Although the Oxford College student body was largely disappointed by the outcome of Sunday night’s Super Bowl, there remains plenty to discuss beyond the Falcon’s upsetting loss. Lady Gaga’s rhinestone-studded halftime performance, watched by millions of Americans, raises important questions about the role of celebrities in political affairs.
In the weeks leading up to the performance, many shared hopes on social media that Gaga would make a political statement during her halftime show performance, particularly, that she would express discontent at Trump’s stance on LGBT+ and immigration issues. These hopes closely followed the Women’s March on Washington, wherein celebrities such as Beyoncé and Madonna advocated unapologetically for the rights of marginalized communities. Celebrity turnout at the march varied, however, as evidenced by the Taylor Swift fans angered by the singers absence from the march. The culmination of these events contributes to a larger narrative concerning the obligation – or lack thereof – that celebrities have to speak up about political issues.
The central question that emerge from this narrative is clear: do celebrities have an obligation to take a public stance and serve as advocates for their beliefs?
First of all, it is important to establish the degree to which Gaga’s performance did hold political implications. Although it was not as charged as Beyoncé and Madonna’s speeches just weeks ago, Gaga’s rhetorical choices were not devoid of meaning. The star began her performance by singing verses from “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” in front of blue and red drones, which soon transformed into an American Flag. She also sang a good portion of her hit “Born This Way,” which many regard as an anthem for the LGBT+ community. Lastly, her outfit revealed stomach fat that many female celebrities are quick to burn, cover, or airbrush. These three choices revealed slightly political implications, however, their discovery requires analysis that most viewers will not choose tackle. Overall, it seems that Gaga’s performance held some political meaning but shied away from anything that would generate considerable controversy.
It is also true that being a public figure has never necessitated issuing political statements. Gaga, however, has identified openly as an LGBT and anti-bullying advocate. As a self-proclaimed ally, who has taken steps towards helping marginalized communities in the past, there is a degree of obligation to speak up against injustice to ensure congruency. It would make sense then that this opportunity, especially considering the post-election political climate, would be one that begs for a clear statement to mobilize the masses.
Many noted that the Super Bowl is an inappropriate place to talk about politics anyway, citing that this event is meant to bring Americans together and serves as a well-deserved break from current events. This is not a requirement, however, as evidenced as Beyoncé’s performance last year which celebrated black femininity in a way often unseen in the media. Even if it meant going against the advice of agents and organizers, Gaga could have chosen to use her performance as a platform to express her discontent.
As the famous quote goes, “well-behaved women seldom make history.” Some well placed drones and careful song choices is a start, but during a time where political mobilization is crucial, Gaga should have done more to express her discontent. Her position in the limelight might even require it.
Image courtesy of The Telegraph