The Hermeneutics of Commercials

If you didn’t know or aren’t American, the Super Bowl was last Sunday. This honored tradition is not only the event that displays the best in American football athletes but also the best in advertisements, and this year was no exception. One stand-out ad was Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” commercial:

This is a charming commercial about the relationship between a man and his horse. This relationship is clearly anthropomorphized on the horse’s part, which has led viewers to speculate about what the nature of this relationship is. The title of the ad wants us to interpret it as a brotherly relationship, but one could easily assume a parent-child relationship as well. The third possibility, though, is what I want to focus on.

Many viewers saw this ad through the lens of a romantic hermeneutic, admitting that it looked like the man and the horse are in love (and, I might note, seeing as the actual title is “Brotherhood,” they are both males and therefore would be in a same-sex zoophilic relationship). Jon Stewart made joke to this end on last night’s show, and Twitter has a number of examples of people taking this interpretation:

https://twitter.com/JustCallMeSaul/status/298259384117641216

I have no doubt the ad’s makers had no intention of casting the man and his horse as romantically involved, and while these tweets indicate the taboo nature of the topic of bestiality in many cultures, I want to ask whether they are wrong. Is it wrong to include with the realm of interpretive possibilities one option that suggests they are in love or are having sex? If humans have had sex with animals throughout history, and if human desire for animals has always been a facet of human sexuality, can a zoophilic hermeneutic be a good hermeneutic to use here?

Usually people express disgust at such a suggestion, and I also want to step back and ask why we feel that way. But that’s another subject entirely.

More to the point, what happens when we take this zoophilic hermeneutic from this commercial and apply it to other texts, like the Bible? I suggest we might find some surprising possibilities for animal attraction. The male voice in Song of Songs compares his female companion to a mare (Song 1:9). If this is to be an effective compliment, if he is to show his affection for her by comparing her to a horse, then perhaps he has some attraction to horses as well. If, as Gayle Rubin said, “the time has come to think about sex,” then the time has surely also come to think about animal sex.

More on this topic as events unfold.

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