Commercial Analysis

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So UnAmerican

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This commercial is a lampooning of other patriotic commercials (including, one would assume, commercials released in the past by Ball Park Brand itself). Through it’s use of overtly patriotic sounds and colors, a disingenuously confident spokesman, and impossible incidents such as catching a line drive with one’s bare hand, or having a bald eagle land on one’s arm, or having Mount Rushmore in one’s back yard, it is insinuating that such commercials do nothing more than take advantage of the viewer’s stupidity and his naivete. It says, in effect, that only those who are stupid enough to believe something is right because it’s persuasively-presented, or those who are naive enough to secretly wonder if it’s possible for something like a bald eagle to randomly land like that, are stupid or naive enough to believe in America’s defining ideals. It is an exploitation of the widely-held and (sadly) uncontroversial notion that there is no intellectual basis for The United States of America, but only various forms of blind belief (eg: religion, or tradition, or even neurosis). The demographic that holds that idea explicitly is who this commercial targets.

The commercial’s dialogue includes phrases such as “[Ball Park Franks are] grilled on the flames of liberty”, and “made with… just a dash of democracy”, and “[they are] so American you can taste it.” These are meant to insinuate that originally American concepts such as liberty and democracy are actual, physical things – instead of just concepts – and therefore are not incorporated into someone’s value structure through the mind, but rather through the senses. That they are just felt rather than thought, and it must be that way because, again, patriotic feelings about America only have a religious or emotional basis – and are therefore not any more philosophically valid than any other competing political concepts. While one of the baseball teams’ name is a play on the name of the advertising agency that created the commercial, the other is the “Imperiels”; an allusion to the idea that America is an imperial power a la Ancient Rome or Victorian England. It is a way to pander to those who refuse to think about why America has militarily intervened in the affairs of other nations – and how those reasons are fundamentally different than those of truly imperial powers – and instead wish to fixate on the simple fact that it has done so. By equating America with the mindless barbarism of past empires, one is able to continue to avoid having to contemplate the true causes of America’s superior power and wealth – and this commercial panders to it.

Of course, the ad also incorporates the widely-used “get out in front of it” tactic that has been well chronicled elsewhere on this blog. Americans feel as though they are no longer “Americans.” They (correctly) feel as though they actually do blindly believe in America’s ideals (ironically, less so today than ever before), and that (not coincidentally) America actually is, for example, acting more and more like an imperial empire in it’s foreign policy than it ever has in the past (as opposed to simply a sovereign nation proactively defending itself and incidentally protecting the liberties of other peoples along the way). Americans feel a certain degree of (deserved) guilt and unease as a result. What this commercial does is momentarily absolve them of that guilt – first by caricaturing patriotism (which allows them to feel that that is what stupidity and naivete look like, not what they do), and then by subtly reminding them that what they’ve done is okay, since America cannot be (and never has been) intellectually justified anyway (a conclusion they unwittingly share with their consciously unpatriotic countrymen). Either will work – because the purpose, of course, is to console or flatter the viewer (and in doing so maintain or create an irrational affection for the brand in lieu of it being objectively more valuable than it’s competition in any significant way).

If Ball Park Brands, to keep up with the times, could change it’s name to something less- (but not fully un-) patriotic, and therefore culturally innocuous, it would, but it can’t. To do so would be too dramatic of a departure from the past and it would scare most people (ie: it would make them realize just how fargone America really is that even something Ball Park Franks doesn’t really value America anymore). The brand is stuck in a predicament, and so all it can do is apologize for being “proudly American” (as if, after a commercial like this, it still is), and hope that commercials like this one will show the overtly anti-American segment of the public it is targeting for a short-term sales boost that it doesn’t really mean it when it says that it loves America (while hopefully also leaving the rest of the public – it’s long-term customer base – with the impression that the commercial is not a profound insult, but nothing more than a harmless, tongue-in-cheek “love poke”).

For an American company, which relies upon the existence of the American political system for it’s existence, to tarnish that system as nothing more than the infantile emotions of a cluster of frightened dreamers futilely clinging to each other for protection against a metaphysically-given doom, or simply the mindless pretentious of supercilious sociopaths drunk on their own undeserved power and wealth, is (in the long run) not only self-defeating, but ironically, it is the most (in the full, intellectual sense of the term) unAmerican thing it could do.

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Written by commercialanalysis

May 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Food and Drink

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