The rest of the (farmer) story

Dodges Super Bowl ad featuring Paul Harveys ode to the farmer has generated a lot of talk right from its airing, and not just for the Americana-drenched production. Some have called out the ad for its portrayal of the farmers whom God on the eighth day made; the majority of them reflected the ads presumed demographic target, which also happens to make up the larger part of the football-watching audience.Who really works the farms? According to a fact sheet[.pdf] from the National Center for Farmworker Health, 72 percent of the farmworkers in this country are foreign-born and 68 percent are Mexican by birth; 22 percent are women.Should Dodge and its agency have taken pains to cut an ad reflecting the facts? The very aim of advertising is to conjure an alternative reality, where issues like immigration wont interfere with the prospective consumers contemplation of the possibilities: If the exhausted American ploughman can stop to splint the leg of the meadowlark, then why not have a new truck? The Atlantics Alexis Madrigal frames it well:

[A] Dodge ad isn't on the level of the government's deportation programs or the long-time cognitive dissonance of American immigration policies. But it's the kind of cultural substrate in which our laws and prejudices grow.

Harvey himself helped layer that substrate, with radio commentaries celebrating John Wayne, individualism, and the death penalty and warning of radicals, moral decay, and welfare cheatsimages and language readily harvested by politicians and culture warriors of lesser eloquence and bigger ambitions. So its interesting to see the turnabout engineered by immigration rights groups this week, with the release of slightly different versions of the Dodge ad. Paul Harveys voiceover is still there, but the farmers God needs to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant are Latinos and Latinas. More reflective, in other words, of the current reality. The ad from Latino rights group Cuentame can be viewed on its Facebook page; one from Isaac Cubillos appearsbelow.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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