Update: Colonial Williamsburg’s website is once again featuring the Super Bowl commercial.
After intense criticism Colonial Williamsburg has removed its Super Bowl ad from its website as well as its social media pages. [You can still see it here.] A number of criticisms were leveled including its cost, but the one that has been voiced the most concerns the use of footage of the collapse of the World Trade Center in reverse.
Colonial Williamsburg attempted to deal with the backlash by reminding the public that:
“Leaving out images deemed to be negative or sad would not be an honest representation of history. Nor would leaving out moments such as JFK’s death, the triumph of American forces in the bloody Pacific theater of World War II or images of slavery. Those are all depicted in the ad, too.
Williamsburg’s role in the formation of America’s institutions and spirit is undeniable and it threads through all of our experiences as Americans. Our goal was simply to show that intense connectivity we have to each other and to this place.”
Another spokesman from CW offered this in response:
“We understand and respect that some of the images depicted in the ad are jarring. However, the small data point of people who objected to some of the imagery in the ad does not represent the total viewership. We cannot forget our sacrifices or our tragedies even as we celebrate our accomplishments.
It’s unfortunate that the concerns of individuals and families directly connected to that day are referred to as data points.
What CW still doesn’t seem to understand is that for many people 9-11 is not like any other historical event. For many it is still a part of their lived memory. This distinguishes it from more remove events from our national past. The ad was aired in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, which means it was viewed by 9-11 families and others who were directly impacted by that horrific day.
The sight was a bit jarring for me given that it likely pinpointed the exact moment of the death of my cousin, Alisha Levin. Did CW really expect people with a direct connection to that day to view its use in a commercial as an opportunity to reflect on, ‘Where it all began’?
I tried to touch on the challenges present in interpreting and marketing 9-11 in an article I wrote a few years ago for the Atlantic. I still think much of the analysis holds up.