In 2015, the internet fell in love with a Super Bowl halftime hero. It wasn’t headliner Katy Perry, or special guests Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott, who were also attached to the show. It was Left Shark, a costumed backup dancer who won hearts with offbeat, out-of-sync dance moves. Now that Super Bowl 51 has passed, we finally have a meme mascot to rival Left Shark: Lady Gaga herself, the headliner for 2017’s spectacle.
During her 13-minute performance, Gaga — dressed to kill in a changing wardrobe of sparkling, shining costumes — catapulted from the stadium ceiling, wriggled her way to the stage suspended on strings, and performed a mix of Peter Pan-esque acrobatics and signature dance moves. There were smoke screens, drones, glow sticks, and many, many memorable moments. The internet has run wild with them.
There are several ways to parse Gaga’s performance. First, her outfit choices, which make her look like an escapee from a science fiction saga or a superhero reboot I would want to watch.
It’s also hard to overstate the impression of her initial descent. That moment has drawn comparisons to a Simpsons spoof and Mission: Impossible, among other things.
And then there are the more abstract jokes, like a perfect visualization of how to slide into someone’s DMs, or the best way for your loved ones to honor you in death.
Left Shark was a phenomenon birthed by the power of the internet. Without a keen eye and dedicated memeing, it never would have become rabidly popular. But Lady Gaga’s talent and outrageous reputation will long outlive even the internet’s best jokes. She’s already famous for outlandish moves: arriving at the Grammy’s in an egg, wearing a statement meat dress, releasing so many bizarre music videos that her wildest move now is to go “normal.” The stunts of her Super Bowl halftime show are a manufactured part of her image; even the jokes we make are still playing with a set of cards she’s dealt us.
An artist who ends one of the year’s most-watched TV performances with a literal mic drop and an airborne glitterball catch is hard to parody. Lady Gaga is already the most bombastic version of herself. All we can do is try to keep up.