Sadly, Superbowl commercials promoting diversity are met with ignorance
On Super Bowl Sunday, ads aired for Cheerios and Coca-Cola. Both commercials should have been thoroughly unremarkable and inoffensive. The Cheerios ad depicted a family discussing the possibility of a new baby brother. The Coca-Coca ad depicted a group of Americans singing “America the Beautiful” and drinking Coke.
Predictably, Twitter blew up.
Why? Because Coca-Cola had the gall to show a diverse cross-section of Americans singing “America the Beautiful” in six languages other than English.
Cheerios had the gall to show an interracial family. An interracial marriage on television. In 2014. Can you believe that?
Within minutes after airtime, the #BoycottCoke hashtag was trending on Twitter.
Several Twitter users reported that the seven-language rendition of “America the Beautiful” was “un-American.” Because clearly, any language other than English has no place in America.
Never mind that the United States of America has no official language. Never mind that the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 35 million Americans more than 5 years old speak Spanish fluently. Another 2.6 million Americans speak Chinese language varieties, and 1.5 million speak Tagalog.
Other Twitter scholars called out Coca-Cola for “desecrating our national anthem,” because apparently “The Star-Spangled Banner” is no longer a thing, and translating a song into languages spoken by millions of American citizens constitutes a desecration.
Many people were outraged by the depiction of a same-sex marriage in the Coca-Cola ad. Katharine Lee Bates penned the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” back in 1893. Were she alive today, Bates would surely have shared in the outrage — as would her longtime partner Katharine Coman.
Other Internet commentators were equally offended by the Cheerios ad, which depicted a happy family sitting around the breakfast table. That family included a ridiculously adorable young girl, her black father and her white mother. It’s been 45 years since Captain Kirk kissed Nyota Uhura on “Star Trek,” but somehow interracial relationships still have the power to shock television viewers.
The seven-language rendition of “America the Beautiful” and the interracial family are both quintessentially American. What could be more American in spirit than diverse people finding family and opportunity in a new land?
It’s often said, but it bears repeating: America is a country of immigrants. There’s no single type of American. Not every American is blonde-haired, blue-eyed and English-speaking. People in the United States come from different places and speak different languages.
So why does an honest reflection of this country still have the power to shock and offend people? Because television is still squeamish about depicting different kinds of people. People in this country are accustomed to seeing only a certain type of person on television.
Television advertisements might have been created for the sole purpose of selling products and creating brand awareness, but in this day and age, advertisers have the power to do so much more with commercials. They have the platform to change the way that Americans are depicted in the media.
Advertisers have the opportunity to create commercials that reflect this country. They have the opportunity to film advertisements in which people can sing in Arabic or Spanish or Vietnamese if they please. They have the opportunity to film advertisements with families made up of a white man and a black woman, a black woman and a white woman or a mixed-race man and his adopted child.
Hopefully, a day will come when all of the ads on air look like the Coca-Cola commercial or the Cheerios ad. And no one will post a badly misspelled rant on Twitter about it.
Opinion columnist Megan Kallus is a pre-business freshman and may be reached at [email protected]