Lady Gaga will play the Super Bowl Halftime Show tomorrow afternoon, a slot so coveted and high-profile that the artists involved don't get paid. This year, with a racist, misogynistic WWE Hall of Famer in the White House, and the eyes of the world (okay, mostly just America) fixed on the football, there's the reasonable assumption flying around that Mother Monster's set might make some sort of (God forbid) statement (the terror!) about our current cultural crisis.
In an interview on Friday afternoon, Gaga suggested, somewhat evasively, that she might end up doing something that Fox News deems controversial because, well, she has a sense of decency. "I believe in a passion for inclusion. I believe in the spirit of equality, and that the spirit of this country is one of love and kindness," she told the press. "My performance will uphold those philosophies."
Inclusion? Equality? Love and Kindness? America? Fuck that, says Bill Whittle, a man who seems to have been planted on conservative talk shows by central casting as a sort of long-game Joaquin Phoenix in I'm Still Here experiment. As the NME first reported, Whittle turned up on NRA TV yesterday to explain why all of these things might make people feel scared and why, in the end, Gaga should perform a set that is… I guess… exclusive, unequal, hateful, unkind, and un-American?
(If you can't view the video, click here).
There are a couple of straightforward falsehoods in Whittle's rambling. First of all, his notion that "Colin Kaepernick is responsible for a 15% drop in ratings" for the NFL is the worst kind of scapegoating. Over and over again, studies and polls have shown that people turned off from the NFL at the start of this year for a number of reasons, not least that the games just really sucked for a while. A black man respectfully taking a knee during the anthem didn't drive away millions of viewers. And if it did (which it didn't) what on earth were those viewers so scared of?
But here, in case you don't feel inclined to watch the video, is the core of Whittle's inanity:
I can remember days when Michael Jackson or somebody would do the Super Bowl and politics didn't enter into it because they understood that they're performing for the entire nation and not for the staff at MSNBC. I think if Lady Gaga comes out there and makes this an anti-Trump tirade, I think that's really the final step of the declaration of war between our pop culture people and the actual citizens. This is not the Kennedy Awards. This isn't the Oscars. This is the Super Bowl where real Americans get together and have a real fun day and the last thing they want to hear is how stupid and racist they are.
It doesn't take more than a half-second to realize who it is that Whittle considers a "real American." And it's insulting that Whittle thinks that anyone who looks like him would be upset by inclusivity. The real question here, though, is over what Gaga would have to do to appease shaken, scared men like Whittle. Gaga's strong fanbase in the LGBTQ community and her flamboyant aesthetic will be seen as a "political statement;" a dance troupe filled with non-white faces will be seen as a "political statement;" anything that she does, short of dressing head-to-toe in the red white and blue, quoting from The Art of the Deal, and then solemnly leaving, will be seen as a righteous middle-finger to Trump and his ilk. (Or would that just come off as a very strong protest? Hard to tell).
Lady Gaga as an artist is naturally opposed to Trumpism, just as "pop culture people," who tend to rely on on freedom of expression, art, and differing viewpoints, cannot structurally fall in line with our new grotesque regime. What exactly men like Whittle are expecting tomorrow is a mystery. But they sure can't wait to be outraged.
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