Activisms will always be a part of human civilization. At the same time, entertainment is just as prominent throughout society, and generally gains more of the public spotlight. Latent audiences tend to want media that pleases them, rather than that which challenges or upsets them. Consequentially, social justice movements have historically been diminished in the public sphere because they address issues that many would rather not hear. However, it is crucial that publics are aware of the problems at hand. Exposure, education and productive dialogue about what ails our culture are necessary to improving how our society functions. This also ultimately affects every individual, and thus matters enough to be properly addressed in the mainstream media.
From a public relations perspective, there are fruitful opportunities in framing activist agendas with entertaining packaging. By promoting important messages through more digestible ways for audiences, activist movements can more effectively engage publics. A groundbreaking example of this is the February 2016 annual Super Bowl 50.
Beyonce performed her new new single, “Formation,” a song projecting support for African American civil rights, with visual references to the Black Panthers, Malcolm X and the Black Lives Matter Movement. It was a political statement heard across the world, and evidently the most radical Beyonce has ever accomplished in her 20-year career. In addition, Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z, promised a $1.5 million donation to the Black Lives Matter movement the previous Friday (Elgot, 2016). Beyonce and Jay-Z are arguably the most influential American entertainment celebrities of our time, and the Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event of the year. Combine these powerful figures and the Black Lives Matter movement is positioned with significant attention and credibility like it hasn’t seen before.
In addition to Beyonce’s political performance, Coldplay’s set featured LGBTQ pride themes. For the show, Levi’s stadium was lined with marriage-equality inspired rainbow waves that spelled out: “Believe In Love.” This is particularly relevant because just last year, in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal. However, with backlash against the decision still remaining by some populations, it was unanticipated that the Super Bowl would feature a pro-gay rights halftime performance.
The gay rights and Black Lives Matter movements have never before had spotlights as prominent like the Super Bowl provides. Some have found it inconceivable for the Super Bowl to express pro-gay and civil rights messages during the halftime show, but the decision has been groundbreaking for both entertainment and social justice campaigns. Countless viewers have sung praises for this revolutionary show, and many hope that media attention of this scale will continue to focus on issues that matter. Ultimately, the alliances between activist movements and mass media entertainment are mutually beneficial for both parties.