Thursday, February 7, 2013

"To the Farmer in All of Us"

Dodge Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial

Amidst the chaos of the Super Bowl, emerging from both Beyoncé's killer half-time performance and the unexpected, mysterious power outage (insert: one of many conspiracy theories), I was unanticipatedly struck by a commercial that, to my surprise, directly related to contemporary food activism. Given the insane amount of money that even 30 seconds of airtime costs a company during this annual American ritual event, I was shocked to witness the 2-minute Dodge commercial focused entirely on farming in its quest to advertise its trucks. In light of the fact that the Super Bowl is arguably one of the most American traditions in which many of us share, or at least pretend to share as a social performance, it was fascinating to see Dodge attempt to capitalize on a similarly stereotypical American trait.

In addition to facilitating the somewhat easy-to-grasp connection between a truck and its utility in the eyes of a farmer, Dodge managed to glorify the farmer within this 2-minute span to the point of making me want to be a farmer. The overly simplistic commercial, which consisted of a slower slideshow of farming images and a background narrative by American broadcaster Paul Harvey describing God's quest for a farmer not only invoked a religious overtone that might appeal to a certain crowd but also featured images that were relatable and idealized. Dodge successfully connected the necessary, glorified yet modest work of a farmer with the need to buy a new truck that would help such a model citizen complete his honorable work.

So who exactly would find this ad appealing? Here's my preliminary list: more religious Americans for whom the connection between God and the farmer is facilitated, the classic all-American man who identifies a reputable truck with the manliness of being a farmer, a father who wishes for his son to be like the one discussed in the commercial (a son who has so much respect for his farming father that he seeks to follow in his footsteps), anyone searching for a new truck and simply needs to associate this Dodge pickup with a positive connotation, or even someone like me, who is neither in the market for a new truck nor a farming career but was captivated by the wonderfully simple yet rewarding lifestyle conveyed in the ad.

Now you might ask, what does this have to do with food activism? From what I've learned in my seminar thus far, there is a growing desire, especially in urban areas, to return to the land as a means of cleansing our modern, capitalist world of its pollution and technological complexities, especially since the industrialization of the food industry. This commercial exploits that inner desire shared by many today to return to the basics of food production, especially the need to get one's own hands dirty in the earth, by romanticizing the life of a farmer. A farmer is often stereotypically regarded as the one closest to the earth because of his/her direct involvement and active role in food cultivation, and so this ad seeks to sell such a pure lifestyle...which, of course, can only be achieved with the purchase of a new Dodge truck. The end of this commercial speaks directly to the viewer in saying, "To the farmer in all of us." Ultimately, Dodge is telling us, the average Super Bowl-watching consumers, that we can indeed return to the land, just like we so desire. But it will cost us.

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