Chevrolet (for those outside the United States, a major car company) released a heartwarming ad for the holidays. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
This beautiful heartwarming ad has been co-opted by some in the culture wars, circulating it under a headline that claims it is epic because it is the first “non-woke” ad of the season.
I saw someone post it with that kind of commentary and I asked what on earth they imagine is “unwoke” about the ad. It features strong female characters. It alludes to climate change (the fact that it hardly ever snows any more the way it used to). It ends by wishing viewers “Happy Holidays.” In other words, it features things that progressives and liberals consider important and that irk many conservatives.
That leaves only one thing that could be at the heart of this being labeled as “non-woke” and it didn’t take much discussion to discover that that was indeed what many people on the far right love about the ad.
It features a family with no members who are not of European ancestry. In other words, all of the characters in the ad are “white.”
Even if it were true (which it is not, at least in general, although one can always find exceptions) that there is no movement on the left to say that every family must have people whose ancestry traces from different continents, it would still be disturbing that there are people who experience such relief at seeing a family that lacks ethnic diversity. The only reason to feel relief is if you long for the era of segregation, when families might look like this because of law rather than just by happenstance.
I hope the ad doesn’t get ruined by its being dragged into this, because its actual message is one that genuinely caring people all across the political spectrum ought to appreciate. Tristate Alert reports that according to Attorney Clint Barkdoll, “This ad aired in a brief format on NFL telecasts on Thanksgiving. Chevy has now rolled out the full ad. It’s over five minutes. They did this in cooperation with the Alzheimer’s Association. The commercial is just terrific. Everyone will love it. It has gone viral and you’re seeing overnight just praise from all ends. I saw praise and some Christian publications yesterday. What a bright commercial this is. I even saw praise from very progressive outlets saying this is the best ad of the season that everyone should watch.”
USA Today reported that the ad also deliberately worked in a type of therapy that colleagues at Butler University work on. According to Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s head of marketing, “We talked a lot about reminiscence therapy – not that it’s a cure or a solve, but the power of music, the power of memories are things that can enable the person going through it to feel more comfortable. And the people that are the caregivers that are surrounding them, to also feel more comfortable.”
There are two things in particular that irk me about the attempt of some conservatives to turn the ad into a rallying flag in their culture war. One is that it distracts from the focus of the short story on dementia and on how families cope with it. Dementia isn’t a left or right political issue, it’s a human experience that affects not only the individual suffering from it but those who love them. That’s closely related to the other thing that irks me, the dehumanization of those who disagree with conservatives, as though anyone who is “woke” (an ill-defined term if ever there was one), anyone who cares about social justice, equity, and equality, is opposed to multi-generational families. In fact, one of the key emphases of progressives in recent decades has been opening the opportunity for this family experience to all and not only those who’ve traditionally had the privilege to enjoy it. When you’re discriminated against by potential employers and realtors, that home where the family can gather for the holidays may be something you’re actively prevented from enjoying. When you don’t even have the right to marry the person you love, what chance is there for you to enjoy a gathering like this?
If you felt relief at “finally” seeing an ad with no black or brown people in it, with no character that was clearly attracted to members of the opposite sex, then I hope you will examine yourself and actually listen to the message of the ad, which is the secular as well as the religious meaning that most find in Christmas. It is about love. Jesus made the law in Leviticus, “love your neighbor as yourself,” a central slogan, along with “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” If your response to this heartwarming ad is not to want everyone in society to be able to have that experience of family, then I hope you’ll use this Christmas as an opportunity to take a good long look into your heart and mind, and to revisit the teaching of Jesus. Celebrating his birth, even demanding that everyone do so, while ignoring his teaching is not what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
The invitation to do that is not just for the benefit of others but for you. If your reaction to a commercial depicting love and family is political and interpersonal hate, you’ve become twisted inside. The way of Jesus offers an alternative, and if you embrace it, you’ll be able to truly have happy holidays freed from resentment and bitterness that others different from you may also have similar joy on the same occasion.