When I speak about New York, people tend to think that I am flying high on the American Dream cloud. My answer has and always will be that being in love with New York doesn’t mean being in love with America. I often find myself explaining that New Yorkers don’t carry guns, they actually eat healthy food and most of them aren’t Republicans. That’s more or less what my family and friends need to hear to feel slightly reassured.
That was until Cadillac recently came up with a commercial that pretty much screwed all attempts at justifying my choice to live in the United-States for the next few months. Thanks!
This ad doesn’t repel me because it mocks French culture; making fun of my people is actually one of my favorite hobbies, so I ain’t mad at you! No, this commercial has simply managed to represent everything that the world can’t stand about America in 60 seconds: pretentiousness, materialism, elitism – and last but not least – tremendous tackiness.
This ad was obviously not meant to air outside of the US, so it could almost have passed as a bold move from a brand that knows its audience and doesn’t need to please the masses. But Cadillac is a global company, so why emphasize on this ego-boosted patriotism when valuable international consumers could be watching online? Cadillac must assume that the rest of the world barely has an Internet connection, and that what happens in America stays in America.
What fascinates me is that the brand is targeting a consumer profile that only represents a fraction of the American people, and yet has no issue with projecting this character’s values and beliefs as if they were the ultimate definition of success. Isn’t the American Dream about believing that anything is possible? Because to me, this ad is just a reminder that social injustice, racial inequality, financial supremacy – and everything that’s so messed up about American society – is still possible!
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be here if I thought America didn’t have a lot to be proud of – its incredible diversity, artistic influence, or blooming startup culture just to name a few – none of which are featured in this commercial. Thankfully – and granted, for capitalism’s sake – another brand was smart enough to reply to Cadillac with a parody that says a lot about today’s changing America.
Ford took a stand against the one-sided American Dream vision painted by its competitor to show a more human, relatable and caring face of America. In this parody, Detroit activist Pashon Murray put the focus right where it belongs: environment. You were probably too annoyed by this arrogant rich guy to even realize Cadillac was promoting a hybrid car. The character played by actor Neal McDonough seems more excited about the techy coolness of his hybrid – adding to the list of all his “stuff” – than the fact that it’s a step forward for our planet.
It’s hard not to wonder how an auto company so emblematic of Detroit can come up with such an insensitive narrative after the city recently filed for bankruptcy, and praise a system that is obviously only beneficial to the happy few.
Muhammad Ali, whose name is used for all the wrong reasons in Cadillac’s commercial, once said: “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize.” I think the United-States doesn’t realize that the unrecognized part that Ali was talking about is what people in the world relate to and admire the most about this country. This unrecognized part is what made me fall in love with New York: its unique melting pot, countless subcultures, and incredible success stories. That’s the dream.