Monday, February 03, 2014

A slight change of schedule, and a little social commentary...

I know that today is supposed to be Movie Monday.

However, I think the only proper subject for any post about film today is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who died yesterday at age 46. I can't do that yet. Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, and while I'm past the denial phase I've pretty much moved on to anger about his death. Pisses me right off that something like that could happen to such a talented individual. His career, which was much, much too short, deserves a thorough retrospective. I don't think I can stand to do that yet. Yes, I'm that much of a fan of his work. And so, I'm putting off Movie Monday for a day or two.

Anyway, there are other things for me to be angry about, things that won't make me sad and miserable on top of my anger, and so instead today, I'm going to write about Super Bowl ads, and specifically about the Coca-Cola ad that has a few very vocal people so up in arms. This ad, in fact:

Apparently, there are people who are angry that Coke had the gall (as they see it) to make an ad in which the song "America the Beautiful" is sung in other languages than English. Something about it being "un-American" to do that, or something. Here's a liberal reaction to the angry reaction, from the website.

I have a couple of things to point out to those who were disturbed by the ad. First of all, look at a map. "America" does not equal the United States. If you do look at a map, you'll see that there is North America and there is South America. Covers a lot of territory, all of it "America" and a lot of languages spoken. Second, those of us who live in the United States come from a lot of different places and from a diversity of language backgrounds, and people who come here to live don't forget their native tongues just because they learn English when they come to live here, and sometimes they even use those languages even though they live here. This is not a sin. Third, Coca-Cola is trying to sell a product, not "Balkanize" the nation, as Allen West wrote on his blog this morning. He seems to think that because some people used different languages in a commercial, Coca-Cola is advocating that no one who comes to this country to live should ever learn English and that each culture group should keep to itself with some sort of an "us versus them" attitude.

I don't know what ad Allen West watched yesterday, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't the one I saw posted on YouTube (and just about everywhere else) this morning. But, as people like West to do on a fairly regular basis these days, he is reading things into the ad that just aren't there. And, honestly, I'd say that West and his comrades are the ones doing more than anyone to Balkanize the United States, by asserting that they themselves are the only "real" Americans and then going out of their way to marginalize and "other" every group they don't like: the poor, immigrants, gays, non-Christians, and anyone else who doesn't pass their political and social litmus tests.

You know, it kind of reminds me of the reactions to this, in 1968:

And this, in 1969:

There was a fairly huge outcry against both of these performances of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the time by those who seemed to feel that there is only One Correct Way to honor the United States. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is a bunch of crap. Whether some people like it or not, we are a huge and diverse nation, and "one size fits all" usually ends up not fitting anyone very well.

Personally, I enjoyed John Scalzi's take on the current controversy, which I hope you will read, and which includes some historical context for "America the Beautiful".

I don't know. I just have a difficult time understanding why some people get so exercised about things that really are trivial. Coca-Cola wasn't trying to be political. They were just trying to sell their product, and almost anyone who knows anything about advertising will tell you that getting political is generally going to upset more people than it is going to pull in to buy whatever it is that is being advertising. That's Coca-Cola's agenda - selling soft drinks - nothing more and nothing less.

I just wish Allen West and the others who seem to feel compelled to read political motives into everything need to lighten up a little bit and understand that not everything is a conspiracy against them and their particular political agenda.

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