Monday, February 6, 2017

The Super Bowl's super commercials about America

The Airbnb commercial played during the Super Bowl highlighting the benefits of inclusion.

THAT WAS a really great game played last Sunday in Super Bowl LI (51). It will most likely do down as a classic as the New England Patriots came from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons.

The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched sporting event on American television.So huge, in fact, it has gotten so big, that it has become a cultural barometer of the country at a point in time.

The point in time is two-weeks into the Trump presidency. 

If the commercials by big American businesses are any indication, the messages they are communicating runs counter to the direction President Trump is taking the country.

One commercial was so controversial that Fox Sports Network did not allow to show it in its entirety. The commercial by 84 Lumber followed a Mexican mother and daughter trek through mountains and desert to reach the U.S. border. But before they reach the border, the commercial was cut and a website given for those who wanted to see the rest of the 6 minute commercial.

The mother and daughter reach the U.S. border only to find a 20 foot high wall. At first disppointed, their spirits are lifted when they see a big gate which they open and proceed into the the U.S. Over the final scene is the message"The will to succeed is always welcome here."

Trump supporters saw the commercial as taking a stand for illegal immigration. 84 Lumber tweeted the commercial was "a symbolic journey toward becoming legal American citizens."

Coca Cola reran one of my favorite commercials of al time: a 2014 ad where "America the Beautiful" is sung in several languages. When it first aired in 2014 the company was attacked by so-called patriots who believe the song should only be sung in English. But the message was clear: America is home to people from many countries.
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What really set off criticism was the image of Muslims and the song being sung in Arabic. Tsk, tsk. Certainly, the commercial gained new meaning in the context of Trump's anti-Muslim travel ban.

Airbnb ran a commercial with a similar message of inclusiveness with faces of people of many races and ethnic groups facing into one another as words overlaid the images: No matter who you love, where you came from, we all belong. The world is more beautiful if you accept. #weaccept.

Certainly it counters the current wave of xenophobia sweeping across Trump nation.

The most American of beers, Budweiser took a break from its horses to tell the story one of their co-founder -- a German immigrant Adolphus Busch. The commercial highlighted the difficulties immigrants have especially when greeted by xenophobic Americans. Budweiser denied any intention of a political message, but the role of immigrants played in America was not lost, not even to the most casual of observers. 

The pulse of real America was reflected, not only in the commercials but in the entertainment also. The cast of Hamilton, which greeted Vice President Pence when he came to see their show with a political message of inclusion, sang America the Beautiful before the opening kickoff. Phillipa Soo, who is half Chinese and half White, along with two other original cast members, Jasmine Cepas Jones and Renee Elise Goldsberry, steered clear of any political overtones. They did however add the word sisterhood to the song to cheers from the crowd.

Lady Gaga is also known for her political statements. She was among Hillary Clinton’s strongest supporters during the campaign. Her political statement was really subtle for an entertainer known for her over-the-top performances.

Breaking away from the songs that she made famous, she started with a pair of patriotic songs, including "This Land Is Your Land," which has become a sort of anthem for the demonstrators on behalf of the refugees who were turned away or detained at airports across the country. During her set, she did hug a person of color who could easily have been an immigrant or refugee. Right when she gave her hug, Lady Gaga belted out the word “stay.” Coincidence? Maybe. 

Last Sunday was so AMERICAN! How American can you get? Football, Coke, Bud, Hamilton and Lady Gaga.  So ... who's living in a bubble? (AsAm News contributed to this report.)