These are turbulent days in America, and even the Super Bowl can't escape the political drama.
The historically and intentionally non-offensive event( Exhibit A: Super Bowl XXIII's halftime show featuring the magician Elvis Presto) made a political high Sunday.
Remember the brouhahacaused by Beyonc's back-up dancers during last year's halftime depict, whose attires were at least partially inspired by the Black Panthers? Well, crank that up to 11 and you've got the disagreement cooked up by Sunday's game. Nothing is safe from 2017 ‘s political shitstorm.
The pregame pomp
Politics had already forced itself into the narrative before commencement when a former president performed the coin toss. George H. W. Bush's appearance seems innocent enough the Bushes have been residents of Houston, Texas, where the Super Bowl was played, for decades but it quickly became a harbinger of more politics to come.
Pushing the political envelope further was the pregame rendition of “America, The Beautiful” by Phillipa Soo, Rene Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones, who played the Schuyler sisters in the original Broadway cast of Hamilton.
In one of the song's final lines, “and crown thy good with brotherhood, ” the trio slipped in a shout-out to women by adding the word “sisterhood” to the song, a subtle statement in the wake of the humongous crowd at the recent Women's March, garnering cheers from the crowd and a few disgruntled head shakes from the usual suspects at Fox News.
The Trump factor
It was hard to escape Trump thanks to his pre-game interviews with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and with Westwood One radio's Jim Gray.
The annual tradition of a presidential Super Bowl sit-down started with Barack Obama in 2009, who certainly touched on his agenda during those chats. But those interviews didn't stir the disagreement pot like Trump is prone to do. The new chairwoman brought praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and trumpeted again his unfounded claim of voter scam during the election.
Trump was also part of the on-the-field narrative thanks to his relationship with the New England Patriots star quarterback, Tom Brady. We know about the red MAGA hat in Brady's locker, Brady's endorsement of Trump, and, yes, his more recent efforts to try to stay apolitical even as Trump just won't shut up about how much he loves Brady.
There is no way my friend Bob Kraft concurred not to appeal the NFL decision without making a deal to at least get something. We love Tom Brady
Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2015
Despite the connection between the new administration and the Patriots, tight end Martellus Bennet made it clear in a press conference in accordance with the Super Bowl that he isn't a Trump fan. Asked by reporters whether he is going to the White House as sports champions do, Bennet answered, “I'm not gonna go … it is what it is. People know how I feel about it, just follow me on Twitter.”
Then Bennett channeled the impressions of most Americans. He grew exasperated at the political questions and told reporters, “I just won the Super Bowl. I don't wanna talking here politics, I wanna talking here winning the Super Bowl.”
Social Media's election flashback
Football fans couldn't help using the Patriots as something of an avatar for Trump.
If you bought into the Patriots-as-Trump theme, then it was hard to deny the parallels between the Super Bowl and Election Night. The Atlanta Falcons blew what was a apparently insurmountable late result. It seemed impossible for the Patriots to win, but win they did and Twitter was feeling uncomfortable deja vu .
At least the Falcons won the popular vote
Nate Silver (@ NateSilver5 38) February 6, 2017
Ok everyone, last call for Super Bowl/ Election jokes.
Jon Favreau (@ jonfavs) February 6, 2017
Lady Gaga's subtle shade
In the wake of Lady Gaga's stellar performance, the jury seemed split on whether or not she had actually been political. Some fans even complained about what they perceived as a lack of political outrage from Gaga.
Gaga? Not political enough
Stephanie Alfaia (@ Steph_alfaia) February 6, 2017
But Gaga is a professional with a new( ish) album to hawk and, whadaya know, a big, international stadium tour on the horizon, which she announced just after her performance. She also knows that overtly criticizing the president on the biggest broadcasted stage of the year would achieve little other than playing into a narrative her critics were expecting.
Instead, Gaga took a subtler tone that still packed a political punch, even if it sailed over the heads of many Americans. For instance, in her pre-taped opening on top of the NRG Stadium roof Gaga slipped in a verse of “God Bless America” followed by a verse of Woody Guthrie's “This Land is Your Land.”
While the verse Gaga sang seems innocuous enough, Guthrie, a politically-minded folk singer in the first half of the 20 th century who paved the route for the likes of Bob Dylan, wrote “This Land is Your Land” in 1940 as an angry, progressive reply to what he saw as overstated jingoism in Irving Berlin's “God Bless America, ” a anthem that Guthrie hated.
His original lyrics even included a reference to a big wall.
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.'
But on the backside, it didn't say nothing.
This land was attained for you and me.
And if that's not political enough for you, consider that Gaga sang “Born This Way, ” an anthem celebrating diversity and the LGBT community, with Vice President Mike Pence, notorious for his anti-LGBT agenda, in attendance.
Even the ads are political , now
Most Super Bowl ads are about celebrities selling us chips or hyping summer blockbusters, but this year things got interesting. Previous Super Bowl ads have not been devoid of political disagreement, but with Sunday's game coming in the wake of Trump's de facto Muslim travelling banning, some companies took the theme of resistance to heart.
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It's A 10 Haircare took a more humorous approach but still dragged Trump into the commercial breach by trolling the president over his hair.
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Ads that didn't necessarily have an agenda were given a different context thanks to the current political environment. A Coca-Cola commercial that originally ran in 2014 aired just before video games and whipped up anger in the new Trump-spun political climate because it used a multilingual version of “America, The Beautiful.”
Then there was Budweiser's ad about its German immigrant cofounder, Adolphus Busch. Though the company says any relation to current events is purely coincidental, it stirred up enough dispute to launch a poorly-spelled online boycott menace from those who found its pro-immigrant message galling.
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Even an ad that Fox, the network broadcasting the game, forced to undergo changes because the original was deemed “too political” “ve managed to” make an impact after tweaks. Lumber 84 ‘s ad was rejected in January because it featured international borders wall up its tale of a Mexican woman and her daughter who trek to the United States.
The company operated a revised 90 -second spot during the game that directed viewers online to watch the conclusion( which does include a border wall ). The interest in the video was so overwhelming, Lumber 84 ‘s site temporarily crashed from the load of would-be viewers.
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The political nature of this year's Super Bowl proves once again that we've entered a new epoch, one where separating politics from culture will be increasingly difficult.