If Beyonce ‘Politicized’ the Superbowl, So Did Lady Gaga

By Gar Smith

Some people (OK, some older, white Republican men) have been complaining that Beyonce “injected politics into a sports event.” (Actually the message seemed to be less about politics and more about social repression, government indifference and in-your-face racial pride. Consider the lyrics: “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and Afros. I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.”)

On Monday’s Fox & Friends, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani criticized Beyonce’s black activism as inappropriate for a halftime show because, as the former mayor explained, half-time shows are a time when performers are supposed to be “talking to Middle America.” (Read: “White.”) The former mayor confessed that he would have preferred “decent wholesome entertainment.”

“I thought it was really outrageous that she used [the half-time show] as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive,” said Giuliani.

Of course, neither the song’s lyrics nor the singer’s energetic twerking addressed the specific and abiding problem of police brutality and killings.

And yet, amidst all the hoopla about Beyonce’s performance, I haven’t heard anyone complaining about Lady Gaga’s powerhouse rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The lyrics of this tune clearly constitute a major example of injecting “politics into a sporting event” – in this case a full-out celebration of war. (The US is the only country on Earth with a national anthem that contains the words “rockets” and “bombs.”)

To underscore the political message of this Half-Time kick-off event, Gaga’s stint began with a close-up of a line of soldiers holding wall of military flags as the announcer intoned: “And now, to honor America – and perform our national anthem – please welcome … Lady Gaga.” (Note: Placing “honor” before “performance” was a way of signaling that the musical event was intended as a stand-in for a collective “pledge of allegiance.”)

Lady Gaga went on to perform the song in front of a massive American flag that covered more than 30 yards of the midfield and required at least 56 people to hold it in place.

From the start of the video clip to Gaga’s last note consumes about 2:48 minutes. Nearly one-quarter of the clip was saturated with pro-military imagery, including: military standard bearers, a close-up of a saluting marine, a live scene of US troops standing at attention and saluting inside a building in some unnamed foreign country currently occupied by US troops, a close-up of a military drum pounding as Gaga reached her crescendo and, finally, a smoke-trailing fly-over by a half-dozen F/A-18 fighter jets in Blue Angel formation.

At this point, the announcer could have offered a the following public service message: “The US Department of Health and Human Services has asked us to advise you that the Blue Angels jets are powered by JP-5 propellant, a refined kerosene product that contains known carcinogens that can damage the kidney, liver and immune system.”

The announcer might also have informed the crowd that: “Each Blue Angels jet burns 1,200 gallons of jet fuel per hour. At a cost of $10.32 per gallon, flying a team of six jets for an hour of preparation and a few brief seconds of intense fly-over entertainment costs taxpayers more than $74,300.”

Instead, the announcer offered the following (arguably politicized) salutation:

“Thanks to those sailors and marines and our troops serving around the globe.”

So if spectators watching from inside the Bowl—or at home over a bowl of nachos—thought Beyonce’s brigades of beret-wearing, clenched-fist-and-booty shaking backup dancers were too “political,” let’s just agree to call it “equal time.”

There were two teams vying for the crowd’s loyalty on the midfield on Sunday. On one side, the entire military-industrial-sports-infotainment complex. On the other side, a bunch of lithe and limber uppity women with a fractured message: We may dress and dance like sluts but we are the vanguard of a social revolution that, after decades of decline, is beginning to recover its voice.

Postscript:At the time of this writing, the Formation video was not publically available. Here is a link to the video. Discuss.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrCHz1gwzTo

Postscrpt #2: I’ve tracked down what appears to be the lyrics to Beyonce’s Superbowl anthem—and there is little here that can be described as “political.” There also is very little about racial pride. The lyrics are mostly boastful, arrogant and vulgar.

When, for example, Beyonce sings “I go hard, Get what’s mine, take what’s mine, I’m a star, I’m a star, Cause I slay,” it sounds like she’s channeling Trump, Kissinger ,or the Koch Brothers.

2 Responses

  1. Good piece, you had me until the last paragraph and post scipts. Which were unnecessary to the message of the article and came across as misogynistic, to say the least.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Translate To Any Language