“This is the millennium of Aftermath.” When Dr. Dre rapped that line on “Forgot About Dre,” off his 1999 album “2001,” he referred to his record label. But from the vantage point of the 2022 Super Bowl, where he headlined the halftime show, it was also a pretty accurate forward-looking statement.
The big game, its spectacles, its advertisements and its attributes all shared a sense of looking back – a nostalgia-infused attitude that we lived in the wake of the best of times, and that it was more comforting to look at the past than at the past. future.
This is not a knock on Dr. Dre, or the incendiary legends-of-hip-hop show he put on. It was too late and exciting for the game to finally center America’s largest music genre for America’s largest audience.
But the calendar doesn’t lie. The Super Bowl usually discovers music when the audience of that music discovers high-fiber diets, and the price of admission was knowing that this revolutionary soundtrack was now Dad’s treadmill workout playlist. Snoop Dogg commanded the midfield, cool and brilliant in a blue bandana tracksuit; that afternoon he and Martha Stewart had hosted the Puppy Bowl.
Remember-when was everywhere at Super Bowl LVI, an event that counts the ceaseless march of time in its name. It was even on the field, where the Los Angeles Rams won the championship in “modern throwback” uniforms, a popular way for the NFL to hark back to its glory days. (Football itself is a cultural legacy. Really, the TV broadcasts are the last remnant of the mass media era when Americans still watched the same TV shows.)
Most years, the host TV network uses the biggest show of the year to promote one of its flagship programs. This year, NBC spotlighted “Bel-Air,” the new teen drama from its streaming brother Peacock, inspired by the ’90s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
On its own, “Bel-Air,” in its three episodes that premiered Sunday, is a perfectly serviceable rendition of the outsider-comes-to-Richville soap theme (“The OC,” “Our Kind of People”). But it would be completely unremarkable without the references to the source material and the famous theme song, which stands out as Will Smith’s Day-Glo fashion from the original.
The new Will (Jabari Banks) is indeed from West Philadelphia – “born and raised,” he says in the pilot, which also features a taxi with sporting dice from his mirror, as well as a couple of guys, to no good, causing trouble in Wills. old neighborhood.
There are some really interesting reinventions in the new version, most notably the character of Cousin Carlton (Olly Sholotan), presented here as a child of black wealth, tormented by his parents’ expectations and the pressure to live up to his social position ( largely white) position. Private school.
But all attempts to distinguish the new series are drowned out by memories of the old. And in an era of TV reboots and revivals, the memories are the point – as underlined by the promos in which Smith re-records the theme song with a cast of international fans.
The past was all over the Super Bowl ads. The most notable spot of the night was an almost shot-for-shot remake of the opening credits of another turn-of-the-century icon who, like Dre, represented to mobsters around the world: “The Sopranos.”
Directed by “Sopranos” creator David Chase, this version starred Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played mob daughter Meadow Soprano, and the new electric Chevrolet Silverado. Tony Soprano’s cigar was replaced by a lollipop; the World Trade Center towers over One World Trade; the high voltage charge of James Gandolfini’s dangerous swagger through an electric vehicle charging station.
It was a curious tribute to a series that once told us, through Tony, that “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.” But ‘remember when’ is also big business, in entertainment – last year we did a prequel movie ‘Sopranos’ – and in advertising.
The job of Super Bowl ads has always been to find a cultural lingua franca, the vein of comedy or emotion that can appeal to young and old, urban and rural alike, within a gigantic TV audience. We met a menagerie of talking animals, became acquainted with the Budweiser Clydesdales and heard from many well-known supporters.
Our only common ground is increasingly in the past. The present moment is too polarizing – see Eminem’s recollection of NFL racism protests by getting on the knees. Or it is too fragmented, divided between niche stars and niche interests.
That’s how we got Mike Myers back in the role of “Austin Powers” from Dr. Evil for General Motors, while Jim Carrey brought his “Cable Guy” character to life for Verizon. For example, Anna Kendrick used retro Barbie and He-Man figures to explain home buying in a Saturday morning children’s ad parody for Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage.
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Once upon a time, ad campaigns could unite an audience not just by returning to the past, but by promising a bright future. But now the future is confusing – see all the cryptocurrency ads – or scary. Samuel Adams’ beer tried to turn those viral Boston Dynamics robots into party animals instead of foot soldiers from an episode of “Black Mirror.” And implicit in the game’s many electric car ads was the threat of climate catastrophe. (The present isn’t all that great either, as depicted by a dystopian ad for the Cue home Covid test.)
That may be why, in the evening’s most unintentionally disturbing ad, Meta offered tomorrow’s metaverse as a way to reclaim a lost past, with the kind of pitch-dark melancholy usually reserved for the most tearful Pixar. movies.
An animatronic dog ends up in the scrap heap after the Chuck E. Cheese-esque restaurant where he performed goes bankrupt. It has been saved from the garbage compactor and is put on display in a space center, where someone slides virtual reality glasses on his head. In the metaverse, his decrepit body is reborn. There’s the old restaurant, and its animal band members, and an audience! Alone in the dark lobby, the dog jams and howls with pleasure. Someone wants it again, if only in their head.
This is the future we can all look forward to, the ad says: being obsolete and discarded, broken in a broken world. But Meta can be a virtual palliative, a cyber hospice, a mental escape to a time when you understood the world and felt loved. It’s depressing, but it sounds true. After all, Facebook, from which Meta emerged, destabilized today’s society as well as a sort of eternal photo album and 24/7 class reunion.
Even the soundtrack is perfectly directed backwards. The ad ends with the swell of the Simple Minds hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” a nostalgic artifact itself, forever associated with the Gen X touchstone “The Breakfast Club.”
In my day—when I saw the film in a movie theater and bought my ticket with a penny with a bumblebee on it—the song expressed the passion and hope of John Hughes’ teenage misfits on the brink of adulthood. In 2022, with those characters, like me, now in the target demographic for the nonstop Super Bowl calls of yesteryear, “Remember” sounds a lot more like an injunction.