Here’s the thing about Lady Gaga: she’s a proud bisexual woman and openly champions LGBTQ causes. Just her showing up to play the Pepsi Halftime Show at the most-watched sporting event in America was a political act in itself. But if you thought the politics began and ended with the conciliatory act of not bailing, then you weren’t watching—or listening.
If you put aside the overall spectacle—not to diminish the value of her costumes, acrobatics or ability to stay on pitch while flying in a harness over thousands of people—this was a ridiculously political performance. She opened with a medley of classic Americana (“God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land”) before moving into the Pledge of Allegiance; all as twinkling lights took the shape of the American flag above the stadium. Lady Gaga looked directly into the camera during the middle of the Super Bowl and emphasized the line “with liberty and justice for all.” And then she dove (literally) into her performance.
Backed with an army of diverse dancers, and surrounded by a multicultural crowd of adoring fans, Gaga took on the political climate of America. She opened her set with “Poker Face,” which gives a shout-out to Texas—and prior to her coming out, was long-rumored to be a song that hinted at her bisexuality. Some people just heard a banger from 2008, but others knew what was up. After that, she transitioned into “Born This Way,” a 2012 song that could not be any more blatant about diversity and pride.
She masterfully crafted a performance that would fly under the radar of those she didn’t need to reach.
Vice President Mike Pence, who was there in the audience, has a history of backing anti-LGBTQ causes. So Gaga charged the stage and sang a gay anthem. The VP was right there! In the crowd, watching the Super Bowl! And he witnessed a dazzling, 30-year-old woman cheering for self-love and acceptance. “Born This Way,” which features hooks like “Don’t be a drag/Just be a queen” and proclaims “God makes no mistakes,” encourages people from across the globe to embrace who they are. The Trump administration is still working to resurrect the “definitely not a Muslim ban,” while numerous members of the Cabinet insist that their religious beliefs dictate (and protect) their need to draft harmful legislation against women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. So, Lady Gaga, with all eyes on her, directly challenged that.
Between Gaga’s abs, sparkling outfits and aerial stunts, it’s understandable if you didn’t get the message. She had a keytar! She sang “Telephone,” her collab with Beyoncé, and had us all momentarily flip that a pregnant Queen Bey would make a third appearance on the Super Bowl stage. Over the course of her set, Gaga revisited past looks and brought back some of her iconic video choreography. She worked the crowd without breaking a sweat. She stayed on pitch while flying over a football stadium and never seemed out of breath. She knew what she was doing.
Lady Gaga is a legend for a reason. She knew that millions would appreciate her performance for what it was—a bigass stadium gig—but millions more would be looking to her as a source of neon light in these increasingly dark times. For every person who thought, “I’m so happy she left politics out of it,” 10 more people felt self-actualized by watching the halftime performer tell them they’re beautiful as they are.
So, yeah, Boston is battling its repuation as being a pretty racist city, and Patriots QB Tom Brady is a proud supporter of President Trump. Plus, the Super Bowl aired on Fox this year, pretty much the only station that Trump still supports. Lady Gaga could have stopped the show and insisted that everyone watching begin to dismantle America’s oppressive white patriarchy and that she wouldn’t sing another note until someone had punched the Vice President somewhere painful—but she didn’t. Instead, she masterfully crafted a performance that would fly under the radar of those she didn’t need to reach, but mean everything to those she did. And god damn, those abs.
Watch it again here.