Delivering her from the "happiest place on earth."

February 2nd, 2009 3:26 pm by Kelly Garbato

Over at Change .org, Stephanie looks at some of the rank sexism and speciesism – both of which are played for laughs, natch – found in last night’s Super Bowl ads. We’re talking chimps in suits, simulated animal abuse, “exotic” “pets” and nagging, insufferable potato-headed women – and that’s just for starters. (For more feminist analysis, see Feministe and geekdad at Wired.)

Instead of adding to the pile – which is too easy, really – I’d like to single out a commercial that actually made me blub-smile: Budweiser’s Clydesdales / Circus ad:

In the ad, a dilapidated, run-down traveling circus sets up camp next to a pristine, idyllic pasture. Over a white picket fence, the eyes of two horses meet – love at first sight. On one side of divide is Daisy, the circus’s “show” horse; on the other, our hero Romeo, a [Budweiser] Clydesdale. The two horses run to one other – in cinematic slow motion – and embrace. Daisy and Romeo’s loving gazes and sweet nuzzles are rudely interrupted by the circus owner, who hauls poor Daisy off into a creaky old trailer, promptly kidnapping her off into the sunset, away from the distraught Romeo.

Set to strains of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Romeo sets out in search of his love, traversing meadows, rivers, cliffs – even golf courses and city streets thick with traffic. Once Romeo catches up to the circus, he bursts into the tent in which Daisy is performing. The circus owner catches Romeo’s eye and knows what’s coming; Daisy bucks her rider, and she and Romeo escape together, ripping through the canvas of the tent for extra-dramatic effect.

Of course, the ad is not without its problems. As always, the message is heteronormative; Dog forbid the advertisers feature a homosexual or otherwise nontraditional partnership (at least, one played for anything but laughs and mockery). The commercial also follows the predictable boy-rescues-girl plot line, for we all know that women can’t rescue themselves, let alone someone with superior XY DNA. From an animal rights perspective, there’s also the possibility that Romeo’s picturesque living conditions will serve to further romanticize small / “family” farms.

Still, I like that the ad portrays the circus as anything but the “happiest place on earth.” Daisy’s owner is mean-spirited and cares little about about her emotional and social needs. Crammed into a tiny, decaying trailer, she’s given little personal space or freedom. Her needs and wants matter not one whit, for she is mere property. But an unthinking, unfeeling automaton, she’s not.

Granted, I doubt that most viewers will equate this second-rate traveling circus with the “A”-listers like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Still, the timing is serendipitous, what with an elephant cruelty case against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey set to begin Wednesday.

At the very least, I hope this commercial managed to plant a few seeds of compassion last night.



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