Without a doubt, the most polarizing TV commercial during this year’s Super Bowl was the Ram Truck ad in which the late Paul Harvey extols the virtues of the hard-working American farmer. I say this with great certainty because four of my Facebook friends deemed it post-able subject matter. Two of them liked the ad. Two of them didn’t. Therefore, I assume the entire country is at loggerheads about this, most likely along the usual red state/blue state dividing lines.
I have to say that I am a sucker for ads like this. And for the first time ever, I think I understand the appeal of Paul Harvey. His deliberate pauses and stoic delivery are perfectly matched with still shots of farmers tossing hay bales, walking through the wheat, looking at their gnarled hands or staring grimly at the camera (“So God made a farmer,” Harvey intones). Makes one proud to live in a country where a mere 2 percent of the population feeds the rest of us.
Still, the ad seems a little dated. Almost all the depicted farmers are weathered old white guys. There are a couple of women. One minority. No immigrant workers. No mention, either, of the corporations that own and operate many American farms. So the ad seemed incomplete. Also, it’s a little hard for me to imagine a farmer climbing down from his mammoth John Deere S-Series combine to mend a meadow lark’s broken leg, as Harvey describes. But I suppose it could have happened. It’s a nice bit of imagery, anyway.
What bugs me a little about the Farmer ad is what I also find disturbing about the Super Bowl: how the NFL and many of its sponsors wrap themselves in flag and country for much of the five-hour event. As if sports and patriotism are somehow irrevocably linked. As if the Super Bowl is this special holiday for us to take measure of ourselves as a nation. The NFL has exploited this connection since Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl during the first Gulf War. Each year, it seems to get a little more heavy-handed. The Farmer ad is an artful continuation of that tradition – God, country, football and Ram Trucks.
Well, as long as GoDaddy.com doesn’t invoke the Creator, I guess we’ll be all right.