This ad for the 2014 Cadillac ELR takes French-bashing to a whole new level.

If you've been watching the Olympics at all, you've probably caught the new ad for the 2014 Cadillac ELR. It's the one with the crisp, arrogant guy striding around his fabulous modernist house somewhere in Southern California. As the camera follows him through his deluxe environment, complete with attractive, industrious children, the guy (well-played by actor Neal McDonough) delivers a monologue about American exceptionalism with a snappy smugness that you'll likely find either repellent or refreshing.

The ad's ideological core is not only pro-American, it's anti-foreign, an explicit rejection of the downright European notion that life takes place not only at work, but also at home, and in the places in between.

We have all these fabulous things, our hero tells us – the palm trees, the sprawling private home, the pool, the pristine white interiors, the Cadillac – because we're not distracted by things other frivolous cultures fritter away their time on, like coffee. And walking. And vacations.

"Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stroll by the café, they take August off. Off." He raises an eyebrow. "Why aren't you like that? Why aren't we like that? Because we're crazy hard-working driven believers, that's why. Those other countries think we're nuts. Whatever."

This guy doesn’t need to stop at a freaking café. He doesn’t even need to stop to make eye contact with his wife and children, who seem just as happy to ignore him as well. He's got better things to do, just like the Wright Brothers and Muhammad Ali. He's the proud member of a nation, he tells us, that went up to the moon and then left because it got bored.

"As for all the stuff," he says as he fires up his $75,000 electric vehicle, "that's the upside to only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?" That last line delivered with a proudly smarmy wink.

You have to give Cadillac credit. The ad is a shrewdly self-aware, beautifully produced entry in a tradition of French-bashing that goes back to Shakespearian times and has been revived repeatedly by U.S. politicians who want to make sure their constituents understand the dark side of croissants and universal, humane health care. Luxury electric vehicles may be a novelty, but disdaining the French for enjoying life too much? Plus ça change.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a man at a bus stop in Miami
    Transportation

    Very Bad Bus Signs and How to Make Them Better

    Clear wayfinding displays can help bus riders feel more confident, and give a whole city’s public transportation system an air of greater authority.

  2. a photo rendering of "Siemensstadt 2.0" in Berlin
    Life

    Berlin's Take on a High-Tech ‘Smart City’ Could Be Different

    The German company Siemens is launching an ambitious adaptive reuse project to revitalize its historic corporate campus, with a modern data-collecting twist.

  3. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of transit-friendly Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s about to change.  

  4. a photo of a security camera
    Equity

    Six U.S. Cities Make the List of Most Surveilled Places in the World

    Atlanta and Chicago top the list of U.S. cities that are watching their citizens with security cameras, but China leads the world when it comes to official surveillance.

  5. Environment

    Why Flood Victims Blame Their City, Not the Climate

    Cities may struggle to gain support for climate action plans because they haven’t dealt with infrastructure issues that regularly afflict residents.

×