I watched the Super Bowl, but this post is not about the spectacular collapse of the Atlanta Falcons that I couldn’t stop watching, much like a horrific car crash. I want to talk about the commercials, many which could be considered political in nature. * I had seen the Audi commercial in which a man is musing about pay inequality and what is he going to tell his daughter before the Super Bowl, and I read about the backlash by people who considered it anti-male. Basically, the man says in a voice-over (and I’m paraphrasing), “What am I going to tell my daughter about her worth? How her grandfather was worth more than she was? How I’m worth more than her mother is? Will I have to say the same about her? Maybe I won’t.” I thought it was OK, but people on my Twitter TL responded very positively. To me, it was hard to feel positive about it because it’s fucking Audi. Rightly or wrongly, I view them as a 1% car, so I rolled my eyes a bit at the ad. However, I couldn’t understand the vitriol aimed at it. A semi-prominent female conservative…I’ll call her a pundit for a lack of a better word…tweeted that we passed the Equal Pay Act so they were just being ignorant. We all know that when a law is passed, everything is magically better, right? It’s a fact that men get paid more than women do for the same job,** laws be damned. In other words, Audi is right. Men are still paid more than women are, and I applaud them for addressing the issue at the very least. It’s astonishing to me how people see this as anti-male. Stating the facts and saying you hope it’s different for your daughter is about as milquetoast as you can be for a protest ad.
The thing is, when you’re used to getting perks simply for being who you are, anything that challenges that is seen as a threat or as a net loss. Especially if you don’t consider the perks you have as being given to you. “I earned this through hard work! Nothing was ever given to me.” They don’t understand that other people work hard, too, but aren’t afforded the same pathways of advancement as they themselves have been. There is a plethora of documentation about these phenomenons, and it’s willful ignorance at this point to not realize it. But, I also understand that it’s not easy to understand a negative. What do I mean by that? A lot of privilege is not being exposed to negative preconceptions people have about different groups. For example, I have been asked to show my identification when writing a check at my local grocery store. I watched the person after me, a white woman, pay with a check and not have to show her identification. I’ve been followed in stores and stopped by police while being Asian in a white neighborhood. I remember being in a gas station in a rural area of the Midwest (can’t remember if it was Iowa or Wisconsin), and the woman refused to look me in the eye. When she was giving me my change, she dropped it on the counter next to my outstretched hand. When I used to fly regularly, I was ‘randomly’ searched every time I flew. If you’ve never had someone refuse to touch your hand because of the color of your skin, you won’t see it as a privilege to be treated pleasantly as you shop.
Back to the commercials of the Super Bowl. There were several that were obviously making an appeal for diversity. Before I go on, there’s also one that was deceptive about its intent. It’s the 84 Lumber ad, and they had a short version of it for the Super Bowl that made it seem like they were pro-immigrants. Then, you’re supposed to go to their website to see the whole thing–which makes it clear that they’re pro-Trump. In reading about it, the owner voted for Trump and agrees with his sentiments about immigration. So, the beautiful short ad about a mother and her daughter taking a journey to the United States, well, it isn’t quite so beautiful by the end. Still. The shorter version pissed off conservatives because it was pro-immigration, which they’ve shown they’re pretty much against (if the immigrants aren’t white). Coke re-ran an ad they did several years ago which has people singing America the Beautiful in several different languages. I liked it the first time it was released, and I still like it. You can guess how conservatives reacted to it.
Seriously. How can you watch that and be mad? It’s beautiful, speaking to the richness that diversity adds to our country. Speaking of America the Beautiful (which should be our national anthem, by the way), the Schuyler sisters from Hamilton sang it before the game, and they added, “and sisterhood!” after “crown thy good with brotherhood”, which also made conservatives mad. They didn’t want none of that feminist agenda in their football! Me, I was stoked because I love the Schuyler sisters, and why the hell not sisterhood? We’re in the year 2017, for fuck’s sake. It’s OK to include women, you know.
