Only English Speakers Are Beautiful, Apparently


Janani Ravikumar
Staff Writer

During the Super Bowl, a Coca-Cola advertisement titled “It’s Beautiful” has spurned an irrationally large backlash. The advertisement consists of a montage of people of different ages from different communities and ethnicities, all singing “America the Beautiful” in seven different languages: English, Spanish, Hindi, Keres, Tagalog, Senegalese French, and Hebrew. In addition, one part of the montage depicts a girl skating with her two dads–something most viewers see as an obvious indication of Coca-Cola’s stance on the issue of gay marriage.

Much like with a previous Cheerios advertisement that featured a mixed race couple, many opponents of the Coca-Cola advertisement wish to boycott the company for its “un-American” methods, according to the Los Angeles Times. “So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?” asked Fox News radio host Todd Starnes, implying that people who speak languages other than English are all uncultured, and possibly illegal immigrants. The hashtag “#BoycottCoke” trended on Twitter, with people voicing their outrage at Coca-Cola’s desecration of the national anthem with languages that are not the “native” language of English. Of course, America’s national anthem is “The Star-Spangled Banner” and not “America the Beautiful,” but that’s another story entirely.

Not even politicians were shielded from the advertisement’s hype and controversy.

“I am quite sure there may be some who appreciated the commercial, but Coca-Cola missed the mark in my opinion,” said Republican congressman Allen West. “If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come–doggone we are on the road to perdition.”

However, while English may be our official language–the language that everyone is generally expected to know, at any rate–America and its citizens can no longer be defined by this language alone. We’re more diverse, more eclectic than we were a century ago, and many of us speak other languages besides just English. What better way to accurately represent our people than to give different groups and their respective languages some time in the limelight?

The other issue the advertisement covered was a bit more complicated. In one five-second part of the montage, a girl skates with her two gay dads. The reactions to this were even more polarizing than the reactions to the use of multiple languages. While there was a sizeable number of tweets that objected to the inclusion of a gay couple on principle alone, others thought that the advertisement did not go far enough with the issue. Regardless, there is only so much you can do with a one-minute advertisement, and the two gay dads were clearly not meant to be the focus. It was a nice touch, but it didn’t warrant such an extreme backlash.

Overall, the advertisement promoted inclusion–inclusion of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It was a subtle, simple message made even more powerful by the use of different languages, as opposed to just images of people of different races and ethnicities. Arguably Coca-Cola could have fleshed out the advertisement a bit more and given more time to the issues it was trying to address, but a one-minute advertisement can only do so much, and people should stop nitpicking and appreciate the ad for what it has to offer.