84 Lumber’s Constrained Polysemy: Limiting Interpretive Play and the Power of Audience Agency in Inspirational Immigrant Narratives
The 2017 Super Bowl commercial for 84 Lumber simultaneously “broke the Internet” and added to the national debate over immigration by depicting the journey of a mother and daughter to the U.S.–Mexico border. Nielsen reported that 111.3 million people watched the 90-second commercial on TV and the company’s website received 6 million requests within an hour to “see the conclusion at Journey84.com,” which sparked so much traffic it crashed the website. Reactions to both advertisements were immediate and mixed. Through audience analysis of tweets with the hashtags #84lumber and #SuperBowl, this study highlights the constrained polysemic interpretations of 84 Lumber’s advertisement. This article argues that the advertisement’s messages are indicative of greater discourses about immigration. Commentary surrounding the advertisement has failed to address the “symbolic” message of the “journey” to citizenship.