Essay Writing Samples

Research on the Symbolism of the Super Bowl Halftime Show

This sample essay explores the modern-day Super Bowl Halftime Show and its opulent nature why Ultius is the leader in academic content.”

Overview of the Super Bowl Halftime Show

To start with, then, the Super Bowl saw the Denver Broncos squaring off against the Carolina Panthers. The Broncos won the game, with a final score of 24 to 10. According to some commentators, the style of the game had a somewhat old-fashioned feeling to it. As Garber has written:

“Perhaps it was fitting that in the 50th Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers must have pulled on throwback jerseys—an ode to the early, run-heavy Super Bowl days. . . . Collectively, the two quarterbacks completed only 31 of 64 passes, were sacked 12 times and picked off twice” (paragraphs 2-3).

The game could thus be called a relatively slow one, with the defense of both teams being strong and both teams thus needing to work hard to make their way across the field and into the end zones.

Commercials during the sporting event

Perhaps it is also worth saying a couple words about the commercials that aired during the game as well, before turning attention to the main subject of the present essay. These advertisements were characteristically creative and innovative, as is generally the tradition for commercials aired during the Super Bowl. Butler and Judkins, for example, have discussed one advertisement involving avocados where:

“aliens are taking a tour of a museum of Earth’s history,” and another one where “Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen team up to create the Bud Light Party, uniting people over a shared love of beer.”

Of course, these advertisements are meant to sell products; but the level of innovation involved in the Super Bowl commercials often make them fascinating even at the purely aesthetic level. The show featured newcomers that displayed their artistic flare and Budweiser showed its master of advertising as a staple of Super Bowl advertisers.

Reflection on the Halftime show

Beyoncé’s performance in the Super Bowl halftime show was nothing if not controversial. This was primarily due to the fact that she strongly invoked racial ideology and politics within the context of her performance itself. As Carmanica has summarized the matter:

“maybe only Beyoncé is capable of walking the cultural tightrope of delivering a song with such potent declarations of black pride on a stage that prefers studied neutrality or, at the loudest, pure jingoism. She wore an outfit—black leather draped in gold—that recalled Michael Jackson militaria” (paragraph 5).

In other words, the Super Bowl is primarily known as an event that exemplifies the absolute mainstream of American culture, what with its focus on a quintessentially American sport and the invocations of patriotism that are often involved in at least some elements of the event. Beyoncé, however, took the opportunity to deliver a distinctly countercultural message to a very large audience.

Racial elements of the Halftime show

That message was primarily racial in nature. For example, Beyoncé—a Black woman—at one point invoked the Black Panthers: the militant organization associated with Malcolm X that is often understood as the more radical wing of the broader civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is perhaps amazing that Beyoncé was able to pull off such a thing and not cause a widespread scandal, and most commentators have simply attributed this to her natural charisma. As Battan has stated, for example:

“the performance didn’t feel purely like an act of subversion. Part of Beyoncé’s gift—and what has been necessary for her total dominance in the mainstream—is her ability to float provocative themes on giant platforms while retaining her megawatt star power appeal” (paragraph 4).

In short, the idea is that Beyoncé could pull this off because she is Beyoncé: whereas it would have been impossible for someone else, it was very much possible for her. Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance did not go wholly unmarked by scandal, however. For example, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, has been quoted by Chokshi as declaring the following:

“This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and keep us alive” (paragraph 3).

This was a reference to the fact that Beyoncé’s performance hearkened back to the Black Panthers of the 1960s and beyond, who are notorious for having engaged in something more or less resembling a street war with police forces, on the grounds that the police forces were antagonistic toward the well-being of Black communities within the nation.

Beyoncé’s tribute to that period of racism in America, then, could be read as an implicit insult against police forces, insofar as it suggests that she allies herself with the Black Panthers. But this is, of course, a rather subtle cue that may have been altogether ignored by many viewers who just wanted to enjoy Beyoncé’s music. In order to understand why her tribute may have touched such a nerve in Giuliani and others who share his worldview, it is necessary to turn to an analysis of the significance of Beyoncé’s performance within the context of contemporary events within American society.

Sociological analysis of the Super Bowl Halftime Show

Very recent American history has been marked by a string of deaths of young Black men at the hands of police officers. Sanchez, for example, has indicated the following regarding the death of Eric Garner, in the town of Ferguson, Missouri:

“To them [the Black community], Ferguson is just the latest reminder that the American criminal justice system doesn’t treat blacks and whites the same—and that young black man, in particular, are often killed with impunity” (paragraph 5).

This perception has been reinforced by the fact that the justice system has proven to be rather reluctant to hold the relevant police officers responsible for their actions, possibly out of fear that this would only catalyze rebellion by legitimizing the concerns of the Black community. This issue has by no means been resolved and must be understood as one of the most pressing problems on the contemporary American political scene.

This situation, for example, has produced the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter has described itself in the following terms:

“#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year-old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experience of Black people in this country who actively resist our de-humanization in this country, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action” (paragraph 1).

This statement is based, of course, on the political position that racism is still very much alive and well within the United States, and that Black people within the United States continue to be subjected to systematic discrimination by the structures of the dominant society.


In summary, the present essay has consisted of a discussion of the symbolism that was present within the fiftieth Super Bowl halftime show. The main point that has been made here is that Beyoncé took the opportunity of her performance in order to make a radical political statement that is quite resonant with contemporary issues regarding racial justice within American society. Thanks to her, then, an event that is generally considered to be just pure entertainment was able to evolve into something substantially more than that.

Works Cited

Battan, Carrie. “Beyoncé Sacks the Super Bowl Halftime Show.” New Yorker. 8 Feb. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. super-bowl-halftime-show.

Black Lives Matter. “About the Black Lives Matter Network.” Author, 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

Butler, Bethonie, and Maura Judkis. “The 10 Best Commercials of Super Bowl 50.” Washington Post. 8 Feb. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. entertainment/wp/2016/02/08/the-10-best-commercials-of-super-bowl-50/.

Caramanica, Jon. “Review: It’s Coldplay, Starring Beyoncé, at Super Bowl Halftime Show.” New York Times. 7 Feb. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. sports/football/beyonce-coldplay-super-bowl-halftime-show.html?_r=0.

Chokshi, Niraj. “Rudi Giuliani: Beyoncé’s Halftime Show Was an ‘Outrageous’ Affront to Police.” Washington Post. 8 Feb. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

Garber, Greg. “Best and Worst of Super Bowl 50.” ESPN. 8 Feb. 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

Kornhaber, Spencer. “Beyoncé’s Radical Halftime Statement.” The Atlantic. 9 Feb. 2016.Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

Sanchez, Ray. “Why Ferguson Touched a Raw, National Nerve.” CNN 29 Nov. 2014. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

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