Before Sunday’s “historic” and “stunning upset,” interest in the Super Bowl LI (that’s 51 for you non-Romans) was reportedly at an all-time low. Meryl Streep didn’t help. Still, the commercials are always worhty. As in the past, Budweiser came on stronger than a stud of Clydesdales, with two Bud Light and one classic Budweiser spots.
“Ghost Spuds” is long form (1:35), featuring a resurrected Spuds MacKenzie materializing before an Ebenezer Scrooge/George Bailey surrogate who, in the opening seconds, decides to stay home rather than go out with his pals to enjoy a few buckets of BL. In a series of curated visits to bar scenes past, the spectral Spuds convinces him otherwise: it’s better to go out with his coalition of the swilling, because, you know, it’s a wonderful life. The unintended subtext is almost painful: the beer is beer, okay, all right, but the reason you should drink BL is because all your friends are doing it. Forget, if you can, that this particular group of friends (all guys save for one token chica) are half-wits: they’re playing a game where come up with “pants” to complete the phrase “The proof is in the…” (get it!!). But who cares?! They’re your bros; crack a bud with ’em, ya stiff. “You’re not here for the parties” (Or, one must assume, the beer.) “You’re here for the friendships.” Spot ends with spook dog ascending into the blazing cloud vortex of Gozer the Gozerian after bestowing a 12-pack of BL upon the central character, who then wanders into the party: the street number of the party house is 1989, the year Spuds was “retired” by the company/ad agency.
The bros-before-beers theme is pulled through “Between Friends,” which begins and ends with a guy (presumably the best man) making a toast to his soon-to-be-married best bud. Toast begins, “I’m not one of these guys to say all this mushy garbage,” then between scenes from a marriage ceremony are scenes from this budding, borderline-maudlin bromance. The flashbacks are at times kind of clever (as when one guy is heading toward home plate and his friend, playing catcher, tells him to “Get down!” so he doesn’t get bonked with an incoming beanball – this is a two-man team here!). “You’re not just drinking beers, you’re building friendships.” Try doing that with your fancy pants Chilean Quimera Premium Craft Beer or your Trappist Westvleteren 12, ya commie! Me and my pal will have a BL!
“Born the Hard Way, the most powerful and controversial of the three Budweiser spots, features the travails of young Adolphus Busch who makes his way to America, an immigrant and much hated for that. The commercial begins with Busch in a bar, and we flash back through the brain of Busch after some guy bellies up next to him and says “You don’t look like you’re from around here.” At the end of the spot, Busch announces his dream to “make beer.” Turns out, he’s expressesing this dream to none other than Eberhard Anheuser, who has just spotted him a brewski: “Give my friend a beer.” Once again, it’s all about the bromance, bud.
Around the middle of this same spot, a man on the boat asks Busch, in German, “Why leave Germany?” Busch responds, “I want to brew beer,” in English, because he wants to be an American and he has a dream. After he gets his immigration paper stamped, some resident tough buy body checks him and snarls, “You’re not wanted here. Go back home.” Sound familiar? Busch’s fellow travelers also include African-Americans, who were born an even harder way than Busch, unwilling immigrants to a country they helped build. “Where nothing stops your dream, this is the beer we drink.” The “where” is, of course, America. Drinking Bud is downright patriotic. Or is it…?
This commercial sparked one of 2017’s first alt-wing product boycotts. This carefully crafted spot must have been in production way before the recent travel restrictions (or do you say “ban”) were announced, so this boycott among righties seems as wrong-headed as some similar boycotts among lefties. If you’re so inclined, #BoycottBudweiser or #GrabYourWallet.
Turned out Super Bowl LI was one of the most exciting sportsing events I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve actually seen three such athletic events in my life.
If your political proclivities allow you to do so, you can get a BL (draft, not canned) at Oak Park’s Bar Louis, the Bar in the Village Where Bars are Technically Forbidden.
To see the commercial spots referenced, click through the videos above.