance has been praise, including positive reviews from The Associated Press, the New York Times and USA Today all of which noted the lack of controversy in this year's halftime show. AP Entertainment Writer Douglas J. Rowe wrote: "He delivered one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows ever."
For decades, the electric guitar, by nature, has been considered phallic. From Jimi Hendrix's sensual 6-string swagger to Eddie Van Halen's masturbatory soloing, the guitar has often been thought an extension of a male player's sexuality.
Was Prince's pose phallic?
"The short answer is, of course it is," says Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Gavin Edwards, who points out that on Prince's "Purple Rain" tour in the mid 1980s, he performed with a guitar that would ejaculate, squirting water out of its end during the climax of "Let's Go Crazy."
"All that said, it didn't seem like a sniggering little puppet show," adds Edwards. "I think it was one of those things because a guitar at waist level does look like an enormous phallus."
By enlarging his shadow, it is possible Prince intended to accentuate this aspect of his solo, but it is just as likely it was accidental. A message left with Prince's publicist Tuesday was not returned.