Considering Coca-Cola

When first watching Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” ad, I didn’t think much of it.  It was a lot more interesting than most of the Super Bowl commercials, although the people around me still barely noticed it.  I thought maybe Coke purposefully didn’t use the National Anthem because of the politics surrounding the Star-Spangled Banner in another language. So, I hoped “America the Beautiful” was a compromise. But, others did not agree.

Immediately Social Media split into two camps: those who hated the ad and those who were appalled by those who hated the ad. Monday morning, an outspoken ad-hater was Glenn Beck.

“Why did you need that to divide us politically? Because that’s all this ad is… That’s all this is: to divide people,” Beck said on his  Right Wing Watch radio show.

Let me start by saying that, before this experiment, I would not have listened to Glenn Beck’s radio clip. I would not have considered his points, and I would not have bothered to research his position. And with that, let me begin.

The goal of this exercise is to consider positions I would not typically agree with and look for what may be right with them. And I have to say (ouch, this hurts), I kind of get Beck’s point. This ad is political. This isn’t a comment on whether it should or should not be political, but at a time when immigration and same-sex marriage are at the forefront of political debates, this ad is political.

Further on in his radio show, Beck claimed that all of the leaders of European nations have denounced multiculturalism and said it is harmful to their societies. I looked it up and he is at least partially right (wince, I think I’m developing a twitch). Political leaders in the UK, Germany, and France have denounced multiculturalism as harmful  and divisive to their countries.

So there may be a good conversation about the merits of multiculturalism here, but does that warrant the “Speak English” hashtag and a boycott of Coke products?

Jose Antonio Vargas surely doesn’t think so. He wrote an article on Buzzfeed titled, “Why Coke’s Super Bowl Ad Matters So Much.”  In it, he explains that this was the first time he, a gay, undocumented, Filipino immigrant, could identify with a Super Bowl ad. “In all the years I’ve been watching Super Bowl commercials, I cannot recall seeing a minute-long, multicultural, multilingual ad as expansive and sweeping a statement about diversity and inclusiveness in our demographically-changing country .”

And he would be right. This was the first Super Bowl ad to feature a gay couple.

The fact of the matter is the Coca-Cola commercial showed America as we are right now. We are diverse, we speak different languages and we recognize different sexual orientations. Creating outrage based on a current portrait of America offended those who make up that portrait.

So Glenn Beck thinks we should follow the advice of the Europeans and fight multiculturalism. Vargas believes we should fully embrace diversity. The middle would probably merge those ideas: diversity is good, but a national identity should be preserved.

Writing this first heated post was difficult. I am typically very pro-diversity and find such outrage about a soda commercial appalling. After this exercise, I at least understand the other side of the argument. I don’t feel as if I lost who I am, but my blood pressure didn’t rise at all the insanity yesterday. I just tried to understand it and I would love to actually talk about multiculturalism in the country outside of Twitter hashtags and 4 million dollar commercials. Maybe we could talk about it over a nice Coke (or Pepsi, if that’s your thing).

Did you see the commercial? How did you feel about it? Were you offended or did you love the representation of diversity? Let me know!