If there was ever any wonder where the phrase “ugly Americans” emanated from, the song “America the Beautiful” brought the answer last Sunday night.
While more than 100 million viewers watched the Super Bowl, a relatively innocuous commercial from Coca-Cola sparked a mini uprising.
I saw the commercial as it occurred and didn’t give it a second thought. Cute. Not funny. No one was hit in the groin. Now get me back to the football game.
When I heard the next day that some $4 million commercial had offended a boisterous segment of our population, I stretched my mind to think which one it could possibly be.
John Stamos taking off his pants? Bob Dylan selling out? GoDaddy.com superimposed Danica Patrick’s head onto the torso of a bodybuilder. That was disturbing. Oh, I know. It was Budweiser supporting interspecies love between a puppy and a Clydesdale.
Of course, I was wrong. What earned the ire of certain Americans was Coke’s minute-long version of “America the Beautiful,” which was sung in eight languages while a hodge-podge of people of different races, colors and creeds — even a brief glimpse of a gay family — crossed the screen.
Somehow, some people took instant and vociferous offense to the ad because the song celebrating America’s beauty was sung in foreign tongues.
Twitter exploded, almost literally, and Coca-Cola’s Facebook page became a war zone.
Using the hashtags #americaisbeautiful or #speakamerican or #cokesucks or #(er, have family relations with Coke), they expressed outrage. Boycotts were threatened. Expletives were thrown about.
“This is America … speak English idiots!” ““Take this Coke and stick it up your $%&!!” “Way to ruin an American song.”
The people of Coca-Cola were called terrorists or communists, or worse, communist terrorists.
And, yes, some blamed President Obama.
You would have thought the Atlanta-based corporation had done something radical, like bringing back New Coke, or taking “God” out of the song, but no. The Coke recipe remains the same, and God was still in “America the Beautiful” and sung in English.
I thought that perhaps these were all merely just Denver fans who were angry and bitter about Peyton Manning’s performance, but the complaints came in from everywhere.
Were we really so much more advanced as a society in 1971? Back then, Coca-Cola rolled out its “I’d like to teach the World to Sing” campaign (and now that song is in my head and I can’t get it out, in perfect harmony) and there wasn’t even the hint of outrage.
I fear that these protesters may take the next obvious step and push the Statue of Liberty into New York Harbor (#MadameLiberty). Mon dieu! It is, after all, a French creation.
Just wait until these people find out that with a click of their remote control, they can get all their favorite TV shows in Spanish. Huh. Maybe we can sneak into all their homes and do this for them.
I suppose that it’s nice that we in the United States have the freedom to launch ridiculous protests over anything that doesn’t fit with our personal image of patriotism, but it’s hard to picture any other nation reacting this way over such an innocuous thing.
Heck, we could sing “Oh Canada” in pig Latin, accompanied by a live sacrifice and hobos playing trash-can lids, and our neighbors to the North would shrug their shoulders. If we subtly accused them of being an inclusive melting pot that is the envy of other nations, I’m pretty sure they’d smile.
The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if Coca-Cola didn’t plant the cyber protesters to build awareness of its ad. Or if Pepsi didn’t plant the protesters to spark a boycott that would make it the cola of choice.
It’s better to believe that than to think that our land of immigrants still has so many small-minded xenophobes.
At press time, Coca-Cola still planned to roll out a longer version of its ad — no doubt involving the burning of American flags and the drowning of a bald eagle in a vat of Coke Zero — for the Winter Olympics. It is, after all, a free country.
Now excuse me while I go crack open an ice-cold Coke.
Email Steve Ouellette:email@example.com