Tuesday, February 9, 2021

More About "The Middle," and Meeting Some of the Middle

Since I posted about the Springsteen/Jeep ad yesterday, I've seen a few more things on that topic that I thought were worth sharing.

First, David Perry (@lollardfish) compiled his various thoughts into a Patreon post he called Jeep and The Boss Make Christian Nationalist Propaganda. Perry is a medieval historian, so when he says there's visual religious symbolism at work... believe him. He's also a secular Jew.

A couple of quotes to whet your interest:

I have visited an awful lot of churches with an awful lot of political imagery. In fact, the political religious culture of Venice was my subfield as a scholar. I like churches and other well crafted sacred spaces. I like to visit them and think about iconography. But they aren't mine. They don't include me, unless I want to convert (I do not, thanks). So if a message of unity is surrounded by crosses, then it's a unity that deliberately excludes me.


Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S., but white Christian rural America is a tiny subset of that religion given massive political power (thanks mostly to the structure of the Senate) and overwhelming cultural power as well. "The Middle" plays right to that stereotype, excluding anyone doesn't fit the mold. A message intended to unite us (and sell cars) ends up just emphasizing the "real America" right-wing narrative that has done so much harm to us all. 

A second article I saw is by Joe Lowndes, a political science professor at the University of Oregon who studies right-wing populism. His piece is called Bruce Springsteen, Unity, and the Problem of "The Middle." It's longer, more academic, and covers similar ground about Christian nationalism, but it adds analysis about the way the ad also assumes a white settler point of view, and extends it to specifics about our political history since the 1960s. This land is our land, as part of the song says. 

This “herrenvolk republicanism” as historian David Roediger called it, was an assertion of small-holding, homesteading, and laboring whites as the virtuous producers of society. 

Third... a friend who lives in Kansas responded to Jeep's post of the ad on Facebook. The mysterious algorithm put her comment into my feed, which drew me into reading the 132 comments, some of which have hundreds of comments each in reply. 

I didn't look at the replies to the comments, but I did read the 132 initial comments and I would say 90% of them hate the ad, often because of something like this:

Those type of remarks make up maybe half of the replies, including suggestions of other actors (Gary Sinise was a popular choice, or a real farmer or rancher). 

Then there were a range of other critical comments like these:






There were several comments about the red star used to mark the location of Lebanon, Kansas, at the end of the ad. I think this was the only comment that mentioned the music as having an "oriental" tone, though.

Then there was this woman (second comment shown here), who somehow thought the ad was pro-Trump? Maybe? Or just clueless?


And to close out, in the interest of showing how divergent people's points of view can be from my own, this is my personal favorite comment from a person who thought there was no mention of god in the video:


One final note: I can't believe I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that the three tall, roadside crosses shown in the ad are a life-sized reference to Christ's execution on Calvary... and with the barbed wire right there in the foreground, reminding any Christian of the crown of thorns. Silly me.

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