This commercial for Coca Cola is around one minute and relatively simple.  However, in the weeks after the commercial aired there was much controversy that followed.  The commercial shows a diverse range of Americans in different scenes, with the funning motif of the Coke bottle.  In the background plays “America the Beautiful” in many different languages.  The ad speaks to the range of influences that make up the culture of America. One of the comments on the Youtube video reads: “Hm… I like different languages and cultures, but only in the context of preparation to VISIT their countries. I don’t want to LIVE with hearing 10 different languages every day. Great, we’re multicultural. I can see too much of that becoming very bad for us in the future. How are we going to stay “one nation, indivisible” if people in one state can’t understand the language/culture of people one state over?”  This comment reflects the sentiment of a portion of the American public upon first viewing this commercial. In some ways I take issue with this commercial because it uses America’s transnationalism to advertise their product, in a way exploiting this idea and reifies the different cultures presented.  This connects to the “imagined place” mentioned in Elizabeth Bishop’s,”Questions of Travel”, which describes a specific type of almost voyeuristic tourism. What do you guys think? -Eliza Mitnick

2 thoughts on “”

  1. A comparison of this commercial to Bishop’s “Questions of Travel” is definitely interesting, especially with regards to the idea of an “imagined place–” and, in this case, a very romanticized imagining. Clearly, despite US multiculturalism, the harmony or equality implied in the video is far from the case (this is clear also from the comment that you quoted). My question is, whether or not the video is promoting Coca-Cola, is it helpful to make such a romanticized portrayal of multiculturalism in the US, and create an imagined place, one in which all cultures and languages existing in the US get attention and appreciation, as a hope for the future? Or does this romanticized portrayal simply create a misleading denial of the inequality and discrimination that do exist in the US?

    -Yevanit Reschechtko


  2. I find the language component of this commercial particularly interesting, as I feel — and I recognize that this may be a controversial position — that the bilingualism of certain areas in the US becomes yet another arena in which inequality and discrimination are allowed to develop. One of the commenters posed the question, “How are we going to stay “one nation, indivisible” if people in one state can’t understand the language/culture of people one state over?” Although this sentence is clearly discriminatory in the context of the commenter’s whole statement, ease of communication is a perfectly legitimate concern. Multiculturalism and multilingualism go hand in hand; the world would be better filled with polyglots. But different methods of communication hold more sway in certain areas than in others, and knowledge of common “codes” is the first step towards achieving social, economic, and political harmony.

    In areas with large populations of Hispanic immigrants, signs on public transportation, information plaques, and instructions are often written in both Spanish and English. While this bilingualism certainly fosters a multicultural environment and serves as a reminder of the transnational fluidity of the modern world, it also means that Spanish-speaking immigrants are allowed to remain alien to English fluency. Although the US does not have an official language, English is dominant, and lacking fluency limits ones prospects for total involvement within traditional arenas of economic and political power. Do those who retain mastery solely over their native tongue serve as nothing more than tokens of pluralism while perpetuating socioeconomic inequality in a nation whose history is fraught with oppression? I think that Spanish is championed as a main language of American government and commerce, enabling immigrants to remain unilingual is a form of discrimination.

    This makes me think, in turn, of the relationship between English and the multitude of languages that are native to the Indian subcontinent, and how English fluency quickly became a sign of wealth and status. Hindi, Bangla, Malayalam, etc. etc. were left to those toiling in the fields and cleaning the gutters. There has been a recent nationalist push to issue official communication in Indian languages rather than in English, and to support literature written in local dialects, yet it is clear that English is so ingrained within the region’s culture that it has itself become somewhat of a native tongue.

    The material that we’re reading is all written in English — what are some of the implications of this literature in translation? What does the process of translation tell us about global information flows? I’d love to open this up to a much wider discussion about the relationship between language and nationalism, as well as the role of English as a global language, yet largely a language of colonization and control — I’m interested to hear what some of you guys think!

    – Isabella Mckinley-Corbo


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