The commercial from 1980 featuring Mean Joe Green has a storyline that pulls at your heart strings and positions Coke as a wholesome and mood lifting drink. The commercial is filled with symbolism that propositions the mind to view Coke in a certain way. Individual interpretations of the symbolism vary but can range from religious and historical to even everyday life. I will explore one of the many interpretations of the symbolism from the commercial: the religious interpretation.
While analyzing the commercial I started to see different forms symbolism some with religious connotations. I would not call myself a religious or even spiritual man but I do have an understanding of the bible. Maybe it was my recent trip to see Angels and Demons that has triggered something in the back of my mind. Several things jumped out at me when I analyzed the commercial. These symbols include: the scene, Mean Joe Green, the kid, the coke and the jersey.
The scene or set of the commercial is the main factor in the moulding of the religious symbolism. The hallway Mr. Green is walking down is dimly lit except for the light from outside and the light at the end of the hall (or tunnel?). The hallway seems to be symbolizing the path a person takes when they die. The entrance to the hallway symbolizes the real world and is packed with people and action. Mean Joe is walking or drifting away from our world that is filled with life and light. The path is lit dimly and ends with a lighted doorway. The lighted doorway is the path to the other side or spirit world. The walls of the hallway are concrete material that is hard and cold. The path that Mean Joe is walking is the path we all take when we die.
The path is the path of death and Mean Joe represents all of human kind in the commercial. The battered and weary soul traveling toward the light and afterlife. What expands the religious symbolism further is the use of Mean in the name Mean Joe Green. The use of "mean" is used to show that even the tainted take the same path. While on his path to the afterlife, Mean Joe encounters a child. This child is shown as innocent, non-judgemental and confident. The child asks Mr. Green if he needs any help only to be turned down. The child offers a Coke and Mean Joe refuses and then hesitantly takes it. The child represents an angel or similar figure. The child gives Mean Joe a gift from heaven. The heavenly gift or Coke absolves Mean Joe of his sins and gives him strength and everlasting life. The Coke is the gift of everlasting life and love.
Just when the child is to leave; the revitalised Joe Green gives the child the only thing he has left, his jersey. Mr. Green's jersey is his soul and he has given it to the heavenly figure. The commercial ends with the Coke slogan, "Coke adds life." If that Coke slogan is not religiously connotative then I am at a loss for words.
Was Coke in 1979/1980 using religious symbolism to sell Coke? Let me know how you feel. acommercialcritic(at)gmail.com