Comeback Time

What the Super Bowl ads said about the state of our country.

As a cultural reflection of our times, there’s not much better than the annual phenomenon we call the Super Bowl Ads. There was the year of the sock puppet website ad — who could have guessed that bubble would burst? There was the year the dad/husband/boyfriend/man-child was the butt of every joke — our authority figures were failing us, and they needed to be punished.

Is this the year America’s comeback starts? The ad for Chrysler made me feel that way. A beast of a car glides through the streets of some industrial town … wait, that’s Eminem driving — must be Detroit. “This is the Motor City,” he growls defiantly, “and this is what we do.”

Emotional ad — almost made me forget the BMW ad about how clean diesel is part of a less gas-dependent future.

The Chrysler ad said what a lot of America wanted to hear Sunday — and said it better than all of FOX’s in-game, pre-fab patriotism. Hey, world, we’re back, and our muscle cars — impractical as they may be — are still cool.

But some ads had me feeling we were slipping back to the failed past. Maybe it was the parade of failed celebrities. Really, Go Daddy, you’re going with Joan Rivers? And Roseanne Barr, Snickers? You, of all beloved brands, who had such a brilliant ad last year with Betty White?

Worst of all was Groupon, a supposedly hip brand that foisted mediocre ’80s semi-icon Timothy Hutton on us. The ad was just plain weird, as Hutton talks about Tibet’s tragic troubles, then makes light of them. Next he’s telling you to aspire to pay less for a dinner out than your local restaurant owner can afford to make it for. Did our recent decades of expecting something for nothing and only caring about ourselves not teach us anything?

Maybe we need to go back further, to the Wild West days, as the best ad of the Super Bowl did.

Man in black at the bar in a dusty Western town — a classic bit of American mythology. Trouble’s comin’. He wants to wet his whistle, but there’s no beer … until the Budweiser Clydesdales deliver him a tall, cold one. What’s next? Gunplay? Fistfights?

Nope: “Blue jean baby… L.A. lady…” The tall, dark stranger leads the townsfolk in a rousing chorus of “Tiny Dancer.” Genius.

It’s that moment of teetering on the brink of something really bad — we’ve all been feeling stuck there these past couple years. Message: Keep the beer/good times/economy/jobs flowing, and life can be one big, awesome sing-along.

Vandal Summer Cinema Series

Fridays, Sat., Aug. 21 and Thu., Aug. 26. Continues through Aug. 20
  • or

About The Author

Ted S. McGregor Jr.

Ted S. McGregor, Jr. grew up in Spokane and attended Gonzaga Prep high school and the University of the Washington. While studying for his Master's in journalism at the University of Missouri, he completed a professional project on starting a weekly newspaper in Spokane. In 1993, he turned that project into reality...