That Coke ad

First, if you haven’t seen it, here it is.

Me, I liked it. I thought it was moving, though the Native American population (who knew this country was beautiful before it was America) were underrepresented in the visuals and I don’t know if any of the languages used was a native language (though I doubt it; would love to be wrong, though). Nevertheless, as far as an affirmation of multi-ethnicity goes, it was lovely. For those who wanted ATB sung in English, Queen Latifah and the New Jersey Youth Chorus did that nicely at the beginning of the game. Some of the flare-up over the ad is coming from people who think ATB is the national anthem, which of course it’s not. (Nor is God Bless America, sung by hastily-assembled Congresspeople in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.)

(Parenthetically: Everyone who’s been to a sporting event with me — plus some non-sports-fans who’ve nevertheless had to listen to this rant — knows I hate the fact that they play the Star-Spangled Banner before a game. It’s a practice started in baseball stadiums during WWII, a conspicuous display of patriotism at a time when the uncomfortable idea had started to circulate that able-bodied young men ought to be on the battlefield, not the ballfield. What bothers me is the linking of patriotic emotions to an upcoming winner-take-all physical confrontation. Fans are already on an adrenaline high for their teams, fight-or-flight mechanisms churning, and the whole reason for the game is to ritually divert those feelings of aggression and hostility into a proxy battle. Connecting that physiological response to love-of-country strikes me as a cheap, manipulative trick.)

Back to the Coke ad: I liked it, yes, but there’s an argument to be made by the cynical that Coke wasn’t speaking to the immigrant population of the US anyway, or at least, not entirely or even primarily. (Thanks, Helen Benoit, for bringing this to my attention.) Coke’s a multi-national corporation and it’s more important to them to grab the market share of relatives and countryfolk of newly-arrived Americans than to be beloved here. ‘Cause there are a lot more of those folks, that’s why. So the anti-ad flare-up doesn’t bother them in the least. Whatever they lose in good will here will be more than made up for in the rest of the world. I mean, it’s a bazillion dollar Superbowl ad; you don’t spend that unless you expect to get your bazillion back multiplied like loaves and fishes.

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