What Is Going On In PETA’s Banned Kaepernick-Inspired Super Bowl Ad?

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Super Bowl ads are an ecosystem unto itself these days, with pre-Super Bowl ads setting up the ones you’ll actually see on Sunday night as two football teams vie for glory and countless brands try to win the hearts and minds of eager capitalists. But there’s also a slightly-darker underbelly to all this: the banned Super Bowl ad.

Some of these are intentionally made to not run, with brands inserting content into them that is too sexual in nature or too sensitive for the National Football League and its broadcast partners. PETA is a pretty consistent party involved here, as the “banned Super Bowl ad” moniker does attract a good amount of (free) attention in its own right. And it seems the animal activists have done it again with an allegedly banned Super Bowl ad that evokes Colin Kaepernick’s non-violent protest against police brutality.

The ad is an animation that first follows a bee through a woody landscape as the Star-Spangled Banner is performed by a woman humming. Then the bee appears to take a knee on a flower and, uh, a bear then also takes a knee by a creek(?), as Kaepernick did during his protest.

PETA on YouTube

The humming changes pitch and tone throughout, apparently to signify the various animals who are singing the anthem but also kneeling. The message is “don’t stand for injustice,” presumably against animals and humans alike. But it’s also… very bizarre. There are fish, for example, “kneeling” in a fast-moving stream while their eyes dart around, nervously, as if to say “yes, we know this is impossible, just bear with us.”

PETA on YouTube

On a clifftop a fox and a wolf and a snake all kneel side-by-side, overlooking the forest as if they lived on Pride Rock. A rat and spider also “kneel” near some fast food trash, which will soon be your most goth Twitter friend’s new avatar.

PETA on YouTube

There’s also a dog and some sheep, a supremely impossible image of a horse kneeling and then a little girl and rabbit kneeling together while a benevolent bald eagle looks on from on high. The eagle looks like it will fly away but then, surprise, it’s kneeling too!

It would be a powerful message if the imagery were not so… weird? The animation style is very traditional and has lifelike animals doing anthropomorphic things, all while presumably humming the National Anthem. I think we can all look forward to the Animal Farm-themed commercial set to Radiohead’s “The National Anthem,” which likely will drop on Super Tuesday, just to shake things up.

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