We just witnessed the most dystopian Super Bowl ever - Rickey J. White, Jr. | RJW™
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We just witnessed the most dystopian Super Bowl ever

We just witnessed the most dystopian Super Bowl ever

Viewed in a vacuum—and while squinting—the overtime-determined Super Bowl LVIII was a thrilling game, with a well-curated selection of musical acts, punctuated by the most entertaining advertisements money can buy.

Taking in the entire picture, however, along with what was happening just beyond the frame, it was the most dystopian Super Bowl ever; a crass collision of celebrity, politics, religion, commerce, and the grim specter of death. (Even more so than usual!) Although brands may have gone the escapist route and the teams almost entirely refrained from making weighty statements, nobody watching could escape the overarching vibes of destabilization.

Like seemingly all things in 2024, it started and ended with Taylor Swift. The conspiracy theory about her endorsing Biden during the halftime show reached a pregame fever pitch, with Donald Trump declaring that Swift would be “disloyal” to him in doing so. Even in distancing themselves from the tinfoil-hat theory, GOP politicians including Marco Rubio still fed into it. Several other strange political moves were unfolding before the game, though.

Congressman Matt Gaetz announced he would boycott the event for the grossest reason imaginable: over Andra Day’s announced performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” unofficially known as the Black National Anthem. (Did nobody let him know the song has been performed before NFL games since 2020?) Perhaps Gaetz was just trying to divert attention away from, uh, some other stuff currently happening—like his Ethics Committee probe, which seems to be heating up.

Meanwhile, President Biden chose the big game to commemorate his big foray into the world of TikTok, with a Super Bowl-themed clip. It wouldn’t be long, however, until another 2024 presidential candidate stole the show.

Anti-vax all-star Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent $7 million for a Super Bowl ad aggressively echoing his uncle’s presidential campaign spot. While it may have left some fence-straddling viewers intrigued, it also infuriated some members of the Kennedy family, who found it distasteful. Specifically, they were upset that someone with such “deadly healthcare views” would lean so hard on the family’s political legacy. The immediate backlash created such an uproar, RFK Jr. ended up apologizing for the ad, and shifting blame for it to a Super PAC . . . even though the ad remained conspicuously pinned at the top of his Twitter feed well into Monday morning.

Along with politics, the night was larded with that other fraught topic nobody is supposed to discuss in polite company: religion.

Early into the game, a nonprofit called Come Near unleashed a parody-transcending campaign called He Gets Us, which went all-in on Jesus Christ’s reported fondness for washing feet. Were the ad’s many solemn images of people washing each other’s feet truly meant to move viewers toward acting more Christ-like in their daily lives? Or were they part of a cold calculation that counted on baffled social media users meme-ifying the WTF spot all night? And why not put the ad’s exorbitant cost toward something more likely to actually help people in need? These are the kinds of things viewers were left to consider while eating chicken wings next to their parents.

The only thing more surreal than the ad promoting Jesus was the commercial related to the Israel-Hamas War.

“In a roaring stadium, their silence is deafening,” proclaimed an ad from The State of Israel, promoting the safe return of hostages taken during Hamas’s brutal attack on October 7. On its surface, the message is an agreeable crowd-pleaser: Who among the average Super Bowl audience doesn’t want to see those hostages safely returned? It’s something even ardent critics of Israel’s response to October 7 tend to agree on. But the timing of the ad was utterly horrendous. It aired around the same time Israeli forces freed two hostages by launching an attack that Gaza officials say killed 67 Palestinians in the southern city of Rafah. Even worse, the city of Rafah is teeming with civilians who took refuge there because it was supposed to be a safe zone.

Because the attack played out while media and audience attention were so locked into the Super Bowl, millions of viewers likely came away from the game more aware of a reasonable, somber ad than a related war effort they might have otherwise been appalled by.

But only if they avoided social media after the game.

In the Super Bowl’s climactic conclusion, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw an overtime touchdown pass into an end zone embellished ironically with the words “END RACISM” over the team name, Chiefs. Following the predicted victory of Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s team, Team Biden capitalized on right-wing conspiracy theories about him with a cheeky post.

In a callback to the Dark Brandon meme, a laser-eyed Biden gloats about his successful plan to elevate potential endorser Travis Kelce to further prominence by engineering a Super Bowl win. At another time, it might have been kind of amusing—some lighthearted nose-thumbing at certain crackpot conservatives. Since a lot of people might have only been finding out about the attack on Rafah—a hypothetical that Biden had expressed concern about earlier in the day—as they were seeing the mega-viral post, the two things became inextricably linked.

Those able to turn away from the topic of war were left elsewhere with the sight of Beyoncé and Jay Z sharing a suite with Jack Dorsey—sporting a shirt promoting bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto—a Pfizer ad soundtracked by a Queen song, and all those memes inspired by the night’s biggest winner yelling at his own coach. It was such a bizarre affair overall that a streaker running out onto the field in the third quarter, and SpongeBob making a joke about Leonardo DiCaprio’s dating habits during Nickelodeon’s coverage of the event, barely managed to raise eyebrows.

Next month’s Oscars telecast is going to have to work pretty damn hard to compete with the Super Bowl in terms of sheer chaotic, Orwellian spectacle.

Hopefully, for the sake of our collective sanity, it won’t.

Source: Fast Company

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