Well, you’d think the Super Bowl, with its powerfully muscled teams of gargantuas pounding on each other, might provide the perfect diversion from the nonstop provocation of The Trump Show.
And that both sides would be eager for just such an escape.
But if the lead-up to the Big Game this year is any indication, we just can’t quit the divide.
I can’t remember a time when political animus so overwhelmed every other part of American culture, when every piece of entertainment content, as we like to call it in the 21st century, could so quickly devolve into a left-right fight.
Really, in the good old days, when only hyper-consumerism counted, and the guacamole had no political echoes, Super Sunday was the perfect secular holiday for all American couch potatoes. It was a day to hang with family and/or friends, eat, drink, relax, curse the outcome if it wasn’t good for your team, and carefully watch — and criticize — the commercials.
And damn, it brought us together.
Granted, the trend of the last decade or so, of releasing spots online early, has helped generate buzz. But it has also paved the way for much ugliness and trolling.
Can you imagine the comments this year?
Obviously, Super Bowl 51 advertisers had to have started their planning way before the outcome of the presidential election was known.
Nonetheless, let’s say that Budweiser, with its highly cinematic and beautiful origin story, aka “Gangs of St. Louis,” is being a bit disingenuous in claiming its spot was not meant to be political.
After all, this is a brand that has trafficked in jokes about groin injuries and farting horses for AB’s past. Just last summer, AB changed the name on the label of Budweiser cans and bottles to “America,” which proved to be both disastrous and pandering.
So I applaud the (Belgian) beer maker for going high. But the brand people had to know it would be a hot-button issue.
It’s a founder’s tale, well-told: Adolphus Busch came to the U.S. from Germany as a young man in 1857. “I want to brew beer,” the actor playing him in the spot says, in a commanding Schwarzenegger like- “I’ll be back” accent and cadence.
The spot opens with A. Busch in his top hat arriving on the muddy streets of New Orleans, getting spat on. As a foreigner, he’s told: “You are not wanted here” and “Go back home.”
It’s a little dark and hard to hear — and necessitates, but also rewards, more than one viewing, as any epic production should. I admired the cinematography and level of historical detail. (I had no idea steamboats often got into accidents and/or blew up in flames, for starters. Nor did I know Mr. Anheuser’s first name was Eberhard. When Eberhard meets Adolphus. )
Certainly, it was an added bit of misfortune, timing-wise, that days before the spot’s online release, President
Trump signed an executive order to temporarily suspend (OK, it’s not a ban!) travel for non-U.S. citizens or green card holders coming from Muslim-majority countries.
Judging from some of the comments on You Tube, the timing seems to have added kerosene to the fire:
“Stupid terrorist propaganda. budwizer used to be my favorite, but i will never drink it again. along with budlight (nasty anyways) and miller which is owned by budwizer. yall suck.”
“Lol all these libTURDS are crying about how dirty stinky muslims and mexicans should be able to come into MY america.”
Then again, “Utah Johnny,” the first commenter, and “Joseph” may have said the same thing at any time.
Still, it’s interesting to think how differently some of the spots would have gone over had Hillary won.
“Drive Progress” is an unexpected ode to daughterly love that gave me shivers. It’s a continuation of a theme we saw at the Super Bowl last year—Dadvertising — that was fresh and showed new respect for both genders. It’s a beautifully shot and paced production with wonderful music, showing a girl at a go-kart race.
“How do I tell my daughter that her grandfather is worth more than her grandmother?” the father asks in a voiceover. Later, he muses that despite all of her qualities and qualifications, his daughter won’t be “valued” as highly as a man. The wording is blunt — as if everything is based on a monetary value. Still, the questions rankle because they are true.
Here’s a typical You Tube response: “This is all the work of ugly unattractive feminists who can't get a member of the opposite sex, so they feel the need to bring down other women instead of improving themselves."
Certainly, there are lots more commercials in the scrimmage. Some are unassailably nonpolitical. The beauty of a live TV event is that we never know how it will play out.
I’m hoping for no more bombshells.
This is America — let the Doritos flow.