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“How many ads must a man look upon before he can truly see? Let’s start in the heart of Budweiser’s America, where the adorable ears of a Dalmatian flap in the breeze. The dog accompanies a beer delivery—a horse-drawn wagon rolling through waving wheat—that’s set to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The camera pulls back to reveal wind turbines, branded with the Budweiser logo, spinning above the scene. We read that the beer is “now brewed with wind power for a better tomorrow.” We wonder whether, since the brand is so committed to environmentalism, it might conserve further resources by making its beer less watery. We shouldn’t be surprised by Dylan licensing this song—a canonical protest anthem with a melody tracing to the black-American folk tradition—to lift the voice of the world’s largest beer producer. After all, it was only five years ago that he appeared in a Super Bowl ad for Chrysler while “Things Have Changed” played in the background. And yet I wonder how many of his hundred-million-odd viewers will be stirred, by this commercial, to think of another breeze wafting through his songbook—the idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves.
It has been thirty-five years since the “1984” ad for the Apple Macintosh, directed by Ridley Scott, opened a brave new era of Super Bowl advertising. Now the ads are reckoning, badly, with the dystopia our technology has wrought. A thirty-second Pringles spot conveniently captures the theme. The clip, titled “Sad Device,” features two dudes and their digital assistant. The dudes, looking twenty-four years old and seeming like a mature eight, sit in a loft apartment and compose Pringles cocktails by stacking different flavors. They wonder aloud how many combinations there are, in this best of all possible worlds, where flavors include Buffalo Ranch, Screamin’ Dill Pickle, and Butter Caramel. The device intrudes to tell them that there are “three hundred and eighteen thousand,” and, in a Biblical cadence, with despairing sentience, unburdens itself: “Sadly, I’ll never know the joy of tasting any, for I have no hands to stack with, no mouth to taste with, no soul to feel with. I am at the mercy of a cruel and uncaring—” The dudes cut her off with a command to play the disco classic “Funkytown.” The commercial seems to offer solace: our digital underlings may become our robot overlords, but they will transcend us, too, in the depth of their existential suffering.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."
"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."
"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."
"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."
"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."
"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."
"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."
"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."
"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."
"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."
"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."
"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."