The Super Bowl of Dissonance
America's rhetoric has always outpaced its progress. This year's Super Bowl was potent reminder of just how far the rhetoric's ahead.
Quick note: Last week’s post was inspired by a submission from reader Justin (@petrills on Twitter). A reminder that I welcome any and all ideas, selfies, scrutiny, and hate mail. 😘
We Built this City
The America that most were raised with and a surprising many still subscribe to, is ‘The City Upon a Hill’ America, that America’s an emblem of hope and an example for the rest of the world. The ‘city’ stands on pillars such as freedom, equality, and opportunity. The unwavering foundation of these pillars is cognitive dissonance.
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The first pour of that uniquely American cement struck the earth with The Declaration of Independence, penned in the midst of slavery, amongst other human rights violations:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” - The Declaration of Independence
Since then, the pour’s ceased to cease. From the withholding of equal rights during Reconstruction, to the gendered assumptions of job programs in The New Deal, to the unequal effects of the pandemic now, the rhetoric continues to outpace improvements in circumstances.
The Super Bowl is Special
The Super Bowl is a singularly American event: violent, gluttonous, nationalist. It’s a special glop of that patented dissonance we rest upon.
Part of the rationale for watching sports is they’re a departure from our personal realities, allowing us to put our hopes into something lower stakes yet more exciting. The advertising in-between takes us further from reality, imbuing us with ideas of having things we currently do not. The point of cognitive dissonance is that it helps us retrofit beliefs onto a reality that isn’t there.
What better and more American way to dissociate from reality than amidst several hours of programming that transmits us all three?
Kicking off (you ‘caught’ it, a football pun) the dissonance, President Biden tacitly condoned a super-spreader event as he addressed the nation and those in attendance, thanking frontline workers for their service during the pandemic. That evening, the stadium held 22,000 people in it (7,500 of which were healthcare workers), and is located in Florida, a state with the third highest number of total Covid cases, and the fourth highest total of deaths.
Next up, three scoops of jingoism, slopped in front of us, steaming, cafeteria style: ‘America the Beautiful’, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, punctuated with an Air Force flyover. Brute-force proclamations of greatness usually mean the proclaimer’s full of shit, insane, or both.
Then it was time for football. Moments of violence peppered by messages imploring us to buy stuff. Each snap of the ball commenced a search of 21 (the quarterback doesn’t count) different bodies looking to inflict damage to the opposition. The excitement and progression serving as distractions from the knowledge that each play holds the possibility of debilitating brain or bodily injury.
Back to those peppered moments, the ads! We love brands! I’m limited by your attention span and my own, so we’re only doing two.
First was Chipotle, asking in its 60 second spot, ‘Can a Burrito Change the World?’ The burrito maker implored us to think about how burritos, specifically Chipotle’s, could deliver better farming, happier workers and farmers, and more efficient supply chains. A quick glance at Glassdoor and Ziprecruiter show most Chipotle crew members (the designation for Chipotle’s store workers) earn between $10 and $15 per hour without benefits. This is hardly enough to live off and given that the avoidance of poverty is a prerequisite for happiness, probably not something that brings workers joy. The ad also happily disregards our ever-consolidating food supply, which begets higher food prices across the board. The multiple foodborne outbreaks stemming from Chipotle over the last decade aside.
Finally, the NFL unveiled ‘Inspire Change’, committing $250 million to ‘help end systemic racism’. In a vacuum, those words form a statement that portends meaningful action. In an NFL where one of the league’s most talented offensive coordinators, a black man named Eric Bieniemy, got passed over for a head coaching job for the second year in a row, and where black head coaches are just under 10% of the total number in a league with 70% black players, this is bunk. And of course, Colin Kaepernick was kicked out of the league for helping to end systemic racism, so maybe just start there?
Eyes shimmering with reflections of big boys slamming into each other, mouth agape to receive another heaping of buffalo chicken dip, I was free from reality. I’d had my fill of junk food and Budweisers as I watched the Weeknd sing us from half one to two. Then I changed the channel. Nothing had mattered before, and nothing would after.
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