"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dodge Is Whitewashing The American Farmer–PC Nonsense

An article in The Atlantic (Alexis C. Madrigal, 2.5.12) takes issue with the Dodge Ram commercial which romanticizes the American farmer (pictures of grizzled, hardworking farmers, beautiful expanses of prairie, simple Iowa farmhouses, and old trucks – all narrated by Paul Harvey in a remastering of one of his old and famous broadcasts). The problem with the ad, says author Alexis Madrigal, is that the people featured in the ad are all white. Where are the tens of thousands of Mexican farmworkers, he asks? And the black folk in the fields of the South?  Why only white people?

There are two reasons.  First, the ad is not aimed at the black field hands or Mexican migrant workers who, on their dirt wages cannot afford a beat up old truck of any make let alone the supersized, tank-like, chrome-and-all-the-extras Dodge Ram; but the white farm owners who can.

Second, any cursory look around small cities and towns everywhere in the US will show that these big trucks are not bought just by farmers but by Good Ol’ Boys and Marlboro Man wannabees.  As a matter of fact, the Ford F-150, a truck very similar to the Dodge Ram, is one of the top selling vehicles of any car or truck in America.

(Dodge Ram)

(Ford F-150)

Vehicles, like any other commercial product, are sold on the basis of image; and the image of the lone cowboy incarnation – the independent, defiant, patriotic, hardworking family farmer who has resisted the incursions of agribusiness and steadfastly stayed on the land just as his father and grandfather had done – still resonates deeply in the American psyche.  Few of us who buy these behemoths will actually use them for hauling sheep, bales of hay, or tractors over the steep, rutted roads we see on TV, but we would like to think of ourselves as the same independent, macho types depicted.

Oh yes, most people who buy new Ford and Dodge trucks are white.  The black, inner-city ethos is definitely not the Dodge Ram, a cracker wagon if there ever was one.  So the advertisers know exactly what they are doing and to whom they are pitching the ad.

In DC, the car of choice of Latino painters and maids is the 1996 Toyota Corolla, beat up and dinged because of years, mops, and paint cans; but still a reliable, working vehicle.  I don’t know what Mexican farmworkers drive, but it has to be the California version of the beater Corolla.  If I wanted to sell used cars in the DC market, I would be sure to get a Salvadoran with a mustache and baseball cap to give a testimonial for the Corolla.

And yet when a company [Dodge] decided to pay homage to the people who grow our food, they left out the people who do much of the labor, particularly on the big farms that continue to power the food system. You want to tell a grand story about the glories of working the land? You want to celebrate the people who grow food? You want to expound on the positive 'merican qualities that agricultural work develops in people? Great! What a nice, nostalgic idea!

Dodge, of course, has absolutely no desire to pay homage to the Mexican farmworker, the Southern black field hand, or the white farmer from Iowa.  The company wants to sell cars and trucks, purely and simply, and will figure out the best way to extract money from those who are most gullible.  Business has no mission statement, no higher purpose, no reforming charter.  It is in business to sell things; and we should be happy that Dodge, Ford, and all the rest of the car manufacturers in the US have recovered so nicely from the recession.  Our real heroes are the car companies, the advertisers who hawk their products, and the dopes who buy them.

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