Super Bowl LI Handled Politics in the Best Way It Could

By Caroline Ahearn, Copy Editor

Whether they were looking forward to it or absolutely dreading it, everyone was expecting something—some kind of major political message from someone at the Super Bowl, following in the pattern of events like the Vice President’s visit to “Hamilton,” Green Day’s anti-Trump chant at the American Music Awards, and Meryl Streep’s powerful speech at the Golden Globes.

Probably the most controversial of this year’s Super Bowl ads was Budweiser’s commercial telling the story of its founder, Adolphus Busch. But can you really criticize Budweiser for telling the story of an immigrant journeying to another land to pursue the American dream when it’s a true story, and their own story? And do you really want to boycott all Budweiser products over a minute-long commercial?

The rest of the statements made by ads and performers were done much more subtly, in a genius way that makes those who don’t want to hear it appear like they are grasping at straws for something at which to be mad.

Fox’s pre-kickoff festivities included a segment featuring Simone Biles and Harry Belafonte reminding us that the United States Constitution proclaims that all are created equal, before a moving spot focusing on veterans and national pride was set to Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag.” Shortly after, three of the original cast members of “Hamilton” sang “America The Beautiful” with one adjustment to the lyrics: “with brotherhood, and sisterhood from sea to shining sea.”

The theme of inclusivity and unity continued with advertisements from Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Audi, and others, and especially with Lady Gaga’s halftime performance. While many were expecting her to be the one to make a blatant anti-Trump statement, she instead elected to simply continue spreading the same message of love and acceptance that she has been promoting her entire career. One could argue that she got political with her lyrics in “Born This Way,” but that song was released in 2011, long before those on the far right decided that celebrities could no longer have opinions (unless, of course, we elect a celebrity to the highest office in the land).

Although many of Gaga’s fans were disappointed that she didn’t utilize her platform to speak out against the new administration, it is important that she did what she did. If she had gotten on stage and started shouting expletives about the new President, or even so much as mentioned his name, it would have delegitimized the whole message. When Meryl Streep eloquently and calmly expressed her concern about Donald Trump, she was attacked not only by his supporters, but by Trump himself. This shifted the focus onto the feud and away from the important message Streep was trying to relate.

The Super Bowl attracts an audience extremely diverse in political opinions, so by sticking to her consistent message of equality and inclusivity without expressly going against anything in particular, Gaga reached a much larger audience. If you speak out against someone who spoke out against something you believe in, you are defending your beliefs. But if you speak out against someone who is speaking out for equality and unity, two truly American ideals, you appear bigoted and close-minded. How can you be mad at a message of equality – that this land is your land and my land? You can’t, and that is the genius of Super Bowl LI’s approach to today’s political climate.

Photograph Credits: ABC News

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