Monday, February 8, 2016

What does it mean to be "All American"?

The Superbowl is not just for football fans anymore... it's for "Americans". The association between football and what it means to be "American" has only grown over the 50 years the Superbowl has taken place. In many cases the Superbowl is the only football game people watch all season. The Superbowl is not only about football, its about consumerism. Superbowl ads have become some of the highest paid for ads of the entire year. Some people choose to watch the Superbowl solely because of these ads. Others choose to watch because of the highly expensive Superbowl halftime show. This years halftime show played out many different scripts, including those of gender,race and sexuality. This years performers included headliner Coldplay as well as two previous Superbowl performers Beyonce and Bruno Mars. The more discrete script playing out here is gender. Both of the male performers were dressed wrist to ankle, meanwhile Beyonce was dressed in a black leather leotard with fishnet stockings and a black garter.  


We already know women are sexualized in American culture, so it comes with no surprise that they are sexualized at the biggest American sporting event. Besides gender, there is also a race script taking place. Both Beyonce and Bruno Mars are considered to be of minority backgrounds.  These two performers and their dancers all wore black leather outfits with gold trims. There has been speculation that these outfits were created with a specific purpose in mind, to support the Black Lives Matter Movement. The outfits were inspired by the Black Panthers, a political group associated with Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement.  This performance has a powerful message and stance, especially for someone to take at the all American Superbowl. Personally I believe this is a message that needs to be heard, and displaying it clearly at a widely watched sporting event like the Superbowl ensures millions will hear it. 

Unfortunately since we live in a white male dominated society, there has been much scrutiny and backlash about the performance and its intentions. Many used the belief that a "simple" sporting event is no place to take a political stance... but isn't it? Football is supposedly the "all American" sport, so what exactly does it mean to be "all American"? Clearly what it doesn't mean is all inclusive. In addition a sexuality script was also played out by the headliner Coldplay, whose lead singer dressed in black and white clothing with rainbow colored embellishments. The rainbow colors have long been a symbol of the LGBT community, to help promote equality and acceptance. Throughout his performance he incorporated various rainbow colored props with a strong message attached during the finale, "believe in love". 

Now all of these messages are those of equality. However they are being presented in the arena of American football where equality has not been the top priority. So what does this mean for the football community and its followers? Are we changing the idea of what it means to be "all American"? Or will the reactions and backlash of the performances show us otherwise? 

Emily Castonguay 


  1. I would argue that both are happening simultaneously. As someone who a avid fan of the BBPFSD and their politics and philosophies I was both appalled and appreciative of Beyonce's choice of aesthetics in regards to her performance. The overt sexuality in the celebration of the BPP's 50 year existence is... problematic. The links to the LBGT community are, in my opinion, a response to Michael Sam. The backlash will continue because these are counter cultural to what is and has been the normative in this current state of how "society" operates

  2. I don't think we will see more backlash than before from these performances during the halftime show because it has all been seen before. In 1993, Michael Jackson put on a performance singing some of his major hits, including Jam, Billie Jean, Black or White, We are the World and Heal the World. All of these songs promote a huge message of love for all. This happened 23 years ago, so what we saw on Sunday wasn't really new. In comparison, the 3 performers from 2016 gave a very similar message to the American people. There will always be backlash, no matter who the performer is or what message they are giving, but I don't think it will be worse than before.

  3. I completely agree with your comment about the display/homage Beyonce put on forcing people to pay attention and see it. Unfortunately, they will only truly see the point she is trying to make if they understand and have the knowledge. An impressive number of people do not even know who the BPP are and therefore will not know it is their 50th anniversary. As for the rest of your blog post, I am in complete agreement. I think you raised a lot of good and thought-provoking points.

  4. In what ways are media performances leading edges for discussions in human rights and equality? Beyonce's performance and message(se) were broadcast in living rooms and bars across the world.