Published June 25, 2018
A Volkswagen ad about Icelandic football, depicting an Icelandic couple in a car, is causing an uproar on Icelandic social media.
The bandwagon-jumping ad (eponysterically named “Jump On The Wagen”) manages to get every single detail about Iceland wrong. It features a blonde woman driving a Volkswagen family car calling upon Americans to support Iceland, since “we’re too few to do the wave,” while admonishing a Viking-helmet clad man named Sven—who sits in the trunk of her car for some reason—to stop trying to do the wave, since he’s alone.
The woman’s accent is a work of art in itself — 80% Midwest American and 20% Swedish chef. It makes you think her prep for the ad was to scurry around Hollywood trying to find a blue sports t-shirt whilst watching a couple of Björk interviews on the YouTube app.
The wave… huh?
However, our sources tell us that VW did search for Icelandic actors and dialect trainers. This is why it’s astounding that they ended up with an ad in which the only named character has a Swedish name (that isn’t even legal in Iceland), and mentions “the wave,” when the only thing many people know about Icelandic football is the “Viking clap” celebration.
Other fun details are the horned viking helmet—which is something we simultaneously sell to tourists while telling them that authentic Viking helmets didn’t have horns. This look was invented by the stage directors of Richard Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ for the ‘Ride Of The Valkyries’ scene (the song better known to Americans as Elmer Fudd’s opera banger ‘Kill The Wabbit’—note the horned helmet).
Who is Sven?
And… oh, Sven. The Icelandic iteration of that name would be Sveinn (with the pronunciation approximating “Sveitt”). But the drunk, helmeted tourist-looking guy in the backseat isn’t called Sveinn. He’s called Sven. Iceland, as you may have read, has a “naming committee,” who ordain which names are legal in Iceland. So, in Iceland, it’s literally illegal to name your child Sven. But the drunk guy in the backseat might be a Swedish friend. So there’s that.
Why the strange lady with the sad, angry eyes is wearing a random blue sports-team t-shirt over a flannel shirt is another mystery. Maybe the official team shirt is trademarked. Maybe she didn’t have the good sense to just get a nice SMITE THE WORLD t-shirt like everybody else. The combination is bizarre—which is, of itself, a bit Icelandic—but she’d need to be a lot more disheveled to pull that look off.
The feeling one gets is that she must have snapped and had a complete personality breakdown. Maybe something terrible happened and she ended up out of her mind, driving around the countryside alone. She must have heard about Iceland on her satellite radio in her brand new car. Somewhere along the route, she picked up a hitchhiker, undressed him, got him wildly intoxicated, put him in the trunk of her car, started calling him Sven. Her new Icelandic-ness was an approximation based on the only North she’d known, gleaned from episodes of Fargo, Vikings, and the Muppets. How long she’ll drive that family-less family car along desolate country roads, we’ll never know. We can only hope that “Sven” will sober up and find a way out of the trunk. With the maternal way our off-the-rails soccer mom talks to Sven, maybe she’ll even adopt him. Who knows?
We’re not gonna get offended at Volkswagen this time, since they’re clearly still getting to grips with the whole reality thing. But try to get some help next time, eh*?
(*Tricked you! Icelanders don’t say ‘eh.’ That’s Canadians. )
Read more about the World Cup here.