Every year, another Super Bowl, and, with it, a slew of new ads. The ads have become an event in and of them-selves in recent years. This year, there were trailers for the ads. Let me repeat that for emphasis. There were trailers for advertisement spots. Teasers, people. Re-leased before the big game to get people excited about ads. Not teasers for feature-length movies, no—teasers for commercial spots varying in length from thirty seconds all the way up to two minutes.
But, before this becomes a predictable “liberal spouts off against our capitalistic culture” post, let me set the record straight.
I’m not much of a football fan. I watch the game, sure, but mostly to keep up to date with the cultural lexicon. Yeah, lexicon. I’m that nerd.
But, like many Americans, I like the ads. I look forward to them. They usually disappoint, of course, but the Super Bowl is supposed to be that one time of year when the creative types on Madison Avenue step up their game and produce something more lasting that your typical ad campaign. Sure, there are always the crass and crude ones, which bludgeon our collective intelligences (I’m looking at you, GoDaddy), but then there are some ads that truly shine. Ads that almost transcend themselves as commercial entities. Ads that could almost pass for art.
The artiest ad this year, and one of the most popular, was one, entitled Farmers, from Dodge RAM.
I imagine I’m not the only one who wondered what was being sold for the first thirty seconds or so. It takes 24 seconds for the first RAM truck to appear, and, even so, you don’t get a good look of the branding until much later. No, for the first minute and fifty seconds of this two min-ute ad, we are treated to a series of beautiful photo-graphs of American farms and farmers while the late Paul Harvey is heard delivering an excerpted version of his “So God Made A Farmer” speech.
The speech was originally delivered in 1978 to the Future Farmers of America, who partnered with RAM to produce this ad. Harvey disclaimed authorship, saying that the text came to him anonymously via mail, from, he said, “A farmer, perhaps; more likely a farmer’s wife.”
I find the text itself to be incredibly lovely. Reading it over, especially the full, non-excerpted text, is an undeniable pleasure. The prose, folksy yet rhetorically punchy, makes the piece feel timeless.
And that’s the temptation, when talking about farming in America. To assume that it is a timeless, unmoving insti-tution which is comprised entirely of hardworking farmers and their families. This is a highly romanticized vision of the farming industry, especially in the way that RAM is presenting it. See, Harvey’s words may have been more accurate in 1978 than 2013.
Farming probably was much simpler then. The rise of industrial agribusiness threatens the solvency, if not the very existence of the idyllic small-scale farmer which the ad extols.
But, beyond this, there is something much more troubling about the ad, at least from my perspective. As an advo-cate for farmworkers and farmworkers’ rights, I’m trou-bled by the imagery presented here. I’m troubled by the
uncompromising vision presented in the series of photo-graphs, which heightens the role of the farmer to near demigod status, yet does not so much as mention the plight of the farmworker—the other half of the agribusi-ness equation. And, despite making up nearly half of the hired farmworker labor force, the ad features almost no Hispanics outside of a quick cut to what appears to be a mother and her teenage son, selling directly to the con-sumer at a farmer’s market.
After watching the ad, I though to myself, if God says all of this about the farmer, what would he say about the farmworker?
With apologies to Harvey, whom I hold a great deal of respect for, I present the following:
And on the ninth day, God said, “Gee, there sure is a heck of a lot of work to be done. This farmer is going to need some help.”
And so God made a farmworker.
God said, “I need someone willing to get up before dawn, just the same as the farmer, who will work all day in the fields, picking apples or harvesting onions or whatever the crop may be, who won’t get a break for lunch or water or anything else till the work is done, and who will then go back to the camp and eat supper, meager though it may be, only to get up and do it all again, and for a fraction of what the farmer does it for.”
So God made a farmworker.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night, fearing that he might be taken by the authorities from his family at any moment. I need somebody who hopes the law will change, even if only a little, so that he and his family could have some basic security, and, with it, some basic dignity. And when that bill falls through, he’ll dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘no appropriate repre-sentation in the political sphere,’ put in another seventy-two hours, with no overtime to speak of.”
So God made a farmworker.
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, which, somehow, pull more strongly than the much harder and much stronger bonds of oppression, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘something else—anything else.’”
So—God made a farmworker.
If you think the tone here sounds off, you’re right. It does. It would make for a pretty awful ad, truth to be told. It’s not exactly uplifting, is it? We don’t want to be believe that God would make the farmworker like this in the same way we want to believe that God made the farmer like Harvey so eloquently and poetically imagined for us.
So, it begs the question:
If God didn’t make the farmworker like this—Who did?
– submitted by Grayson Morley, The Witness Blog of Rural & Migrant Ministry (RMM)