I’m not a football fan, but like many Americans with connections to football lovers, I end up seeing some portion of teh Big Game on Superbowl Sunday. I remember watching the famous original Mac ad and feeling goosebumps; also remember a lot of forgettable halftime shows before the halftime show turned into A Major Vegas Production.
And oh yeah, I do always catch a few plays. For me, watching the game itself is usually more about “did they do something I can marvel over athletically” rather than who’s actually scoring the points (I reserve caring about the points for Oregon Duck games, primarily the Big Bowl Games. Even then I tend not to watch just because I’m superstitious about jinxing The Game).
Gotta say, this year I didn’t get disappointed. I was amongst those eager to see what Madonna would turn out for the Super Bowl halftime show. I’m an unapologetic Madge fan, have liked her for years not just because of her clear love for music and dance but because she’s one of those sassy tough females who has been in charge of her own life for a long time. Sometimes her choices are–well–not the choices I’d make but still? All good in the long run.
So when the first strains of “Vogue” broke out and I spotted the gladiators, I broke out laughing with joy. Because it was clearly a lovely little Madonna twist on some of the biggest Super Bowl tropes out there. Roman numerals? Check. Football players as gladiators? OH HELL YEAH. Love letter to the cheerleaders? Yep. Tongue planted firmly in cheek the whole time, a nicely ironic combination of the Midwestern girl paying homage to one of her daddy’s favorite traditions while lovingly putting a snarky twist on it. Madonna singing (some lip synch, clearly a couple of moments though where the mic was cutting out. Stuff happening) and dancing and, y’know? Not too bad for a 53-year-old with a hamstring issue.
Was she chewing on the scenery? Girl, you betcha. Come on, that’s part of the whole performance! When I see a Madonna performance I expect an over-the-top spectacle which integrates scenery, costuming, images, song and dance. Sometimes it flops, and sometimes it works. Madonna always plays with her sexuality and sometimes the choices are rather like a not-so-good date. But you know, that’s what happens when you choose the role of the sexual trickster firmly in control of your own sexuality. Sexuality is not always predictable and sometimes things just don’t work.
That didn’t happen on Sunday. The songs came out pretty well (didn’t hurt that her old favorites were some of my old favorites), she had great guest performers, the dancers….happy sigh…and it was quite lovingly and ironically over the top. No, it wasn’t all red white and blue I-luv-Amerika-mindlessly-let’s-play-Nuremburg-visuals game that some folks really wanted to see. I’m not a fan of such spectacles just because that kind of mindless patriotic froth sends me wanting to run the other way. It reminds me too damned much of the Third Reich, and that’s not the country I want to be a part of.
My form of patriotism showed up in the Clint Eastwood commercial. Quiet. Proud. Acknowledging the hardships and talking about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, working together, and moving on. As a team. No fireworks, no huge spectacle, no waving flags. Just calm, let’s-get-the-job-done, no heroics, no flash.
And anyone who has a problem with that has a problem with working America. Spectacles are all well and good in their proper place, but they don’t get the job done. The Eastwood commercial to me reflected a lot of what is good about the US and why it’s good. We were built on a foundation of independent thinkers and hard-working folks from many different ethnic, cultural and religious traditions who came together cooperatively to build something bigger than we could on our own. Maybe it’s time we reached back to that community cooperative tradition in our civic lives, instead of embracing the I-Got-Mine Go-Galt libertarian worship of the Independent Man who treads on the lesser folk around him.
In many ways, the Madonna-Eastwood coupling was oh-so-reflective of what’s best about the American tradition. I’m still unpacking this thought, so enough for now…but let’s just say that I liked them both.
What do you think?
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