To me, the Super Bowl commercials are like a cultural state of the union.
My initial reaction to the picture painted of modern America this year was: We are afraid of death and we want to fuck our cars.
I think the subtextual messages of the commercials are important because I think those ideas are more lasting than the actual commercial message. For many of the spots, if you happen to look away at literally the last two seconds of the commercial you will have NO IDEA WHAT WAS BEING ADVERTISED.
You’ll just be awash in a montage of the Grand Canyon, beer, small children, breasts, puppies, Liam Neeson, expensive cars being driven by the ghost of your disappointed father, and if you’re me, a sudden desire to move to Canada.
One theme I was affected by was the desire for kindness and human connection.
Coke’s ad featured a plot of strange soda-based cyber terrorism in which some sugar water infects the internet and instead of corroding the enamel from our teeth through wi-fi signals, Coke sends messages of kindness.
McDonald’s ad showed customers paying for their breakfast burritos with hugs which is apparently a real campaign. I applaud the sentiment, but I’m terrified by the reality. I don’t eat at McDonald’s but if I did I would want a six piece chicken McNugget with honey mustard sauce and a huge helping of emotional distance.
Still, it was an interesting trend. A reflection of forward movement. Coke and McDonald’s, two of the largest corporations in the world, paid millions of dollars to air what was basically a CRY FOR HELP.
We are longing for more human connection and I’m going to do my best to help with that by sitting alone in my home and tweeting about it.
Anyway, the commercials that affected me the most were two commercials that advanced stupid, outdated gender ideas: Carl’s, Jr’s ad for burgers and objectification and Budweiser’s attack on craft beer and the educated wimps who drink it.
The two commercials resonated for me because of our current cultural discussions about feminism. Particularly, the idea that knocking down old, horrible stereotypes about women is also beneficial to men because in the process we’ll also dismantle old, horrible stereotypes about men, too.
The Carl’s, Jr. spot was the most offensive ad to me.
HERE’S WHERE I DON’T LINK TO IT BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO GIVE THEM VIEWS.
Basically, a busty woman in a bikini walks around being gawked at by men. You know, to make you want to
fuck eat a cheeseburger. In one shot, a tomato is in the foreground to look like it is the woman’s butt. A hand reaches in and squeezes the tomato. In other words, a woman’s body is the same as a tomato–it is something to be evaluated and consumed.
I grew up with these kinds of images and ideas being the norm. I always understood intellectually they were trying to use natural attraction to the human body to sell stuff, but I’ve come to realize it’s so much more insidious than that. Thanks to shitty, sexist campaigns like that, I grew up with the constant message that I, as a man, should treat women like they were a product and if I did not, I was somehow not a man.
More on my lack of manliness, in a moment!
I think it’s important to say these kinds of messages of objectification are not okay. So, the commercial’s message of evaluation and consumption has worked on me. I’ve evaluated my thoughts and I will never consume anything at Carl’s Jr. When I drive by McDonald’s, I will think of a weird, desperate attempt to get me to call my father. When I drive by Carl’s, Jr. I’ll just think, “Hey, fuck you, Carl’s, Jr.”
AND NOW, IN ALL CAPS, MY MANLINESS.
There’s been a lot of excellent dissection of Budweiser’s anti-craft beer commercial.
ALSO NOT LINKED TO HERE.
The ad was very new in its confrontation of the divide between craft beer and traditional “sad dad juice in a bottle” beers like Budweiser. But that ad kicked it old school when it comes to reinforcing stupid gender stereotypes about masculinity.
The ad portrayed people who enjoy craft beer as wimps. According to the words and images in the commercial, here are things that sissy craft beer men do: They fuss, they sip, they dissect, they drink fruity peach beers, they wear glasses, and sometimes they tweet a nice thing to a male friend and don’t even hashtag it #NoHomo.
Okay, that last thing wasn’t in the ad.
Here are the words and images associated with real men who drink Budweiser: Hard, wood, axes, horses, tradition, strong forearms, big pounding horses, throwing a beer to your friend who does not wear glasses and is able to catch the beer without flinching, did I mention horses? Horses being driven by men of authority wearing uniforms?
Seriously, if Budweiser loves horses this much they should just start sponsoring every off-broadway production of Equus.
This commercial, like many other commercials I grew up with, felt like it was mansplaining how I should be a man. The only women seen in this commercial are serving Budweiser, the KING of beers, to men. So not only are the signifiers of HARD, OLD, AXE-WIELDING, FOREARM MUSCLES what I’m supposed to be as a man, they are implicitly not gender neutral attributes.
As much as I reject the casual objectification of women by Carl’s, Jr. I reject the hard-pounding assertion that I am not a man if I don’t drink low ABV canned beer that makes me daydream about riding a big, angry horse.
I grew up letting things like stupid fucking beer and burger commercials tell me what it is to be a man. They are not just commercials. They are reflections of societal norms broadcast to millions of people. Thanks Carl’s Jr. and Budweiser, but I think I’ll decide for myself what makes me a man.
Sometimes, I fuss. Sometimes, I make fast, reckless decisions. Sometimes, I sip. Sometimes, I chug. My forearms are weak and my favorite horse is Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. I like action movies where Liam Neeson punches ambiguously Eastern-European men and I do push-ups every morning. My weak forearms ache as I type this.
But NONE of these things are gender-specific. Here’s the most important thing about being a man to me right now: I don’t give a damn what it means to be a man. I just want to figure out what attributes matter to being a good human being. The kind of human being who reaches out in friendship and compassion without Coke taking over the internet.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go meet a friend for drinks and pound some Belgian witbier. I have a lot of female friends who can put away craft beer like nobody’s business, so tonight I’ll be drinking #LikeAGirl.
P.S. There was also an ad for Scientology–a massive, well financed, secretive religious organization–that wants you to think for yourself. Thanks, Scientology, I think I will!
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