A Tale of Two Ads


Football aside (and let’s face it, this past Sunday, it was all to easy to put it there), the Super Bowl is about ads, and ads are about the culture.  Which is what makes the conservative response to the Coke “It’s Beautiful” ad and the Cheerios “Gracie” ad, and Left’s reaction to that response, real and imagined, so fascinating and instructive.

In case you missed them, the Coke ad showed recent immigrants and 1st-generation Americans, with a multi-lingual soundtrack of “America the Beautiful.”  The Cheerios ad showed the same mixed-race family as last year’s ad, this time expecting a new addition.

A fair number of conservatives were offended by the Coke Ad.  I happened to find it powerful and moving, a testament to the universal appeal of America, especially to people who move here and find out what we’re really about.

The Left, on the other hand, was absolutely convinced that the Cheerios ad was driving conservatives up the wall by portraying a bi-racial couple. This turns out to have been mostly in their own imaginations.  Nobody I know – literally nobody, which is quite an achievement – was offended by the idea of a white wife and a black husband.  The first time I saw the original Cheerios ad, I had to have the supposed Big Reveal explained to me.  It turns out that our Orthodox Synagogue has three bi-racial couples, and I am friends with several more such couples, so maybe I’m just too open-minded for my own good.

A generous reading of the leftist reaction would be that they’re upset with their own imaginary caricature of conservatives.  Less-generous but probably more accurate would be to say that they’re projecting their own race obsession onto their political opponents.

But that’s almost trivial partisanship.  What’s really telling is the leftist assumption that the only reason some conservatives didn’t go bonkers over yet another multi-racial child being born into the world was that they were distracted first by “America the Beautiful” in Hindi.  That is, the Left’s routine assumption that race and culture are the same thing.

Of course, nothing proves this idea wrong better than the actual reactions by conservatives to the two ads.

Those conservatives who were upset by the Coke ad believed that it was politically-correct multiculturalism that undermined assimilation and promoted the cultural balkanization of the country.  I think that’s a vast over-reading of the ad, but a fair interpretation of multiculturalism.  What matters is that if the ad had shown exactly the same scenes, but without the translation, conservatives wouldn’t have been upset at all.  That goes hand-in-hand with why they didn’t much care about a little girl with a black daddy and a white mommy.  It’s not about race, it’s about culture and the adoption of the American Idea.

Conservatives still promote America as a melting pot, where people come here to adopt the American idea, and part of that assimilation is learning to speak English.  We welcome the colorful dress, the new cuisine, and even (as long as they’re not preaching jihad) the new temples and houses of worship.  If we don’t care about any of that, we really don’t care about someone’s skin color.

This stands in direct contrast to how liberals relate to minorities, women, and gays, where they assume that once they know you’re black or Jewish, for instance, they know everything that’s relevant about you.

Walter Russell Mead, in his just-barely-pre-9/11 survey of American schools of foreign policy thought, Special Providence, identifies one – the Jacksonian – that grew from the Scots-Irish tradition and seemed on its way to extinction under the tide of eastern European and German immigration.  Until a funny thing happened: many of those immigrants moved to the suburbs and adopted the ideas of their predecessors.  For a liberal, this makes no sense, but for a conservative who believes in assimilation, it’s the most natural thing in the world.

That conservatives didn’t respond badly to the Cheerios ad is probably was causes liberals the most angst.

After all, we’ve already see how they react when people don’t conform to their stereotypes.

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