Last night’s Super Bowl got out of hand about as quickly as the newsman fight in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
This meant that I, watching the game home alone since Super Bowl parties aren’t safe these days, turned to the ads to keep myself entertained. Sadly, with a few exceptions, most were as stinky as the game itself.
The ones that were supposed to be funny mostly weren’t, the emotional/inspirational ones were mostly fine but unmemorable, and the one that was so bad that I think it was intentionally terrible for the sake of virality was just annoying.
Sure, a couple of them made me giggle. Cheetos was good – hey there, Shaggy! – and the Bud Light Legends ad made me chortle. There were others I liked, but overall, the body of work from the ad world was bad.
When it came to the car ads, the GM/Norway one with Will Ferrell got a minor laugh out of me, while the Cadillac Edgar Scissorhands spot gets points for effort if not execution. But the Jeep ad was the one generating buzz from the minute it made its way online before the game.
It featured Bruce Springsteen, doing what is billed as his first ad ever, driving around in a Jeep, talking about how this country could come together in the name of unity.[Ed. note: Yes, this article touches on cars and politics. Please play nice in the comments if you don’t want to face the banhammer.] [Second Ed. note, dated 02/11/2021 — The ad has been pulled from YouTube due to Springsteen being arrested for DWI in 2020. If and when we can replace the video, we will do so.]
In normal times, that would be a perfectly fine sentiment to express. A divided country, a Congress that struggles to get anything done in a bipartisan manner, distasteful rhetoric polluting the discourse … yeah, I think most reasonable people would be exhausted by the divisiveness and ready for some unity.
Except the problem is that a fringe element isn’t interested in unity. Part of that element, driven at least in part by misinformation and disinformation, refuses to believe the factual truth regarding who won the 2020 presidential election. Part of that element stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a democratic election. It was an insurrection. On American soil.
Read the last bit again and let it sink in. I’ll wait.
Good, you’re back. I want to make something absolutely clear here. I am not calling out an entire side of the political aisle for the actions of a small percent of the population. I know many Republicans/conservatives, including Trump supporters, accept the results of the election. I know others might worry about voter fraud (something that is nearly nonexistent in this country) but they wouldn’t storm the Capitol. I know plenty of those on the political right think QAnon is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
I also know there are fringe elements on the left that aren’t interested in unity at all, either, although there’s an asymmetry at play at the moment.
I’m fully aware the percentage of the population that has broken with reality is relatively small (though seriously vocal). Just to reiterate from above: I am not here to point fingers at everyone on any one side of the political aisle. That would be factually inaccurate. I know there are reasonable conservatives out there who want unity and bipartisan compromise where possible.
My point is simply that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for reasonable people with reasonable disagreements to come together in a show of unity when a small but very vocal part of the population has been sucked into a vortex of unreality and is willing to storm the nation’s Capitol building because they didn’t get their way in a free and fair election. There’s no room for compromise with people who literally will resort to violence to avoid it.
You really can’t compromise with folks who wear a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie or carry the Confederate flag in the U.S. Capitol.
Not to mention that compromise is incredibly difficult when people are living in an alternate reality.
I don’t blame Jeep for trying. The sentiment is well-intentioned. And maybe it would’ve worked if we were simply divided, as an electorate, over how best to govern the nation. If we were fighting over healthcare, or taxes, or even hot-button cultural issues.
Instead, we’re fighting over reality.
I saw screenshots of angry Jeep owners on Twitter last night – angry that an anodyne plea for unity made Jeep “political.” Of course, that’s not what they were really angry about – it should go without saying that the ad was referring to politics. Springsteen even mentioned it in the ad. What angered them is that the call for unity seemed, to them, to be a rebuke of their politics.
Those folks are too upset at being called out for a type of grievance politics that drives the divisiveness to be interested in any sort of harmony.
Perhaps some were irritated that Springsteen himself hasn’t been shy to express political views that conflict with theirs.
Unity requires good-faith efforts on all sides. At least one extreme but influential element of our politics has shown no interest in that kind of good-faith effort. Until they do, calls for unity sound nice but are utterly meaningless.
Politics aside, I also am not sure how this sells Jeeps. I guess the subtext is that whether we’re left, right, or center we can all agree Jeeps are cool? Or that Jeep – and by extension the other FCA/Stellantis brands – want to cultivate good relationships with customers of all political stripes?
I suppose Jeep has customers from all over the political spectrum – I asked but the company didn’t have data on customers’ political affiliations it could share. I understand the desire to produce a feel-good ad with the intent of painting Jeep as a brand that the car-buying public can turn to as a refuge from our wearying politics.
After all, when you’re stuck in the muck and a Wrangler tows you out, no one cares who voted for who. Unless the rescuer is just being a jerk to the one knee-deep in mud.
Thing is, if a brand or its associated lifestyle is your only refuge, our country’s discourse is more broken than I thought. We won’t have unity if people can only put their differences aside on the trails.
More to the point, Jeep and The Boss can call for unity until they’re as blue in the face as Bruce looked in that video (topless Jeep in the cold – brrr). It won’t matter unless those of us who are reasonable can compromise with our ideological opposites without interference from the extremists.
That is a problem that no one company, not even Jeep, can solve.[Image: Screenshot via YouTube]