The camera pans up to the top of the NRG Stadium, Houston. It zooms in on the single image of a woman. Clad in a silver-ridged, pointed shoulder powersuit. The lights shine on her. She steps to the ledge and…
...she lands among her dancers, the show begins. She runs through all her hit songs. The choreography is fresh. She prances. She kicks. Outfit change. Pop and soulful melodies. Lady Gaga is killing the stage, all true raw talent.
But Feb. 5, 2017, was not an ordinary night for an ordinary Superbowl in an ordinary time. Have you heard? Donald Trump now sends out his tweets from the White House. Needless to say, the pressing question: would Gaga bring politics into her performance.
The opportunity was there for her to do so. The weeks leading up were seen a horrorshow from the Trump administration.
Hell, even Airbnb shelled out a few cool million dollars to play an ad, “We Accept”, to rebuke the immigrant-fearing Donald.
What a Superbowl game. The showdown between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. Tom Brady and his boys couldn’t hold the power from down South, which had the best offensive this year in the NFL. And it showed. The Falcons took a double-digits to zero lead in the and dominated leading into the halftime.
Throughout this time I was feeling great. Brady couldnt convert passes into runs. Jerritt of the Falcons sacked him three times (and Atlanta would end up sacking Brady again, once more). My mind trickled to the events of the outside world, in the realm of politics, during the weeks before the game.
Donald Trump and his team of cronies arrived in the White House on Jan. 20 and since have made a mess of things. A constitutional crisis. Sabre-ratling with Iran and China. The outpouring of 1% of the American population against him the *day after he is elected*. All this was on my mind throughout the Superbowl game.
As Atlanta dominated the game, the Patriots kept melting apart. Dont’a and his fellow backs from Atlanta danced through New England. A franchise owned by and represented by fans of the Donald. Yes, I mean Kraft and Tom Brady. The scene on the television, then, became metaphor.
The young, svelt, and deft Atlanta against the fumbling, imperious Boston. The black and young brushing the old, crusty and white to the side. A clash of fire and ice… What a beautiful scene! I saw the America of Barack Obama - not the man but the Hope and the Amazing Grace - returning to us.
But then I should have known. Mike Pence in attendance. They showed his box. Glanced to the crowd below. Gave ‘em a thumbs up, too like that of his current boss to be respectful… I saw a man who rules. I should have remembered.
The Patriots started coming back. Turn away your head for five second for a sip of beer and the score is 20-28! My heart sunk. Gods! It was November 8 all over again! So sure of victory, eagerly assuring our friends, “Yes, truly! We will have it!” Then it all comes crashing down from the edge of glory.
The Atlanta Falcons lost Superbowl LI at the end of overtime. The final score 34-28 after a Patriot’s touchdown to win it. Tom Brady, the algorithmically-fed, oxygen-tank-sitting Million Dollar Man of American football, hangs other Lombardi Trophy in his house tomorrow.
The cold is upon us, and victory sits with Ice. He gets another chance to breath easy and celebrate. Probably tell a funny joke about when defeat seemed imminent.
At the end of the day it is football. A diversion we play to strain the body and vex the mind. To lose consciousness to in the roar of the fan-body. It’s a sport and you risk permanently zonking your brain if you read too many metaphors into it.
They won. We lost. The Earth keeps spinning, and tomorrow’s another day. Sleep well. First day of practice is tomorrow.
The experience of America is tied up into its sports. They contain our grandiosity (the World Series). Our flash (athletes are celebrities unto themselves and tastemakers in popular culture). A vision of what we could be (the national anthem before sporting events)
1968 Jose Feliciano’s rendition at the 5th game of the World Series causes controversy. Several months before at the Mexico City Summer Olympics, two American athletes – Tommie Smith and John Carlos – perform the Black Power salute as the anthem plays during their medal ceremony and receive outcry back home.
The whole body of Lady Gaga’s work comes before her. She is the meat-dress-wearing, gay-rights supporting weirdo that encourages everyone to wave their freakflag. It is no accident that she is herself in light of Vice President Mike Pence’s attendance at Superbowl LI. This is a man, after all, held in deep suspicion by L.G.B.T.-rights organizations. Even if the Vice President shut his ears to the show beneath his box, he would be aware of the implications of Lady Gaga and what she stands for.
. . .
The fact remains that Lady Gaga is a world unto herself. You have an opinion of her whenever you hear her name. She is the meat-dress-wearing, gay-pride chanting singer that challenged and changed the conventions of the squares and the weirdos alike.
It is important who, sitting above the 50-yard line,saw her performance. Her opposite - in dreams, values, desires - Mike Pence, the new vice president of the United States. He comes into his office held in deep suspicion by LGBT-rights organizations. This is a man who, in 2000, included a policy proposal to remove federal funding for AIDS treatment and research if the recipient organizations
This is a man who in his 2000 run for Congress, called for the banning of gay marriage (shock-lite), repealing LGBT anti-discrimination laws (yikes), and removing federal financial support for HIV/AIDS patients if a treating organization “celebrate[d] and encourage[d] behaviors” (how to use a condom, practice safe sex, etc.) that the spread of the virus (y i k e s). In other words, everything that Lady Gaga is not.
Since November 8th of last year the arts have wondered how they would respond to a President Trump. Well, that day has come and gone. Now is beyond the time for wondering, so here’s the point: Art lets you see beyond the present. It makes a personal rapture, an ecstatic future for an audience of one. From this moment the artist takes the vision, expands it - “Let me share with you what I saw…” – and creates.
That sentiment is a threat to those who ban the members of an entire religion from entering our country, who eagerly announce new rounds of deportations because while they seek to limit the world the artist seeks to expand it.
Lady Gaga made no overt political statement on that evening in Houston. She didn’t need to. She showed us the expanse of her world in the halftime performance. The world Lady Gaga demonstrated exceeds the small world that Mike Pence, Richard Spencer, and other hangers-on to the Trump administration content themselves with. She needed to show nothing except the performance of her raw, naked talent. It’s a message – through the full Gaga experience – that demands full attention: I am Gaga. This art celebrates humanity. I cast a stronger spell than you.