The Super Bowl is usually good for one thing: talking about the big commercial campaigns that are launched and shown during the night. Sometimes the halftime show is worth a watch, and sometimes the game itself is interesting. As one gets older one finds oneself cringing more and more at the commercials as we see the film and television stars of almost yesteryear interact with the stars of yesterday in strange mix-’em-ups that hope to remind the audience to buy this or that thing, to connect this or that brand to a funny feeling or an emotionally hopeful feeling.
The end of the Trump administration and the hope that things might actually get better in the foreseeable future was palpable this year as commercial after commercial pushed on the promises and dreams that have been deferred the last four years as conservatives and their rich friends pillaged the country while decimating our systems of governance. One ad was for General Motors, promoting their new electric vehicle technology and their promise to put out “30 new EVs by 2025.” The commercial starred comedian Will Ferrell and employed Ferrell’s very funny high status idiot characterization of himself attacking Norway. Norway has led the world over the last few years in sales for electric vehicles and replacing their gas-dependent vehicles. The commercial follows Ferrell as he enlists SNL cast member Kenan Thompson and actress and comedian Awkwafina to ignorantly and blusteringly attempt to invade the country of Norway to show American exceptionalism in regards to the new GM electric vehicle technology. The commercial plays on the bluster of American exceptionalism with all three actors ending up in culturally Scandinavian countries not named Norway.
In anticipation of the commercial the University of Agder, Norway, released their own response ad. It is worth the watch.
The commercial begins with someone watching the end of the Will Ferrell GM Super Bowl ad. The woman watching is the rector/president of the university, Sunniva Whittaker, who quickly calls in her assistant to come up with a plan that will temper Ferrell’s anger. “We have to make a public apology and we have to get rid of anything else that might make Will envy us in any way.”
So they go about doing that, telling Americans that they are “truly sorry” and want to maintain their strong relationship with the United States. This is intercut with Whittaker putting stickers that say “Gas” over the “EV” markers on license plates. Rector Whittaker goes on to talk about how important her school’s student exchange with the United States is and shows an American exchange student being drilled into saying “I pay for tuition” over and over again—even though university students do not pay for tuition in Norway. Whittaker goes on to point out that her university collaborates on research projects—at this point she is interrupted by a research student who wants to tell her about strides being made in environmentalism in the school’s research labs. Whittaker waves her off, as she goes on to say that Norway will not stand in America’s way if they want to become the world leader in electric vehicles, “We’ll even help you.”
The commercial ends with a University employee calling in to say goodbye to Rector Whittaker as she is pregnant and will begin her “one year paid maternity leave,” and won’t see Whittaker for some time. Rector Whittaker hangs up the phone, telling the camera “Sorry about that,” and the woman on the other end of the line yells “Not sorry!”
General Motors and Will Ferrell’s Super Bowl commercial below.
The University of Norway’s response ad.