Ah, the Super Bowl. The one day of the year when it's socially acceptable to sit on the couch, eat enormous amounts of food, and watch commercials like your life depends on it. But not all Super Bowl commercials are created equal, and some are pretty divisive. Exhibit A: Tweets about the Martin Luther King Jr. Ram Super Bowl Commercial prove that it was not well-received.
The commercial features a famous sermon delivered by King on Feb. 4, 1968. And while it's pretty wonderful that the speech turned 50 years old on Sunday, Twitter users weren't impressed that the wise words of King were being used to sell cars. Romper's request for comment from Ram regarding the commercial was not immediately returned.
The sermon in question is known as the "The Drum Major Instinct," and focuses on King's belief that people should do what they can to serve the greater good. During the sermon, King begins by saying, "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve." The commercial continues his sermon, while also showing short clips of Americans doing great things to serve others. At first, it seems pretty inspiring, but when people figured out it was actually a car commercial, they were pretty upset.
Seriously, Twitter Was Not Impressed
As The Detroit News reported, the commercial might have had good intentions, although it was still contested online. Per The Detroit News:
The tone of the commercial, which aired just before the end of the second quarter, brings to mind Eminem’s “Imported from Detroit” and Clint Eastwood’s “It’s Halftime in America,” previous Super Bowl ads from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV that are remembered more for their tone and message than the product they were selling.
Nevertheless, people on Twitter had some serious reactions to a company using the words of a man who was killed two months after he delivered that sermon to sell its product.
Let's Just Say, People Definitely Thought It Was Questionable
King had been a leader of the Civil Rights movement in the United States since the mid-1950s, before he was killed by a known racist, according to History.com. And the sermon used in Dodge's commercial was seriously poignant:
If you want to be important, wonderful/ If you want to be recognized, wonderful./ If you want to be great, wonderful./ But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant./ That’s the new definition of greatness. / By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. / You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. / You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve./ You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve./ You only need a heart full of grace —/ Soul generated by love.
What's more, as Stanford University's The King Center noted, the specific sermon was so revered that "Excerpts were played at King’s nationally televised funeral service." Clearly, the sermon is important in so many ways, both historically, and personally for the King family.
A Lot Of People Just Didn't Think This Was The Right Political Climate For That Commercial
Obviously, America is entrenched in some pretty big political issues at the moment. Last summer, white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Donald Trump's comments on the matter raised serious eyebrows.
Truly, Martin Luther King Jr. fought to end racism in America, and the current instances of inequality and modern-day racism are so fraught and vivid that it's clear this probably isn't what he imagined his words would be used for in the future. And The King Center clarified that on Twitter, as well, writing that it had nothing to do with the Ram commercial.
So for now, it's unclear whether the people behind the commercial realized how controversial it would be. But one thing's for certain: it got people talking.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.