TV2 Denmark’s “All that We Share” isn’t so much an ad as it is a manifesto.
It begins, “It’s easy to put people in boxes. There’s us … and there’s them.” As if on cue, groups walk onto the set and step dutifully into the boxes that, from a glance, define them. The high- and low-earners. The new Danes and the old. The country Danes and the city folk. The religious and the not.
As they stand there, uncertainly sizing each other up, a man with a tablet begins to ask some funny questions. Who here was the class clown? Who are step-parents? Who believes in life after death? Who was bullied, and who did the bullying? Who’s seen UFOs?
Laughter scatters the room. Then members of those seemingly fixed boxes step out of them and start creating new groups, colored with people they probably would not even look at on public transport.
Something is lost in trying to explain what happens here in words. It’s better to watch it, because this whole procedure seems a bit silly, and we’re all tired of ads that play the eye-opening examiner.
The difference here is that so much of what matters isn’t said. Instead, it’s visibly felt—in sidelong glances of newfound complicity, or the delight in finding oneself in a group whose diversity suddenly looks charming, as representative of your own dynamism as anything else.
There is very old pain in the tight jaw of someone who’s been bullied, and contrition when a young bully lowers his head. There is laughter as “the lucky ones who’ve had sex this past week” trot, grinning inanely, out of their prescribed boxes. There are the straight backs and tough fronts of those who, despite themselves, admit they feel lonely. And when just one man steps out into the crowd to reveal he is bisexual, there is applause for his courage.
All these groups ultimately cohere under one banner—lovers of Denmark—while the ad winds down with a statement as gently expressed as all we’ve seen: “Maybe there’s more that brings us together than we think.”
“All That We Share” appeared online on Jan. 27—the same day the U.S. president instituted his near-term ban of people from seven Muslim-majority countries, and halted the Syrian refugee program. Between YouTube and Facebook, in English and Danish versions, the campaign has already gotten almost 7 million views.
Just raising that subject again makes us angry, and that’s part of why this treatment is so effective. We’ve been divided—if not by characteristics, then by rage. No pedantry here seeks to shame that or punish it. Close watchers of the spot, which takes its time at three minutes, will instead be rewarded by something that moves the heart slowly but with significance.
A friend told me recently that we are all walking stories. This ad conveys how similar our treasured narratives are to those we think are incomparably different.
But there’s even more here than that. In gestures or the brief meeting of eyes, you see the expansiveness and emotional adaptability of humanity—how easily we can be tipped out of our entrenched positions, and moved to love.
The context only needs to be right. And finding that moment when we can align, like so many constellations, is worth every effort. Especially now.