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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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What’s more American than stupid, dishonest Super Bowl advertising?

Posted by James McPherson on February 4, 2014

“What’s more American than America?” Bob Dylan asks in an ad for the Chrysler 200 that appeared during the Super Bowl (the ad is posted above).

The question is stupid — and in this case, largely irrelevant since in most years you can come closer to an “American car” with a Toyota than with a Chrysler. Last year’s Chrysler 200 was less than three-quarters “American.” The company itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of an Italian company, Fiat.

The Chrysler ad was also misleading in another way. You may have heard the line, “What Detroit created was a first, and became an inspiration to the rest of the world.” If the line refers to some specific type of car, such as Henry Ford’s revolutionary assembly line version, that line may be accurate — but the first two real automobiles were made in France and Germany (and the first American ones weren’t made in Detroit). The ad also shows a picture of an American freeway, followed by a sign for the German autobahn — which, in fact, inspired the American interstate highway system.

The Super Bowl must be a great place to sell cars: Besides the Chrysler ad, viewers saw commercials vehicles from Chevrolet, Ford, HondaHyundai, SuburuVolkswagen, Maserati and Jaguar.

Of course, the entire Chrysler ad fell short of what many of us would have expected of Dylan (though he had previously “sold out” to Cadillac and Victoria’s Secret). Designed to pull at the heartstrings like a campaign ad for Ronald Reagan, it was very similar to a Chrysler ad done by Clint Eastwood two years earlier. But it made me wonder how soon Dylan will stand alone on a stage, talking to a chair.

Coke did patriotism much better than Chrysler with its “America the Beautiful” ad. (Though the best Super Bowl ad of all was one apparently seen originally only in Georgia, for a personal injury lawyer.)

The Coke commercial also drew some criticism because of its use of multiple languages — which predictably offended Glenn Beck, some at Fox News, and other nitwits — and its portrayal of a gay family. The latter point is especially interesting, considering the fact that the words for the featured song were written by Katharine Lee Bates, a feminist who probably was a lesbian. Perhaps more surprising in regard to the Coke commercial is the reasoned liberal objection to the ad.

Incidentally, this was perhaps only the second time in decades that I’ve been more interested in the outcome of the game than in the advertising. As a longtime Seattle Seahawks fan, I was much happier with the result this year than when the Seahawks were robbed in 2006.

Next-day follow-up: Below is a video of Atlanta anchor Brenda Wood talking about the Coke ad.

10 Responses to “What’s more American than stupid, dishonest Super Bowl advertising?”

  1. Reuel said

    You can buy a Chrysler 200 with 4500 dollars off today. A new one. Makes you wonder if they really are as good as they say they are. Yes and not a American car company anymore. Oh well cars are better to discuss than politicking any day.

  2. melfamy said

    I was visiting Mobile Alabama, in 1991. Most of the other occupants of the hotel were working on the set of a movie, Stone Cold, starring former Seahawk spit-end Brian Bosworth. It was fascinating, watching them film a scene, fascinating for about a minute. One of the guys Boz later redesigns walks out of a bar on Government Street, gets on his bike and takes off; looked good to me, that’s a print. But I guess that is why my name isn’t mentioned in the credits of this cinematic masterpiece, for I wandered off after the 6th indistinguishable-from-the-other-takes.

    I did not get to meet up with Brian; he never came out of his trailer.

  3. William Gates said

    Been a long time…………

  4. True. I’m back to my real job, which has shown me that I shouldn’t have trouble adjusting to retirement. 🙂 Hope you’re well.

  5. William Gates said

    All is well. Waiting on Greg to have another Bar b que.

  6. Where did everyone go?

  7. Back to school (and lots of grading), for me. Outside of that, most of my writing/arguing has been via Facebook — including the issue of a local bar that is being boycotted for a drink called “Date Grape” and the owner’s ignorant reaction to the complaints. I’ve also spent some time making fun of CNN, which I now call “the Lost Network” because of its continual focus on the missing plane. I even came up with a new logo for them, which perhaps I should post as a new post here.

    How are you, William? Thanks for checking in. I haven’t been over at that other place for weeks and can’t say I’ve missed it. Perhaps we should be Facebook friends, if you’re on FB: https://www.facebook.com/james.mcpherson.737

  8. That other place? I look every now and then but never post there anymore. It’s too exhausting. I think they’re getting bored because there’s no one for them all to jump on, so it’s not much activity there.

    I’ve been doing good. Don’t do FB. Never got into it once I saw how it consumed so many people’s lives. Next time you’re on there though, check out a local Talk Radio personality named Burnie Thompson. He’s a good friend of mine, but we don’t agree on much politically. He’s supposedly conservative but he was just praising local government for considering an alcohol ban on the beaches, just during Spring Break, and night clubs to stop serving alcohol at 2am or earlier.

    I thought it was the progressive that tried to legislate morality. I thought only progressives tried to force their will on other via laws? I thought progressives make laws based on emotional reactions? If I haven’t done anything wrong, why can’t I drink a beer on the sugar white sands of Panama City Beach? Why will they have certain “no open container” zones? Is some of the beach private property? How can they enforce that? Can I open and drink a beer in the Gulf since it’s states waters?

    Those are just a few questions that I have for him the next time that I see him. Maybe you can help him out.

  9. melfamy said

    Burnie is for whatever the Right is for. in this case, Hannity is leading the lemmings in their latest mindless crusade.

  10. William, you’re right about how Facebook can take over. Some of my students admit to doing something on it dozens of times per day — and I’m there too often.

    “I think they’re getting bored because there’s no one for them all to jump on, so it’s not much activity there.” Sounds right. I told them they’d miss me. 🙂 And if you and Greg aren’t there to beat on, either, they must be really frustrated. As for the exhaustion of it, I saw something relevant (on Facebook, naturally) a while back that went something like this: “Arguing with idiots online is like playing checkers with a pigeon — regardless of what happens in the game, your opponent will shit all over the board and then strut around acting like he won.”

    “I thought it was the progressive that tried to legislate morality.” It seems to me that it depends on the issue. After all, many folks on both sides would argue that abortion and especially gay rights — both of which many conservatives strongly oppose — are issues of morality. In general, we all like to assume that “our side” is the moral one.

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