Warning: Some Language
Dammit, can’t we do anything in American without someone wanting to inject their political vitriol into it and make a moment of unification into a vehicle for polarization? God blessed, we’re inundated with political acrimony 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in every sector of American life. You can’t get away from it. So is it too much to ask that we can watch a fucking football game and the halftime performance without groups of assholes attempting to use it as a wedge in society to hate our neighbors and slander people who think different from us?
I didn’t care too much for Lady Gaga’s halftime performance, but that’s because I don’t like all of the pop pageantry bullshit. When you have to use seven-figure production budgets, dozens of choreographed backup dancers, hundreds of lighted drones, and about 1,000 fake shill fans with networked LED flashlights to distract from the fact that the music is just not that great, then what is the point of having “music” as part of the halftime performance at all aside from an audio accompaniment to all of the visual histrionics?
But for the first time in recent Super Bowl halftime history, probably since Prince did his thing a decade ago, I didn’t feel completely and totally alienated by the performance. It looks like Lady Gaga was actually fucking singing, at least most of the time, and though many of the dance gesticulations were completely stupid, generally speaking, it was a performance that allowed a pop performer’s talent to be showcased instead of being solely wowed by the spectacle of it all.
And yes, she took a moment where she could have come out and pitted two sides of the country against each other, and instead did something that not all, but most people nodded their head to and said, “You know what? Not that bad.” That doesn’t even mean that Lady Gaga didn’t work in some subtle symbolism about inclusiveness or togetherness. And hey, that’s awesome. That is what good art, and good music does. It brings people together not by preachy idealism shoved down listener’s throats, but by reaching out to our collective humanity and proving we’re not all as different as the political class what you to think we are so the political industrial complex can continue to be filled with voluminous amounts of donations and pissed off volunteers vociferously shouting the other side down.
Yet there’s still plenty of angry people Monday morning quarterbacking Lady Gaga’s performance, saying she wasn’t political enough like The L.A. Times, who says that Lady Gaga missed her opportunity to say something profound. “Unity was clearly the idea she was going for,” the paper chides, as a criticism of Lady Gaga’s performance.
Let me tell you something: You can’t be against unity, and also be for inclusiveness. Inclusiveness means everybody, not just the people that you want to be included, while all the people that you hate (even though you espouse being in the position of “love”) are not only excluded, but in the case of many of these opinionators, they want these people to be alienated, chided, talked down to, and impugned. That didn’t happen Sunday night, and they are pissed off about it. They wanted their bowl of blood. They wanted Lady Gaga to shit on anyone that wasn’t like them, and instead, she decided to be a bigger person.
Other opinionators, with the lack of any real ammunition to assign radical, hateful ideology to Lady Gaga’s performance, are trying to make these moments up to feel better about themselves—to make it seem like Gaga was insulting large swaths of the American population so their political spitefulness can be satiated in some manner, and from both sides of the aisle.
The primary instance is with people reminding us that Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” has roots as a protest song. The Millennial journalism pool loves to talk down to people, and point out how stupid they are, and how they don’t know history. But what many are failing to mention is that “This Land Is Your Land” was offered in a medley that also included the Pledge of Allegiance, and “God Bless America.” In fact the screen time “This Land Is Your Land” got was nominal. It literally last 14 seconds. But I’m not trying to downplay the impact of the message behind it. Gaga was offering “This Land Is Your Land” with the song it was meant to be an answer to—“God Bless America”—to include everyone in that moment. Frankly, it was pretty genius. It was similar to the great songwriter Mickey Newbury including “Dixie” in his “An American Trilogy.” That is true inclusiveness.
But that doesn’t go far enough for some people. They want Trump supporters to be pissed off about what Lady Gaga did, and they won’t rest until they are. They want you, the unwashed, uneducated middle American garden variety asshole to feel degraded that Lady Gaga had the gall to sing a protest song on such a huge stage. The idea that you might of enjoyed that Gaga American medley moment makes them seethe, and so they must explain to you why you should feel degraded by it.
Others are praising Gaga for her “gayness,” with The Daily Beast calling the performance “super gay,” and saying that shoving gay imagery into the faces of idiotic America is just what we need to spread the message of “inclusiveness.”
Let me ask you something: When was the last time you were convinced of anything when some was screaming at you about what a piece of shit you are instead of talking and listening to you? When were you convinced that you liked something, or even accepted it, when someone was shoving it in your face? “Here, take this asshole!” My guess is never.
Look, I’m not taking a side here. Gay, straight, or transgender, white, black, bown, or purple, as long as you like true country music, you’re a friend of mine. But if these folks want to truly defeat President Trump and his supporters, perhaps try actually talking and listening to them instead of bombarding them with insults hurled with an air of superiority. The entire reason Trump came to power was because so many people felt forgotten, insulted, and alienated.
I’m not saying that Lady Gaga didn’t make some slightly political statements Sunday night, I’m saying that she did. She just did it in a manner where people might actually find themselves receptive to the message because it was truly about bridging differences instead of defining them through political acrimony, and she did it in a way that reached people on both sides of the aisle. Yet by trying to make it political, now the right is finding things to be angry about too. Good on Gaga for taking a deep breath, and bringing a little wisdom to what was otherwise a fluffy, vapid display of excess.
But hey, there is also nothing wrong with turning off your brain for a second, and just enjoying an American pastime, whether that’s football, or silly pop music. Lady Gaga and the NFL allowed millions to do that last night, and at a time when just such a release was needed more than ever. So don’t try to take that moment of unity away from us, and exploit it for your politically-motivated purposes.