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