Chrysler’s New Super Bowl Ad Whitewashes WI Union Signs

Wisconsin made a brief, unexpected appearance at the Super Bowl yesterday. A new ad by Chrysler, "It's Half Time in America," voiced by Clint Eastwood, included a short clip of the historic Wisconsin protests from February 2011. Many in Wisconsin recognized the misty evening shot of the King Street entrance to the Wisconsin Capitol with Colonel Hans Christian Heg, who led the all-Scandinavian Regiment into the Civil War, in the foreground.

Recognizing the shot, Wisconsinites went wild on Facebook and Twitter. But what the cheeseheads quickly started to realize is that they did not recognize the protest signs in the shot. Apparently, Chrysler was comfortable using the Wisconsin Capitol shot as a symbol of the nation's discontent, but actually using pro-union signs was too much for the bailed-out car company. Somewhere along the line, red hearts and text were removed from the "Care for your educators like they care for your kids" signs. Plus, Madison Teachers Inc. signs -- MTI in a circle -- were weirdly written over as can be seen by this screen shot. At least there were no palm trees.

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Evening shot of the King Street entrance to the Wisconsin Capitol

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is the Deputy Director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation in 2011 and is a recipient of the Hillman Prize for investigative journalism.


That's not the only misuse of the shot. More important, I think, is the voiceover at that moment -- a disapproving "division, discord, and blame," that turns the Madison protest photo into a negative that Chrysler and Clint are *overcoming*, rather than the positive thing they were. The ad really pivots around the Madison shot (and the snarling/talking half-head immediately before) as a climax to the "bad story". That's what happens right before halftime in the ad's little story. It's followed by the "good story" of regular folks bein' normal and workin' hard. So Madison gets used the way 99 out of 100 of the rest of us would use a *Tea Party* rally.

The sign with the hearts that originally said, "Care about educators like they care for your child" was changed to say... well, what exactly? I went and looked for a higher resolution of the ad and was able to make out what it says. The sign was changed to say: "Say No. It's Time. Thanks. We Don't Need Another." That's kind of strange, isn't it?