Super Bowl LI: Entertainment or Protest?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Did the Super Bowl Become a Venue for a Demonstration?

The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated annual sporting events there is. Millions watch each year providing a perfect venue for corporations and businesses to advertise their products and services. However, this year had a noticeable difference. Companies like Budweiser, 84 Lumber, and Airbnb have decided to subtly, or not so subtly, share a message — a message in protest of the new presidential administration.

Budweiser decided to break with tradition this year and not use the Clydesdale horses. Instead, their commercial tells the fictional story of Aldolphus Busch, an immigrant who came to the U.S. to create the brand’s now popular beer. Is it a poke at the stricter immigration laws or a corporation proud of one of their founders’ entrepreneurial spirit? Their timing and choice of topic are certainly interesting.

Then there’s the building materials company, 84 Lumber, and their emotional commercial. The end of the story, deemed too controversial to be aired, can be viewed on their website. It begins with a mother and daughter from Mexico who treks across their country, only to encounter an enormous wall. The emotional mother, realizing there was no way to climb the wall, breaks down only to have her daughter comfort her by giving her mother a handmade American flag. Only when they embrace does the mother notice light coming from around the corner of the wall. They rush to it, finding enormous doors that a construction worker built with 84’s lumber. The mother and daughter swing the doors open to freedom with the message emblazoned on the screen, “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” This seems like an obvious message against the Trump administration, but according to a tweet by the company, it is a symbolic tale of people becoming legal American citizens.

Airbnb decided not to be subtle in their message. In the ad, you see the message “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept. #weaccept,” while faces of different genders and races fade in and out of the screen. On their website, the slogan “We believe in a world where anyone can belong,” is emblazoned across the top of the page. They also started the Twitter campaign with various tweets on the acceptance of all people. There really isn’t any denying that their message is a direct protest to proposed legislation. Whether the American people accept it or not remains to be seen. But did the protest stop there?

At halftime, Lady Gaga, who is known to be controversial, put on a show like no other. Starting out with a passionate rendition of “God Bless America,” she deftly weaves in the chorus of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” a song rife with an activist history. Woody wrote this song in sarcastic retaliation of “God Bless America” that was very popular at the time. The song represents Guthrie’s love of the ordinary man and his love of our country. Over the years it has become a symbol often used in protests against the rich and powerful. Did Lady Gaga choose this as a covert message? Let’s look further into her performance.

When she recites part of the Pledge of Allegiance, “… one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” drones form a light display representation of the American flag. After diving onto stage Lady Gaga sings “Born This Way,” one of her own songs about acceptance, while a diverse group of dancers whirl across the stage. Even the lights that the audience had on the field were reminiscent of Lady Liberty’s torch. At the end of her song “Million Reasons,” she sings “…why don’t you stay…” while hugging a girl of possible Middle Eastern descent.

Could this all be a subtle protest? It would appear that her message is about unity, inclusion, and acceptance of all, something she has always advocated. Interpretation is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Despite the possible messages of championing those who have been bullied, there was still entertainment to be found, and she obviously didn’t offend too many viewers as Billboard Magazine reported her music sales increased over a whopping 1000 percent!

The evening’s entertainment unfolded in a roller coaster of emotions, not just from the intense ending of the football game, but everywhere in between. No matter your viewpoint, it was a night not soon to be forgotten.


Originally published Feb 14, 2017/Odyssey

Lisa Mildon

Lisa Mildon is an offbeat geeky wordsmith, storyteller, and founder of Creatively Caffeinated. She has extensive editing and writing experience in non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and technical writing. In 2018, she graduated Summa Cum Laude at SNHU in Creative Writing and English. Lisa loves PC gaming, science fiction and is obsessed with traveling. A self-professed Whovian, she aspires to write for the TV series and in books. With her husband, they have 3 rescues, 2 adorable Rat Terriers, and 1 fat cat.

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