I was initially disappointed with Lady Gaga’s halftime show. It was typical rock star–spasmodic lights, crafted explosions, an ‘audience’ basically doing Simon Says. When she started with “America the Beautiful” I cringed. Melodramatic shows of patriotism usually make me gag because its reductive of America’s role in the world and the move, in this case, seemed to pander to uncritical conservatives.
Then there was the show itself, which was solid, but nothing memorable. No Nipplegate (2004) or M.I.A giving the finger (2013). No new music or surprise guest stars (Beyonce had both last year). For Gaga it was underwhelming: no bleeding dress (2009), no mermaid outfits (2013), no a capella spectacular (2015). All Gaga had were drones that flew into the U.S. flag and blinked. And she wasn’t, to the disappointment of conservatives, overtly political.
Then I realized that’s what made the performance — solid, American, uncontroversial and true — so brilliant. In her 13 minute overview of her greatest hits, she showed that a decidedly liberal person can be an unabashed patriot.
Before the performance, when asked whether she’d make a political statement, Gaga said she was going to continue with the values she’s held from the start of her career–inclusion, kindness, love. And in this performance she proved that. In the midst of incredibly divisive rhetoric, she showed the world that there are greater values that bring Americans together — equality, inclusion, a love of freedom for oneself and others.
Gaga transcended the bickering of which political party is more American. She simply embodied America’s best ideals. This has been her style to politics as far back as 2008. Instead of responding to detractors, she is her values. That clear-sighted commitment has made her untouchable by Trump (he’s yet to Tweet about her and probably won’t) and shown that democrats love this country just as much as republicans. It was a wise political move by Gaga, a model democrats can continue to draw inspiration from.