Prejudice can be very subtle. Recently, we have seen and experienced many explosive, in-your-face examples of how America is very much still struggling with sexism, discrimination and oppression, but it’s often those really inconspicuous acts of bigotry that get overlooked and can even subconsciously confirm our own bias. In 1993, Martin Scorsese wrote a letter about a New York Times article that detailed this very well. That NYT article basically opined that recently deceased Italian film great Federico Fellini made films that were esoteric and not enjoyable to watch. Why couldn’t he just make normal films? In his letter, Scorsese likened this opinion to a bias toward artistic expression, foreign filmmakers and diversity. To help do this, he used the example of the Bud Dry commercial above (remember dry beers?). From the letter:
It reminds me of a beer commercial that ran a while back. The commercial opened with a black and white parody of a foreign film — obviously a combination of Fellini and Bergman. Two young men are watching it, puzzled, in a video store, while a female companion seems more interested. A title comes up: “Why do foreign films have to be so foreign?” The solution is to ignore the foreign film and rent an action-adventure tape, filled with explosions, much to the chagrin of the woman.
It seems the commercial equates “negative” associations between women and foreign films: weakness, complexity, tedium. I like action-adventure films too. I also like movies that tell a story, but is the American way the only way of telling stories?
The issue here is not “film theory,” but cultural diversity and openness. Diversity guarantees our cultural survival. When the world is fragmenting into groups of intolerance, ignorance and hatred, film is a powerful tool to knowledge and understanding.
Xenophobia, sexism and the fear of trying something new — pass me a Bud.
That commercial aired in the early ’90s, and a lot has changed since then. Some stuff hasn’t. When it comes to Anheuser-Busch commercials, its 2016 Super Bowl spot on immigration and its Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer commercials promoting gender equality showcase a thoughtful approach toward marketing, but the company still dabbles in division. Check out last year’s highly abrasive take on the Brewer’s Association craft seal, and then enjoy another example of Anheuser-Busch’s continual effort to market against craft beer (which it also sells) by making it look pretentious and foreign.