Millions of Americans are looking forward to a break from politics if only for a few hours this Sunday. The Super Bowl, still TV’s single biggest gathering of the year, represents a chance to unplug from cable news bulletins and Twitter zingers for a nonpartisan sporting escape.
Ironically, one of the notable Super Bowl commercials this year should spark political debate over the chips and beer.
The Budweiser spot titled “Born The Hard Way” is a dramatization of the arrival of Bud founder Adolphus Busch in the U.S. from Germany in 1857. Social media is already full of pro- and con- snark about the ad complete with a #BoycottBudweiser movement.
The spot opens with one man at a bar saying to another, “You don’t look like you’re from around here.” Flashback to a rough night in a ship’s hold illuminated by candlelight, as a young man scribbles notes, working on an idea. “Why leave Germany?” a fellow traveler asks (in German with English subtitles). “I want to brew beer,” the young man answers.
On the crowded streets of the New World, the German immigrant is pushed around. “Go back home! You’re not wanted here!” folks jeer. But he follows his dream, and is eventually welcomed to St.Louis. We follow his journey for a full minute, tracing the beginnings of the now-famous Anheuser-Busch beer company.
The irony is rich: the ad was made last October, shot in New Orleans well before the election. That was before President Trump issued an order restricting immigration and refugee entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. Before protesters responded by rallying at airports across the country. Before lawsuits were filed, before the acting U.S. Attorney General was fired. Before the topic of immigrants became a hot-button issue.
Double irony: President Trump’s grandfather emigrated from Germany.
Anheuser-Busch issued a statement as the commercial was released online this week ahead of its broadcast debut: “the spot highlights the ambition of our founder and his unrelenting pursuit of the American dream. This is a story about our heritage and the uncompromising commitment that goes into brewing our beer. It’s an idea we’ve been developing along with our creative agency for nearly a year.”
Will the brand draw positive attention by rather accidentally wading into political controversy? Will some viewers resent the intrusion of what could seem like a partisan opinion during the traditional football respite?
The fact is, there may be no such thing as apolitical in a country so deeply divided.
With Lady Gaga, a vocal Hillary Clinton supporter, set as the halftime entertainer, with a pre-taped Trump interview by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly ready to roll (per Super Bowl tradition), and with Bud invoking America as a nation of immigrants, it’s not likely to be an apolitical Super Bowl Sunday.
Image, screenshot Budweiser 2017 Superbowl ad