are we so happy to be americans: the superbowl, race, and the artlessness of a quasi-facist state

dear readers,

whiz khalifa’s black and yellow couldn’t push the steelers to a win, but the lil wayne remix does make us feel better. who doesn’t feel good when some fresh art comes out? truly, the steelers closed wide gaps consistently, throughout the 31/25 game, including the gap between real and fake quarterback leadership.

to put the win in context, to dig deeper into what was at stake in this years superbowl, let us recall that green bay is a an overwhelmingly white city in wisconsin, 85.86% white according to the 2000 census. put it this way, there are more native americans in green bay than african americans. relatively, pittsburgh, pennsylvania is a chocolate city, 65.8% white and 26.5% black or african american. perhaps what we were watching was a staged spectacle of the “culture wars.” to be sure, the superbowl is a gladiator match unrivaled by any other popular culture sports event in the country. because football is almost exclusively an american sport, the superbowl can also be viewed as another notch in the every widening belt of american essentialism. a perfect kick off after the state of the union coin toss.

i watched the game with moms, dad, munna bhaiya (my cousin bro), kiran bhabi (his wife), my two nephews, mukta anti (my old hindi teacher), and her husband (“uncle”). moms made hot, smashing pakoras. dad heated up the pizza while singing to zee tv (indian cable channel). we watched avidly, hashed it out, noted with amazement how marshall faulk is already in the hall of fame (aztecs!), and i tactfully ignored anti as she talked to me during the half time show. so let me be clear that i am a superbowl fan.

but as a fan, is it also my role to engage, to push towards positivity? or does being a fan mean being passive, looking on in wonder as the spectacle shines for the camera? i find it fascinating that christina aguilera’s singing of the national anthem has been dissected and judged for small lyrical flub. so there’s no ramparts, so what? she sang the hell out of that song, and it was her version, which means it was her very duty as an artist to offer a rendition uniquely hers. recall jimi hendrix’s scene stealing version of the star spangled banner on his dream machine guitar. aguilera’s song stuck so close to the status quo and yet still, peep the reaction. reactionary, judgmental, are these qualities that are strengthening us as a citizenry? i would argue no. is it the responsibility of the media to be better, better to our artists, better for human relations? sure, especially when you consider that all airwaves are publicly owned, and only entrusted to media corporations by us.

quasi means fake, a little two face-ted. and under every facist regime, there was a tight control on art. on individualism. artists being the vanguard of individualism. unless and until the artists are conditioned and rewarded if they are helluv generic. now i like the black eyed peas. that tonight’s gonna be a good night is a banger on the floor and as a dj, i appreciate that. but they so damn safe. some would argue that this is the definition of pop. but i just can’t concede the idea that mass appeal has to be generic. i think people can be smart enough to appreciate shit that’s a little bit different, a break from the norm. but this smartness challenges an authoritarian nation state.

a colonizing war, and veterans, and shots from gulf all peppered the superbowl screen. i wonder what passive spectatorship means for us in light of a clear nerve that runs, alive, between global citizenship and fandom. is part of keeping the masses of america unlike the masses of egypt, that is keeping us controlled, feeding us heavily stylized stars and art?

peace,
roopa singh

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