Devouring Culture

The myriad ads shown during the Super Bowl surprised, entertained, inspired, and even offended over 100 million people on Sunday night–myself included.  I confess despite growing up near Gillette Stadium (still Sullivan Stadium to locals), I really only watch one or two games a year.  The game this year was a fun diversion from the Anderson Silva head kick replay I’ve been glued to since Saturday night.

Aside from the creepy finger-licking Doritos promo and the self-deprecating Ozzy/Justin Bieber combo, one advertisement is really stuck in my mind.  It’s the second one by Groupon.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is.

A simple piece of satire, really.  It opens with shots of Tibet and ends with an American doing what we do best–spending money and eating.  The controversy lies in the interpretation.  Groupon reps claim to be making fun of themselves.  I read in the Chicago Tribune:

“Groupon Chief Executive Andrew Mason responded to the criticism in a Monday blog post, explaining that the ads were meant to draw attention to philanthropic causes by humorously highlighting “the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues.”

I guess I’m not seeing it.  They ended up offending those involved in the Tibetan cause, the Chinese, and, of course, the real butt of the joke, the American consumer. Tsk, tsk on Mr. Mason for pointing out our ignorance, insensitivity, and addiction to tasty fish curry.  You didn’t rake in any donations, either.

There is a point at which this discussion become pertinent to this website, I believe.  If you read my last post, you probably noticed I occasionally indulge in a little crass humor myself.  That may disqualify me from rallying against the Groupon commercial, yes, even though I didn’t think it was funny either.  I would, however, like to make an observation.

America is meant to be a culturally tolerant place.  I know that’s an ideal, and we preach about our enlightenment much more than we practice it.  If this poorly placed ad shows anything it’s this fact.  It did get me thinking though about how we consume culture in this country and what we do with the leftovers.

Like the actor in the commercial, it’s all too easy to ignore where the diverse cultural advantages we enjoy come from and how lucky we are to live in a place that, at least ostensibly, appreciates pluralism in ideas and lifestyles.  The food, technology, entertainment, religions, and the even martial arts of other countries take root and thrive in America, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in their traditions if we choose.

But to devour the richness of the world around us without paying homage to the people and places that surround us is a travesty.   As martial artists, we should be even more attuned to the cultures and traditions that add so much balance, peace, and joy to our lives.  We should always be mindful of the origins of our arts; otherwise, we’re simply robbing from those we should truly respect.  Let’s not fall into that trap that is simultaneously un-American and completely commonplace.

So . . . I guess I’ll hop off my tiny soapbox and pass the mic.  What did you make of the Groupon ad?  Maybe I’m reading too into it?  What about the other ads last Sunday night?  And how about that Anderson Silva headkick?  Did he really learn that from Steven Seagal?

About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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1 Response to Devouring Culture

  1. Matt says:

    That commercial didn’t leave me laughing either.

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