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TV 101: How beer commercials got Barack Obama elected (OR: Presidential Drinkability) - VIDEOS

by Jay Black, posted Nov 26th 2008 11:06AM
I'd like to have a beer with that man!It's recently been explained to me that Barack Obama is an African American. As someone who was raised not to "see" color, it never registers to me if someone is black or white or Asian or Italian. One consequence of this heightened way of thinking is that I often don't know what kind of restaurant I'm in until literally the moment I'm served. Another consequence is that the historical significance of Obama's win didn't hit me until a few days ago.

At first, I thought that America had finally embraced my colorless way of thinking and elected the best man for the job, regardless of race. Judging from the editorials I've been reading, however, this is not the case. Apparently, America was ready for a black president not because we've become enlightened, but because of 24, Tony Dungy, and soccer.

Analyzing Obama's win on those terms, it becomes easy to see why he won the election: beer commercials.

I am, as you know, a student of column-writing (known in the industry as columneering). The first rule of a good column is that you can't write something that everyone else is thinking.

For instance, I could never write a column that championed the idea that Barack Obama won the election because he was the better candidate whose presidential response to a historic economic crisis helped win over many Americans who might have been otherwise swayed by his race. That kind of column gets you fired real fast, no matter how much truth there is to it.

No, a good columneerist finds an original idea as to why Barack Obama got elected. Here are the keys to constructing an original column idea:

1. It seems like it could be true (so long as you don't think too hard about it).

2. It's outrageous!

3. It fits in the narrow frame of what your readership expects (i.e. if you're a British newspaper, you write how soccer paved the way for America's acceptance of Barack Obama).

I wanted to write about Barack Obama's win for TV Squad, but I couldn't think of an angle. After all, no one wants to read an article that soberly analyzes how a recent event came to be; they want crazy-ass theories that don't hold up under scrutiny.

Just when I was about to give up and write TV 101: 46 Reasons why Jenna Fischer should marry me so we can live together in a magical castle in a land called Honah Lee, I tuned in to last Sunday's Eagle game. It turns out prayers are answered on Sunday, because midway through that game, I had a crazy-ass Barack Obama theory of my very own.

Here it is: beer commercials got America used to the idea of a black president.

See, all commercials are essentially aspirational. The casting of commercials is of prime importance, then, because the people in the commercial are supposed to represent you after you buy the product. For instance, you can't have a one-eyed hunchback trying to sell you AXE (even though everyone knows that smelling like AXE makes you less attractive than a one-eyed hunchback).

We can assume, then, that the guys we see in beer commercials represent not a reflection of what the average beer drinker looks like, but what the average beer drinker wants to look like. Think of the beer commercial pitchman as the Platonic Ideal of Maleness (except, presumably, with far less gay sex than Plato would have wanted to see).

By breaking down what we see in beer commercials, it's therefore possible to get a good idea what the mind of the average American male is like:

- We want to be attractive, but not in a floppy-haired Jonas brother kind of way. Every beer pitchman has the same set of schlubby Bob Uecker good looks. It's as if the fictional pairing of According to Jim's Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne-Smith resulted in two million offspring, and all of them sell beer on television.

- We want to be surrounded by women much, much prettier than we are handsome. The women in beer commercials are brain-meltingly hot and, though they usually dress in jeans, it's clear from the way they carry themselves that they're the kind of girls that haven't worn full-back underwear since they were in the seventh grade. Also, their favorite two activities are a) watching football and b) getting into clothes-tearing catfights.

- We want to have at least one black friend.

Think back on every beer commercial you've ever seen and you'll see I'm right about this last point: they're almost all racially integrated beyond what we see in real life. Hell, they're racially integrated beyond what we see in the shows they're advertising on (by beer commercial etiquette, at least one of the Two and a Half Men should be an African American).

Since commercials are the most, well commercial, of all the things on television (with the possible exception of Hannah Montana), we can assume this political correctness is not a by-product of what conservatives would call the "namby-pamby liberal elitist ethic boring into our collective ear-holes like it was a mind-controlling space eel of Ceti Alpha V." With the amount of money at stake, it must come from somewhere real.

It is my belief that beer commercials are tapping into an unconscious desire of all men to move into a post racial world, where a person is judged not by the color of his skin, but rather by his ability to say in a funny way, "Wasssssssssssup!"

Further, the commercials create a feedback loop: the first one is aired because of this unconscious desire for equality, which in turn reinforces it, which in turn creates more demand to see commercials like the first one, and so on.

Now, one of the key demographics in analyzing Obama's victory has been the number of white men who voted for him. The 41% who went for Obama was the highest number of white males voting Democrat since 38% voted for Jimmy Carter. Without a few beer-drinking NASCAR dads switching sides, Obama would be sitting around doing absolutely nothing right now (and by "doing absolutely nothing" I mean, "being a US Senator").

On top of that, it's a well-recorded fact that one of the primary reasons that George Bush Jr. won the presidency in 2000 and again in 2004 was not because he was a) qualified or b) even marginally more intelligent than a broom handle. It was because he was the candidate that the average guy wanted to sit down and have a beer with. As we learned in civics class, who you want to have a beer with is far more important than any other quality a candidate might have.

