The Times They Are A-Changin’
I don’t really care about the fact that Bob Dylan sold out.
The folk crooner who once stood against the establishment as the voice of an entire protest generation made waves yesterday when he appeared in an ad for Chrysler during Super Bowl XLVIII. The times, they are a-changin’, people.
Twitter, the blogosphere, the mainstream media and the Internet in general have been indignantly lambasting Dylan for his choice to appear in the advertisement pretty much from the nanosecond that it aired last night.
Now, I realize that even using the phrase “sellout” any time, anywhere is enough to incite a debate that’s probably been going on since humans discovered fire and went mainstream by cooking with it, so it’s useless to argue about it here.
Let’s be real. Yes, Dylan did something specifically for the money, selling out in the traditional sense. Put down your torches, your pitchforks and your acoustic guitars—let’s move on.
Can we just talk about the actual ad for a moment?
“Is there anything more American than America?” we are asked by its opening lines. The question is so redundant it’s painful. It’s something out of an episode of South Park, almost beyond parody, especially when you add in the imagery—Dylan’s voice on top of images of cowboys on horseback, cheerleaders and star-spangled banners.
Cut to grainy archival footage of ‘50s style diners, baseball games and theme parks. Marilyn Monroe. James Dean. Apple pie.
In the way they used to sell war bonds with “Support Our Troops” posters slathered across the country in WWII, corporations are turning to our sentimental sense of national identity to sell us stuff. And it’s not just Chrysler pimping out Uncle Sam either.
Molson’s genius “I AM CANADIAN” campaign was so massively popular and quotable that I’m pretty sure to this day, “And it’s pronounced zed, not zee, zed” is what most people think is on the Canadian coat of arms (or should be).
This type of advertising appeals to our emotions and it’s not all bad. It’s a common tactic to use when rallying support for athletes during the Olympics. We want to cheer for the home team, we want to believe in our fellow countrymen.
Do we want our pride and true patriot love harnessed to sell us stuff? No. I don’t think so.
It’s corporate propaganda, and judging by the backlash over Dylan’s appearance in the ad, people are not buying it.
Still, he stands as a symbol.
Whether he’s a symbol against the establishment, or he’s the only guy walking on a highway of diamonds, he is American, and Chrysler saw him as a keen representation of what they were trying to construct for their commercial: a wholesome country filled with bald eagles and folk singers.
So, Bob Dylan said “yes” to a paycheque. So what?
Should we be more upset about his financial affairs, or the fact that people are trying to exploit our own sense of patriotism?
Regardless, he made his choice, and now it’s up to all of us to make ours. Move on. It’s all over now, baby blue.