There were the child-performers who rose from below-stage in what looked like small cages, albeit ones they could dance out of, unlike the child migrants Trump’s administration has locked up on the US southern border.
There was the way J. Lo wrapped herself in the flag (or a suitably fabulous Versace tulle-and-fur version of it) as her 11-year-old-daughter sang Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen’s famous protest song, often mistaken as a patriotic cry.
J. Lo flipped the coat to reveal its other side – the Puerto-Rican flag, Puerto Rico being the country of her parents and the American colony Trump has been accused of treating with contempt, particularly following 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
Shakira, whose paternal heritage is Lebanese, sprinkled her performance with celebrations of Arab culture like the zaghrouta ululation and belly-dancing.
This year the Super Bowl was held in Miami, Florida, which has a 70 per cent hispanic population, and much of the show was sung in Spanish. The two male acts who appeared – both Latino rappers – were support acts to the women.
It was political, but it was also a shout of joy in a dark time. Sometimes quite literally – the Children’s Chorus of Miami, a troupe of little girls led by J. Lo’s daughter Emme, rose from the darkness to sing the chorus of J. Lo’s 1999 hit Let’s Get Loud.
For a moment we saw a vision of a world where little girls are allowed to get loud, and it was glorious.
Some tabloid moralists clutched their pearls and declared J. Lo’s crotch was too prominent, or too visible, or something, and to be fair, there was a mesmerising moment when she slid daringly on her knees, hips jutted forward, and hurtled towards the camera, her crotch coming at us like a fast-moving star.
But far from being offensive, J. Lo’s brazen crotch-pride formed a brilliant riposte to the America she was critiquing from on high – a country led by a man who has openly boasted about grabbing that very part of women’s anatomy.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said in the notorious “pussy-grabbing” Access Hollywood tape.
“Just try,” J. Lo seemed to be saying.
The National Football League is a famously conservative and white institution, despite the fact that more than 70 per cent of its athletes are black.
It has been criticised for its response to the peaceful protests of player Colin Kaepernick, the player who started a movement when he dropped to one knee during the national anthem, as a protest against police brutality against black men.
The ensuing criticism of Kaepernick was comparable to the sickening treatment meted out in Australia to Indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes, except that Trump also piled in.
Kaepernick was not re-signed by his team, was shunned by the league and last year settled a lawsuit against the NFL and its owners. Pop stars Rihanna and Cardi B refused to have any association with the league because of the treatment he received.
So how did such pointed political critique elbow its way into such an institution? The short answer is Jay Z – rap mogul and Beyonce consort – did it.
Last year Jay Z’s company Roc Nation, which is mostly a record label but has a division dedicated to social justice for black and marginalised Americans, formed a partnership with the NFL.
Jay Z was accused of selling out Kaepernick (whose protests he publicly supported) and allowing his personal capital to be exploited by a conservative institution in need of some good publicity.
He told The New York Times he could “take a couple rounds of negative press” in the context of “real people … being hurt and marginalised and losing family members”.
Jay Z asked the NFL to put $100 million towards social justice outreach. He made sure a short film about police brutality against black men was played during the game.
And then, he gave America that hip-shaking, barn-storming, sequin-bright show.
Jay Z’s collaboration was an argument in favour of effecting change from within the system, of working with the perceived enemy, without denigrating others’ approach.
Of Kaepernick, Jay Z said respectfully: “We are two adult men who disagree on the tactic but are marching for the same cause.”
And sometimes you can still protest from within the tent.
Jay Z and Beyonce watched the show from a box. When the national anthem was played, they did not stand up.
Jacqueline Maley is a senior journalist, columnist and former Canberra press gallery sketch writer for The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2017 she won the Peter Ruehl Award for Outstanding Columnist at the Kennedy Awards