Is it any wonder, then, that Barack Obama was elected? Over the last 20 years, beer commercials have been nudging us toward a vision of racial equality where every group of white guys has one black friend with whom they drink beer.

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama became America's one black friend.

And that is why you can thank this commercial...

And this commercial...

The Rock - Bud Light Commercial - The funniest videos are a click away

And this commercial...

...For allowing America to finally fulfill its promise of a race-blind electorate.

I'd love for you all to put on your columneerist hats and give me your crazy pop-culture reasons for why Obama got elected in the comments. Was it the inclusion of Franklin on Peanuts? Did America kiss Obama like Captain Kirk kissed Uhura? Is Barack Obama Keith Charles to America's David Fisher? There's no end to the BS you can come up with when you're columneering.

Give it a try. Who knows? A major newspaper just might have a job for you!

Jay Black is a writer and comedian who is best known for inspiring Dean Kamen to develop the Segway by saying "Hey, you know what, you have too much money. You should invent something useless!" You can catch one of Jay's live shows by going to his website www.jayblackcomedy.com.

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Of course it's silly to say the show "24" got Barack Obama elected. And your column was funny. But there was similar talk about the aforementioned show "Commander in Chief" with Geena D. when it was on the air that it was a way to get America ready for a woman president / candidate (Hilary Clinton). While to some it's probably ridiculous to think a TV show should have an effect on how people view the world, well... I don't think it's totally invalid. Not to "columneer", but isn't the point of art, like literature or film, to present an idea in a unique way? To show something from a different angle or perspective? To say that "24" helped Barack get elected is extreme, yes, but to completely discount the impact of positive images of African-Americans in positions of power and leadership in the media is equally extreme. I think we have become enlightened, which became reflective in our real lives but also our artistic expressions of our world, which helped enlighten us more, and so on and so on, each helping the other grow. And we still have a long way to go!

November 28 2008 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i found this funny, even though you ARE ripping off lines from Stephen Colbert.. just should've given Colbert some credit, but ehh, using someone elses jokes is flattery, right? lol... anyways, this is very true to an extent, as a 21 yr. old female, i would LOVE to sit down and have a beer with Barack and Michelle so much more than Bush, McCain, and such... probably because Barack and Michelle seem like decent people who you can just sit back talk and drink a beer with... While Bush, if you gave him a beer, who KNOWS what he would do or say, and Laura seems like such a prude... McCain would probably have a heart attack, and i'd be too drunk to drive, and Cindy would be busy having that affair, and Palin, well, she'd get tipsy and mistake my dog for a Moose, and then try making Moose burgers....

November 28 2008 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great stuff Jay!!

P.S.- It's invalid MDP because, well...you're dumb.

November 27 2008 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you want to compare this to anything on TV, just compare it to American Idol. This year wasn't necessarily about who was best, it was about who America liked the most. The most talented usually get kicked off of American Idol towards the end, and end up having a better career than the winner. I'm not saying that McCain was better, but Obama was the prettier one.

November 26 2008 at 9:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm'a admit: I laughed at the "On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama became America's one black friend." line.

Good stuff. :)

November 26 2008 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your right, for a man with no experience and filled with lies the only way he could be elected is if everyone was drunk on beer. It all makes sense now.

November 26 2008 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is by far the stupidest article I've ever read on any blog, ever. Not kidding.

November 26 2008 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to MDP's comment

Seriously, did you just say "stupidest"? This word alone makes your comment automatically invalid.

Jay, I think this article was brilliant. I love the idea that our country elected Barack Obama as Commander in Chief to be the token black guy.

I see the First Family more as the Cosby's. It's okay to have the Obama's in the White House because they are an "educated" and "well spoken" black family... just as it was okay to have the Cosby's on prime-time because they were a doctor and an attorney.

As Kim said in a previous post, for those of you with no sense of humor, I am obviously kidding as I am a minority myself.

Again, brilliant columneering, Jay :)

November 27 2008 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Invalid, eh? It's my OPINION. I realize that I made a grammatical error, but I don't understand how that makes my opinion "invalid" in any way.

November 27 2008 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Didn't you hear about the entertainment reporter that asked Keifer Sutherland about the election?
He was asked if 24 felt it was paved the way for a black president. Remember Dennis Haysbert played that part. But so did Morgan Freemen in Deep Impact. Now that the race barrier has been broken maybe gender will be next. Geena Davis was the Commander in Chief on tv.

November 26 2008 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are, of course, only a few possible answers -

1) Affirmative Action! We've met our quota of old, white guys. If Obama hadn't won, the Supreme Court would have had to overturn the election (that would have given Scalia a massive stroke).

2) White guilt! As a very pasty, pale white person, I never could have voted for Obama because I think he was the best candidate. I was clearly trying to repay a collective debt owed to generations of African-Americans. Does that make us even now?

3) The Jeffersons! The first affluent Black family on television that I can remember. Money trumps race - lesson learned!

PS. Since I know that there will be people who are reading this that have no sense of humor, my comments are highly sarcastic. In truth, I voted for Obama because he inspired this 41 year old white woman as no political candidate ever has!

November 26 2008 at 12:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Best. Columneering. EVAR.

November 26 2008 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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