It always amuses me when people decry politics in their sports because politics run all the way through sports. The fact that we subsidize billionaire owners and their stadiums while slighting public education and fine arts, that’s political. When we lionize our sport stars and excuse any bad behavior, that’s political. Singing the fucking national anthem before each game is political. You don’t see conservatives decrying that, do you? No. The problem is the status quo doesn’t seem political because it’s, well, the norm. It’s only when people offer differing ideas that it suddenly becomes political. It’s also amusing, albeit in a bitter way, that the same people who decry liberals for being special snowflakes can get so up in arms over a fucking television commercial. That’s pretty common for them, however. Always the victim, never the victimizer. They’re always being persecuted in their minds, and it’s puzzled me for a long time how they can view themselves thusly.
Take Christians. They are still in the majority in America. Churches still are tax-exempt, much to my dismay, and God is mentioned all the damn time in political speeches. We are a very Christian country, and yet, to listen to them, they’re the victims. Of what, I don’t know exactly. Of people rudely disagreeing with their points of view, I guess. In addition, because they want to change other people to fit their worldview, they think we want to do the same to them. That’s why they accuse us queers of wanting to make everyone gay (believe me, we do not) because if it were up to them, they would pay the gay away if they could. It’s been mind-blowing, really, to realize that they view something like marriage equality as an attack on them because their determination to make gayness illegal is definitely an attack on queers, and they know it is. Let me repeat that. They are attacking others and are aware they are doing that, which is why they view any reaction as an attack on them. In other words, projection. They aren’t just living their lives; they are judging other people’s lives by their own metrics, so they assume we are doing the same thing. Most liberals I know don’t give a shit about how conservatives live their lives–we just want them to leave us the fuck alone. That’s my biggest stumbling block–why the hell can’t they just live and let live?
When I was younger and in prime childbearing years, there was a response I got regularly that baffled me. I understood people saying I’d change my mind or that I was young and didn’t know better (not that I agreed, of course, but I at least understood that). But, people who’d get angry and say, “You must think I’m stupid for wanting/having kids, then”, I didn’t understand them at all. In fact, I used to look at them as if they had two heads because, frankly, I didn’t think about them having kids at all. Whether they wanted them or not didn’t have any effect on me, and I couldn’t see why my simple statement of, “I don’t want kids” should cause such a negative reaction. The older I got, however, the more I realized that for a certain type of person, any questioning of the status quo was frightening because they were so invested in it. Their whole identity was wrapped up in being whatever was deemed normal, and anything out of the ordinary reminded them, however subconsciously, that they weren’t going to travel the road less taken.
I bring it up because that’s the same reaction I see from conservatives now. America the Beautiful in anything other than English and the exact way it was written? Travesty! What they consider normal is being questioned and challenged on a daily basis, so it’s not that surprising that they’re reacting negatively. It’s sad, though, because what they’re afraid of is what makes this country beautiful. Diversity, hardworking immigrants, a mishmash of languages, foods, and cultures.
Back to the commercials. It’s hard to forget that in the end, they’re just trying to sell a product, which is why I can’t get too worked up over a commercial, either positively or negatively. However, the fact that so many companies felt it was not only OK but necessary to make commercials emphasizing the diversity and the social justice issues of America does mean something, especially under this presidential administration. In dark times, being a light, however small or commercially profitable, is a good thing. Companies are going to market their products no matter what, so I’ll take them marketing with a positive message over a negative one any time. If it pisses off conservatives in the meantime? I consider that a bonus, though I hope one day, they can embrace diversity and social justice. I won’t hold my breath.
*By the way, if you’re going to spend $2 million dollars on an ad, you damn well better make it good. There were some truly horrific ads, including Geico, both of Alfa Romeo, and Skittles. The worst by far, though, were the commercials by Verizon and T-Mobile. Let’s not talk about them. Enough said.
**If you want to talk about the reasons why, that’s more complicated. I’m not focusing on that in this post, though.