SuperBowl performances and commercials rejected Donald Trump’s dark vision of America in several moments that embraced values of inclusivity, tolerance, and diversity — and never even had to mention him by name in the process.
“It started with the Schuyler Sisters from the musical Hamilton—Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones—singing ‘America the Beautiful’ and adding the word “sisterhood”—as in “crown thy hood in brotherhood and sisterhood”—to the lyrics,” writes Dave Zirin in The Nation.
“Given the women’s marches that exploded after the Trump inauguration, given that Vice President Mike Pence was in a VIP box, and given Pence’s own history of being rebuked at the musical Hamilton last November, it was difficult to see the performance as anything but a highly choreographed shot to the solar plexus of this White House.”
Grammy-winning singer Lady Gaga — herself an openly-bisexual, LGBT activist who couldn’t be more at odds with the views of Pence and the rest of the Trump Administration — began her halftime performance with refrains from “America the Beautiful” and “This Land Is Your Land.”
The latter song, written by legendary American folk singer Woody Guthrie, has seen a resurgence at pro-refugee, pro-immigrant rallies at airports in recent days. Last Friday, one Iranian-American man, who had initially been barred from entering the US due to Trump’s Muslim ban, was serenaded with the song by a crowd of supporters after arriving at LAX.
As Zirin notes, with lyrics like, “As I went walking I saw a sign there / And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing.’ / But on the other side it didn’t say nothing, / That side was made for you and me,” the significance of the song “is unmistakable” since Trump has assumed office and issued a series of unconstitutional executive orders targeting immigrants, refugees, and Muslims.
But, as is with most SuperBowls, the commercials made the biggest waves last night. While Coca-Cola initially aired its ad featuring a multilingual, multiethnic performance of “America the Beautiful” several years ago, it took on newfound prominence in the Trump Era.
Airbnb’s commercial — which actually premiered several days ago before the game — also featured images of America’s diversity and ended with a rebuke of Trumpism: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong.”
Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” ad featured the immigration story of German co-founder Adolphus Busch. While the ad takes place in the 19th century, the cries of “Go back home!” directed at Busch in the clip are all-too-familiar for many today.
But perhaps no ad had an effect like that of hardware chain 84 Lumber, which showed the story of an immigrant woman and her child making the arduous journey north to the United States.
According to reports, the full ad was deemed too controversial by Fox for featuring a border wall at the end. When the edited version appeared during the game, 84 Lumber redirected viewers to watch the full clip on their website, which then crashed from the number of viewers. The ad has since earned nearly four million views on YouTube.
— Udi Ofer (@UdiACLU) February 6, 2017
— Flavia jimenez (@flaviajim) February 6, 2017
— The Dream Defenders (@Dreamdefenders) February 6, 2017