“Is there anything more American than America?”
Probably not, but let’s check!
Ah, Super Bowl commercials. The owl was especially superb this year. The Seattle Ospreys defeated the Denver Wild or Half-Tamed Horses in a match-up that will be remembered, maybe, by someone. If you like watching things get carried away by birds, though, this was the most exciting thing to happen since the abduction of Ganymede in Greek mythology. *high-fives no one*
In Shakespeare’s time there was a popular belief that the prey of the seahawk surrendered voluntarily by turning belly-up, in recognition of the seahawks’ innate superiority. This particularly bit of old-timey ornithology does a great job of describing Sunday’s game. Shakespeare, in Coriolanus, writes: I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.
Substitute Denver for Rome and there you go.
The critic Gabriel Egan goes on further to note that “The osprey hunts by descending out of its natural element (the air) to meet the interface of the airy and watery domains, and so necessarily gets only fish at the top of their element. Thus in the hierarchical cosmological model, the most senior fish are the most vulnerable to predation from above…” (Sorry, Peyton! Hi, Gabriel Egan, who never expected to see your work quoted in this context! How are you? How is your work on Shakespearean ecology progressing?)
The theme of the game, as usual, was that America is amazing. Only in America is football not soccer! America!
This theme was borne out in the ads, which included such gems as this Chrysler spot, with Bob Dylan asking, “What’s more American than America?”
What is more American than America?
Possibly it is this eagle right here in Stephen Colbert’s Wonderful Pistachios commercial.
What Is The Sound Of One Hand Clapping As An American Hero Walks Past? Can God construct a Doritos Los Tacos Burrito too large even for God to want to devour? If a giant redwood falls in a forest, does it still make a Geico commercial?
You can usually tell a good deal about where we stand by what people are trying to sell us.
What’s more American than America?
AXE body spray. Americans think that if you just apply AXE body spray, you can solve most international crises.
(Do we actually think this? Tell me we do not actually think this.)
The only thing more American than America is America in the 1980s.
The best way to show that you are American is by buying a car made by a company based somewhere else. This principle was illustrated in commercial after commercial.
Liking “The Matrix” is also American, but we don’t actually remember the message of the movie.
We also liked “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” but we similarly do not remember the message of the movie. Something about luxury cars.
Americans like virility.
Americans also like conceptually innovative sandwiches with chips in them, TV shows about serial killers and puppies. If anyone ever makes a TV show about a serial killer who loves puppies and sandwiches, America will be left prostrate and completely unable to function.
Another thing Americans like, based on the things being sold to us, is not knowing what product is actually being marketed by a given commercial. What I thought was a commercial against the genetic engineering of Frankenstein-like doberhuahuas turned out to be a car ad. What I thought was a commercial for world peace turned out to be that spot for Axe body spray. This was about par for the course. We don’t make ads. We make experiences. You have to squint to figure out what the label is.
What I thought was an ad for science or technology turned out to be an ad for Scientology, the opposite of those things. “Now imagine that everything you’ve ever imagined is possible!” the ad intoned. GREAT SCOTT, THE WORLD IS BEING OVERRUN WITH SEWER ALLIGATORS AND I’M A BABY DRAGON!
And that was the Super Bowl.