Sarah Hope shares what she argues were the very best, and very worst of this year’s Super Bowl ads.
Football. Millions of people tune in to the all-American sport’s most anticipated event each year. Last year, 111.3 million viewers tuned in. This year, according to Nielson data, 71% of TVs that were on during the game were tuned in to the game. That’s a lot of eyeballs, but not all that surprising when there are folks calling for Super Bowl Monday to be a national holiday. The Super Bowl is an American tradition. But there’s an even more interesting statistic here from the Washington Post,
The game also illustrated the explosive growth of second screen activity. The company Trendrr TV, which tracks activity on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, estimated there were 47.7 million social media posts during the game. That compares to 17 million during the 2012 Super Bowl and 3 million the year before that.
Forty-seven million posts, almost three times the 2012 rate! Super Bowl viewers are certainly ramping up their use of social media to engage with one another in real time.
Twenty-four million of those posts were on Twitter. According to a 2012 Pew study of who uses social media, only 16% of internet users use Twitter, but this figure is growing, doubling since a similar study by eMarketer in 2011. This growing trend in social media use, especially as it relates to the Super Bowl, could be in part due to commercial advertisers’ embrace of the hashtag as a way to encourage second screen viewing among consumers. Twitter was mentioned in 26 of 52 commercials – exactly 50% of commercials aired during CBS’ coverage of the game. Facebook was only mentioned in two ads.
According to Mashable, about 30% of the 24.1 million tweets about the Super Bowl were about the ads. Among the trending hashtags was Miss Representation’s #NotBuyingIt, which was used by opponents of sexism and gender discrimination to call out advertisers who use objectionable gender exploitation to sell their products.
MissRepresentation.org, a “non-profit social action campaign and media organization” grown from the award-winning documentary expose, was “established to shift peopleís consciousness, inspire individual and community action, and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, age or circumstance can fulfill their potential.” Check out their recap of the #NotBuyingIt campaign and all of the good work they’re doing here.
As someone who has never liked football (okay, I’ve never really tried), I spent my evening glued to Twitter, chatting about the much-anticipated commercial madness that polluted the airwaves. I certainly had favorites, least favorites, and commercials that had me on the fence. I laughed, I cried, but most of all I thoroughly enjoyed the lively conversation with like-minded gender activists. Here’s my recap of the best and the worst.
There were a number of great depictions of fatherhood this year. During a cultural event watched by a great deal of men (although it’s not an overwhelming majority – many, many ladies watch too), it is ever important feature positive and inclusive depictions of masculinity and fatherhood.
Hyundai takes the cake for the best depictions of family, especially fatherhood. Their early commercial showed a dad making memories with his kids at a scary movie, taking a dangerous ski trail, and eating copious amounts of junk food – questionable situations that prompted him to warn the kids, “don’t tell Mom.” Maybe this plays off the stereotype that Dads never really grow up, and are the “irresponsible” ones in a heterosexual two-parent household, but it is played in a fun, light-hearted way the wipes out any criticism I could muster. Furthermore, at the end, the gender stereotype is deliberately broken as the older son lands from a sky dive; when the adult’s helmet comes off, it’s Mom. “Don’t tell Dad,” she says. The slogan: “The best stories you’ll ever tell start with ‘don’t tell'”.
Hyundai’s second commercial does the same. Dad is in the driver’s seat (literally) of the family’s “Epic Playdate”. Regardless of any possible objections, these commercials show an involved Dad having fun and making memories with his children. No better depiction of dads than that.
Toyota had another great family commercial, with each member of the family being granted a wish by the Rav4 genie, played by Kaley Cuoco from Big Bang Theory. The best part? The young daughter, predictably, wishes to be a princess. We then see her astride a horse about to go into battle to avenge her father’s death. Talk about a positive take on little girls’ princess fantasies!
Another great one for Dads? The “got milk?” commercial featuring The Rock. Although it does play of The Rock’s stereotypical “kick ass” masculinity, and it would have been nice to see some alternative representations of masculinity (just like it would have been nice to see some non-heterosexual families), the bottom line is that this man puts his kids and their need for milk ahead of any opportunity to demonstrate his manliness – including stopping bank robbers and taking down a lion. Then, he’s off to save the world.
Everyone loves the Budweiser Clydesdales. Every year, they bring us a smile in a way that doesn’t eat at our hearts with sexual exploitation or gender stereotyping of any kind. However, this year Budweiser delivered even more than in past years. It is nothing less than a beautiful representation of sensitive masculinity. The commercial’s title, “Brotherhood” also ties it to a positive portrayal of man-to-man friendship and bonding. There’s not much more to say. Just let the tears fall.
Two of my favorite ads portrayed equality in traditionally masculine industries and professions.
