In the lead up to Lady Gaga's Super Bowl halftime show, rumors began to spread that the NFL had begged her not include any "political statements" in her performance, after a season filled with players speaking out against police brutality and last year's incredible Lady Black Panthers-themed performance from Beyoncé. This year's headliner eventually came out and denied the rumors, but considering all the subtle anti-Trump moments in Lady Gaga's halftime performance, she certainly didn't shy away from political commentary.
"The only statements that I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I’ve been consistently making throughout my career," Lady Gaga said at a news conference in Houston this week. "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 compassion and kindness."
Lady Gaga opened her 12-minute concert from the roof of Houston's NRG Stadium, singing a quick medley of "God Bless America" and "This Land Is Your Land" before reciting the closing words of the Pledge of Allegiance: "One nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Although this seemed patriotic on the surface, NPR noted that Woody Guthrie actually wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in dissent of the song "God Bless America," because he believed it wasn't inclusive enough and that it displayed a sort of nationalist possessiveness over America. Lady Gaga's opening, therefore, was widely interpreted as a pointed political statement in opposition to President Trump's immigrant ban and his general nationalist views.
Among the songs from the Lady Gaga cannon that made it into the performance was her 2011 LGBTQ+ civil rights anthem "Born This Way." This obvious statement of protest was especially satisfying, considering the most stridently anti-LGBTQ member of the Trump administration, Vice President Mike Pence, was himself in attendance at the Super Bowl.
Finally, one of the tenderer moments in Gaga's performance came when she hugged a crying fan during her ballad "Million Reasons." As she made her way along the front row of fans, reaching out to grasp their hands in solidarity while they held up torches in a pose reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty, she embraced one crying young woman of color (wearing a fire purple sequin bodysuit, by the way), singing "Why don't you stay?" It was subtle, but lifting up a woman of color and giving her visibility during the Super Bowl halftime show was absolutely a potent and powerful political statement in opposition to attacks on women's rights and black lives.
Ultimately, Lady Gaga succeeded at invoking the spirit of inclusivity with a series of anti-Trump political statements delivered directly in solidarity with the folks who needed to hear them most, and all while apparently flying under the radar of those who praised her for "not getting political." (Thinking face emoji.)