The Super Bowl is undeniably a staple of American culture. While I am definitely not a football fan (I will freely admit that I spent the day watching “The Hobbit” instead), it would be remiss of me to ignore the controversy surrounding this year’s round of Super Bowl commercials.
In a time when Citizens United and corporate political meddling cause so many problems in our society, it can be easy to forget that companies have other ways of making a point. The Super Bowl is one of the most visible times to advertise, leading companies to craft their best attempt at a memorable ad for the occasion.
Coca-Cola brought back their Super Bowl ad from 2014, which features the United States anthem sung alternatingly in a variety of languages. Airbnb’s ad showed people from clearly different ethnicities with a message of acceptance and love. Budweiser offered up the story of Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch immigrating from Germany to start the now-beloved American company.
By far the most controversial advertisement, however, was that of Lumber 84, which depicts a Mexican woman and her young daughter struggling through many hardships to reach the United States, only to be met by an enormous wall. After a moment of despair, they see their salvation in the form of a huge wooden door in the wall, which pushes open to reveal the bright sunlight of the country beyond.
Does that seem like a political statement? It definitely felt like one to me, and Fox must have agreed because they decided not to let Lumber 84 air the full ad on their network, forcing them to cut it down to not include the wall. The CEO of the company later said that the ad was not meant to be political, merely a statement that determination is an admirable trait, but I have my doubts about that.
All of these Super Bowl ads, aired during one the nation’s most-watched programs, shared a spirit of acceptance and working together to achieve something greater. The fact that such ideals are considered controversial at all makes me sad, but our country clearly needs reminding.
The Budweiser ad reminds us that our roots extend all over the world and that this country has not been been “purely” American since before the colonists arrived.
The Coca-Cola ad reminds us that, although we may communicate in different ways, beauty can be found in the joining of our cultures and languages.
The Airbnb ad reminds us that love and acceptance know no borders, no matter how “other” you may think people are.
Finally, the Lumber 84 ad reminds us that everyone deserves compassion and a chance to make their life better if they have the determination to try.
Whether or not the companies behind these ads meant to make a political statement (or want to say it outright if they did mean to), I truly believe that these are all lessons that our nation can benefit from, especially now.
Although acceptance on a large scale is something that requires action from many people, it is something that can easily be implemented on a smaller scale. Accepting people and ideas that are different from us is something that we all struggle with, but even taking the time to listen to someone else’s argument when you disagree with them is a small form of acceptance.
Some struggles for acceptance are ongoing issues that we are all aware of, such as LGBTQ+ rights and racial inequality in our society. Other issues are ones that we might not even realize are divisive, like the disdain between political parties or even between fans of different football teams. (Did you gloat at nearby Falcons fans when the Patriots won? Did you scowl at nearby Patriots fans when the Falcons lost?)
Friendly competition and the exchanging of ideas are beautiful things, but they can be dangerous when taken too far. If we can take the time to recognize when we might be putting up walls against people (whether those walls are physical or mental), then maybe we can do our small part to improve the quality of life for the people around us.
In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness.”
If we are conscious of the divisions between us and others, maybe we can begin to see past the walls and find the love and beauty that exist in other parts of the world. And maybe, if we can open up that consciousness on a larger scale, we can begin to mend the splits in the social fabric of our nation as a whole.
Acceptance does not make us weak or vulnerable. Bringing people together who truly want to be here makes us stronger, as evidenced by the many great endeavors that this country has seen in its history, and I believe that we have a chance to continue that story.
I think we should take it.
—Cayla Fronhofer, Editor-in-Chief