Jeep’s ad about making America “whole again” showed both female and male veterans returning home. There were black families, brown families, white families. There were mothers and fathers caring for children in their spouse’s absence. The only thing missing was an LGBT family, but with the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I can hope with some confidence that that’s not too far away either.
Chrysler’s ad for the Dodge Ram featuring Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech “So God Made a Farmer” was equally as captivating. There were positive depictions of men, women, children of both genders, family, and hard work. With all the hardships faced by farmers in our factory-farm-dominated food industry, an ad supporting the family farm is welcome.
Though I support the gender equity presented in the commercial, it has elicited criticism from Melissa Harris-Perry and Colorlines for the lack of racial equality, and I agree. Also, Paul Harvey was a well-known conservative anti-communist and friend of former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, so perhaps he is not the most respectable spokesperson. Harvey is certainly not as laudable as Oprah, who eloquently and emotively narrated the Jeep commercial. Still, Harvey’s speech is powerful and the ad is compelling for its inclusion of women and positive portrayal of hard-working farmers.
Though these ads were two of my favorites, I was a bit uncomfortable with their lack of inclusive spirituality. Not everyone believes that “God made” farmers, and not every soldier comes home to a church. But in the gender sphere, these two ads were noticeably progressive, and I can only hope that it’s a sign of the times and we can continue to move in a progressive direction as a culture.
Sadder still has been the response, with folks wondering how many takes it took to get the perfect shot, cries of disgust that such a beautiful woman “had to” kiss such an unpleasant man, and metaphorical back slaps for Walter, who got to live every guy’s dream and kiss Bar Refaeli. We are supposed to simultaneously feel sympathy, revulsion and envy toward Walter. Does GoDaddy want its users to be bullies? Maybe almost as much as GoDaddy wants them to embrace misogyny.
In GoDaddy’s second ad, women are nothing but naggy wives or servants, and despite the multicultural cast, the white guy wins!
The saddest thing of all? GoDaddy isn’t exactly going out of business. If you have GoDaddy, do yourself and all the ladies and gents you know a favor, and switch to a different domain.
AXE body spray, notorious for its narrow portrayals of masculinity, delivered this year with a damsel in distress trope and yet another demonstration of the classic “you’re not man enough unless you use AXE.”
Following the CK commercial, Joanna Schroeder here at GMP asked me, “what would we think if it were an ugly girl, handsome dude?” With one of my favorite tweets of the night, this twitter user hit it spot on:
Kia’s “Hotbots” commercial was just plain bad. In addition to the return of that nerd stigma, we have a promotion of violence against men that is unfair to both women and men. In fact, it seems to me to be a statement on feminism itself. Though my original impression was that maybe we could interpret those robotic women as tech-savvy women with power over the situation, the violence flips this powerful woman into the “Feminazi” category. Violence against anyone (man OR woman) is not the answer, Kia.
Mercedes had Willem Dafoe. Who doesn’t love Willem Dafoe? Especially when he’s playing Lucifer. Those nails! But what’s the real deal being made here?
Two ads – not one, but TWO – had an air of promoting rape culture about them.
First, Audi’s “Prom” commercial.
The message? When your masculinity is threatened because you don’t have a date (since your masculinity is defined by your ability to “get the girl”), an Audi will give you the confidence to walk up to a girl and kiss her without asking. Who cares if she wants to kiss you! This is about your masculinity, and you need to prove it.
No matter what the situation, or how much you love that shirt, it is unacceptable to undress someone while they’re sleeping. Given the recent Steubenville, OH case of the rape of a teenage girl while she was passed out, this ad stands out as a stark display of disregard for consent. I had never heard of Gildan before last night, but I can’t imagine I’ll be buying their shirts anytime soon.
Finally, there was one commercial that had me on the fence all night.
Initially, my reaction was that this was an offensive use of the gender bias that keeps fathers from playing with their children. Their masculinity is threatened if they dress up and have tea parties. The only way the dad will choose his daughter over “the guys” is if she bribes him with Doritos. This Twitter user agreed:
Also, drag comedy is a tricky thing. It can be comical and remain unoffensive if done well, but it can also diminish the struggles of those who face discrimination when they dress according to their true identity.
However, later in the night I was still thinking about this commercial. Despite my objections, it does show a dad willing to dress up and play with his daughter. The daughter does bribe him, but maybe that’s just a mediator to father-daughter bonding. I guess you have to start somewhere. Dad and his friends seemed to be having fun – was that all because of the Doritos, or were they really having a grand ol’ time dressing up? It’s hard to say.
I know, I’m leaving out several commercials here. Budweiser’s non-Clydesdale ads featured parties full of scantily clad women. Volkswagen has been accused of racism in both of its ads, even though the “Get in. Get happy.” ad was not only “approved” by Jamaicans – apparently, they loved it. The infamous Carl’s Jr.’s commercial didn’t air here in the Salt City, but they may take the award for most blatant objectification.
But enough of my opinions.
What did you think?