Appropriation in Popular Culture

Honda CRV 2012 Super Bowl Advertisement:

A very recent example of appropriation in popular culture would be the Honda CRV commercial that was aired during the Super Bowl.  The commercial had present day Matthew Broderick play the role of himself intertwined within the story that was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Focusing first on the movie itself, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was a movie based around the concept of enjoying life.  The famous line in the movie is, “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”  It was one of those movies that appealed to every age and social group because we all have those days where we just dream of taking a day off and enjoying life.  The movie takes a comedic approach to accomplishing this by having the fake illness escalate throughout the course of the day, but the overall message made it an instant classic (maybe better described as a cult classic).

In this Honda CRV commercial, the appropriation of the movie is quite obvious.  Rather than being Ferris Bueller, Matthew Broderick is going through a day in his own life.  It begins the exact same way as the movie with Broderick calling into work pretending to be sick.  He then goes throughout his day in an unknown location that appears to be somewhere on the west coast, very similar to the way that Ferris paraded around Chicago.  Many of the well recognized lines from the movie are thrown into the commercial including the most famous line (mentioned above), as well as paralleling the famous attendance scene (“Bueller, Bueller”) with the valet service.   There are other minor details such as a man in a Detroit Redwings jersey behind Ferris on the ride, but most of the parallels are intentionally obvious due to the goal of the advertising.

Through appropriation the advertisers for Honda have attempted to associate their vehicle with the ability to have a day much like Ferris Bueller did.  Essentially Honda stole the idea of going out and living life and attempted to commercialize it by positioning their vehicle at the center of the wild day.  The message that advertisers are hoping that the takeaway for viewers is that the Honda CRV is the vehicle for those people who want to enjoy life.  Obviously the majority of us do not have the luxury to skip work/school and do such, but the aspiration to live a life like Ferris and the connection to a beloved movie has the potential for a powerful connection to its viewers.

Another example of how the commercial appropriated the movie was the location.  Unlike the movie that attempted to show off the beauty of Chicago, the Honda commercial made the location rather ambiguous with the palm trees and beach being the only clues as to where Matthew is.  From an advertising standpoint, this was likely done to ensure the focus of the commercial was on the vehicle rather than the location.  This tactical move proves to be an example of appropriation because the director of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has said that the film was partly a “love letter” from him to the city of Chicago (AMC Blog, 2007).  In a sense, the movie itself was more than just a story about enjoying life; it was an advertisement for the city of Chicago and what it offered in comparison to New York, which has always been a hotspot for Hollywood films.  In this advertisement, Honda completely ignores the idea of making any city look better than another and ensures that the focus is only on the car.

Overall, Honda created an entertaining advertisement that also provides a good example of appropriation.  Their use of the film was obviously not subtle so that viewers would recognize the connection, but the meaning of the original production has been changed for the sake of selling vehicles.  The effectiveness of the advertisement will be judged based on sales figures, but it’s certainly an advertisement that makes me want to re-watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

AMC Blog. (2007, April 17). Ferris bueller: John hughes and chicago. Retrieved from

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