Inaugural balls are usually thrown for the winners. After an extended, hard-fought marketing campaign, the newly elected leaders, their households and their supporters have an opportunity to decorate up and luxuriate in themselves.
This, like so many issues on this pandemic, was not going to occur this yr. As a substitute, “Celebrating America,” the star-filled Inauguration Day particular that aired throughout a number of networks, took the occasion nationwide.
This meant, for starters, that the ambiance was far much less partylike. The massive cause was written in lights: the Reflecting Pool memorial, in honor of America’s Covid useless, that confronted the opening act Bruce Springsteen from his nighttime stage on the Lincoln Memorial. The tone was not one in every of a victory bash a lot as a morale increase.
Which isn’t to say “Celebrating America” was apolitical. It centered and valorized President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who have been in actual fact the candidates of 1 occasion that defeated one other in a bitterly fought (and violently contested) election.
It didn’t require you to be completely happy that they gained, however it did a minimum of assume you have been able to being completely happy for them. Likely that’s nonetheless a deal breaker for among the nation.
However the particular’s politics, as framed by the host, Tom Hanks, have been much less about coverage than a form of analysis of political illness, and a hope for a remedy. “In the previous couple of weeks, in the previous couple of years, we’ve witnessed deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land,” Mr. Hanks mentioned. It was like a telethon for most cancers of the physique politic.
The present’s politics have been open however nonspecific. Mr. Biden, within the shadow of Lincoln, delivered remarks in regards to the triumph of democracy (a repudiation of the antidemocratic assaults on the election, however solely between the traces).
Ms. Harris mentioned that in America, “We not solely see what has been, we see what may be,” citing the civil rights and girls’s rights actions. You can learn in a reference to her election, which broke racial and gender boundaries, however she left you to do this your self.
Likewise, when the previous presidents Invoice Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama appeared to want Mr. Biden effectively and speak about shared American values, they didn’t have to level a finger at Donald J. Trump for America’s toxicity. We’d already seen him ourselves — or didn’t see him, pointedly, at his opponent’s inauguration.
As an leisure present, “Celebrating America” stored its aesthetic, like its politics, primary and broad. (Nobody expects, or desires, edginess from a Joe Biden manufacturing.) The roster of stars wasn’t precisely apolitical: the truth that Mr. Trump was by no means capable of assemble a Hollywood roster like this was no accident.
However the forged and the artwork was aggressively normie and mainstream, and the performances caught to a theme: hope in a darkish time.
The songs referenced the darkish and the sunshine and the daybreak: John Legend performing “Feeling Good,” Demi Lovato doing “Beautiful Day,” Jon Bon Jovi masking the Beatles’ “Right here Comes the Solar.” The nighttime performances’ settings, too, emphasised bringing gentle to the darkness, even earlier than Katy Perry carried out “Firework” to precise fireworks over the Mall.
The subtext of “Celebrating America” was inevitably political: politics will get international locations into massive issues, and public motion is commonly the one means out of them. (In pandemic America, even having members of a rustic band put on face masks on stage inevitably and sadly appears like a political assertion.)
However the content material was extra the entertainment-politics equal of a sequence restaurant with an enormous menu: it wasn’t going to be anybody’s favourite, however everybody may discover one thing on the menu for them. And what the nation was hungriest for proper now, “Celebrating America” guessed, was to consider, with Jon Bon Jovi, that the lengthy, chilly, lonely winter would finish, and the solar would come.