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Super Bowl ads: can we not?

Okay. On the one hand I don’t want to do this, because the behavior in question was obviously acting out ofor attention, but all this #content isn’t going to write itself, y’know? Gotta write your thinkpieces while the iron is hot. But this also brings me to something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, so, well… (sigh)

Let’s talk about that Budweiser Super Bowl ad.

Point one: who cares?

That’s what annoyed me about so much of the reaction to last year’s “not to be fussed over” ad. We know AB-InBev has been buying craft breweries. We know they propped up a straw man argument. It’s all dumb. So why give them the attention? These ads are obviously the dying breaths of an ancient behemoth desperately struggling for relevance, your racist uncle oblivious to why nobody finds his jokes funny anymore.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for American lager: I think there is, and I’m not here to shit on “fizzy yellow beer”. That’s a holdover from the days of when we were the reactionaries, defining ourselves by what we’re not rather than by what we are.

If you’d like to take issue with their obvious trolling then that’s fine; it just seems self evident to me. Instead, let’s talk about the ad’s panicked machismo.


In between aggressive horn blasts, a series of text blurbs overlay vignettes. “Not ponies”, it says while Clydesdales gallop. “Not a fruit cup”, as a mustachioed man who is probably a retired cop flicks a lemon wedge off his glass.

They are not exactly being subtle. Ponies are for girls. It may not be as in vogue as it used to be, but “fruit” is still a thinly-veiled synonym for “gay”. This ad is using dog whistles, coded language to appeal to certain people whether or not they realize it, just like when racist politicians campaigned on “state’s rights”. The subtext here is that Budweiser is for real men, manly men, who like red meat and sexy ladies and know that people these days are too sensitive and can’t take a joke.

(And listen, I’m not saying this as an insult or anything, but between the “Not small” tag and that scene where a bunch of dudes shake their hands to make foamy beer spray all over each other this ad kind of seems as straight as the volleyball scene in Top Gun or me watching Magic Mike XXL.)

When we as a community, of beer makers and drinkers, talk about how we’re “better” than the big breweries we generally mean in flavor, but we need to be better here too. This macho crap is exclusionary. You want to be punk, a rebel against the norm? Be unapologetically, explicitly inclusionary. I am not here to coddle you and coo about what a big strong virile man you are. Stop tolerating the status quo. Question your sexuality. Question your gender.

It’s all too easy to dismiss their ad as being the same old macro nonsense, and I’d prefer you dismiss it rather than actually engage over those tired points. But instead, let’s take this time to respond to their “not backing down” of what they aren’t by standing up for what we aren’t too. We — the people who make, serve and drink beer — aren’t just straight white men. That isn’t social justice nonsense: it’s just the truth. I know trans people, genderqueer people, bisexual people, all involved in the beer community.

So let them have their beer that’s “not for everyone”. The rest of us are far more fun to be around.