By Maddie LaPlante-Dube, Editorial Editor
Like 78 percent of my fellow Americans, I mostly watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. I sat down on the couch Sunday night hoping to see what Budweiser had brought to the table this year, or how Ford was going to make their F-450s somehow conjure up emotions in me. Capitalism!
As Mr. Clean danced around some lady’s house to lyrics that said “be your dreamboat, be your fantasy,” it became clear that most of the commercials would be pretty easy to swallow. Lady Gaga’s big jump from the top of the stadium made the Internet explode in memes that will probably circulate for another year or two. But most companies steered clear of any overtly political statements.
Perhaps one reason for that is that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are outspoken Trump advocates (unfortunately so for this Bostonian). Perhaps it’s advertising suicide to preach inclusivity during a sports event hosted in Texas. At any rate, as Sapna Maheshwari said for the Times, escapism in the Super Bowl commercials this year was rampant.
The biggest risks came from just a handful of companies, with Airbnb and Audi getting real in their advertisements. Coca Cola did too, resubmitting their “Together is Beautiful” ad from 2014. But the biggest splash was made by the newcomer 84 Lumber, with their Spanish language commercial following a mother and her daughter making their harrowing journey north to the border of Mexico.
The last half of the advertisement was deemed too controversial by FOX; 84 Lumber had to ask their viewers to go to their website to see the grand finale for their campaign. By the time I tried to get to the site seconds after the ad finished in real time, their site had crashed, likely because of millions of curious viewers like myself.
Spoilers to follow:
The commercial starts with a woman and her daughter beginning the trip to the border. After days, after heat, sweat, travel and dust, the pair reach a gigantic, stories-tall cement wall. The scenes of the mother’s devastation at the base of the wall are intercut with scenes of a white guy looking content and driving away in a pickup truck full of lumber. Turns out, the good guys at 84 Lumber built a big wooden door in the middle of the wall, a door that was unlocked, a door that the mother and daughter walked right through. Text overlays the last scene: “The Will to Succeed is Always Welcome Here.”
84 Lumber is kind of doing two things at once. On their website they have example of service projects dedicated to helping veterans and “our troops,” as well as building shelters for homeless people. Their veteran support is inspired by their many veteran employees. And while they did make their general message in their ad specifically pointed – productive members of society only, please – they managed to fit both traditionally conservative ideas and liberal ones in the same advertisement.
84 Lumber probably couldn’t have known when this advertisement was being made how relevant it would actually be. On Monday, the government reached a deadline to prove that the travel ban Trump proposed will actually promote national security, even though all of the terrorist attacks that have happened on American soil since 9/11 came from US citizens or legal residents. (Additionally, none of those attackers came from any of the countries listed in the ban.)
The wall featured both in the advertisement and in real life will be coming from our tax dollars. And on the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Mother of Exiles, it still says, “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” The sweet, sweet irony.
84 Lumber, the great builder of that golden door, showed on Super Bowl Sunday that, yes, it is actually possible to reconcile two ideas at once. In a country as divided as this one, it is time to figure out a way to deal with our dissonance and actually see the human side of things.
I get that escapism is necessary to build viewership, especially right now. But what’s happening in the U.S., a country built by immigrants, is inescapable.