Every year it seems the Super Bowl commercials get more obnoxious receive criticism from forward thinking viewers who are tired of being fed the same old overplayed stereotypes on gender, race, and sexual orientation. Twitter was abuzz with the hashtag #notbuyingit last night, pushing back against offensive ads that aired during the Super Bowl.
I’m all for sexy depictions on television (I am a sexologist…) but I’m wondering why advertisers can’t use sex without being sexist, homophobic, or otherwise perpetuate harmful myths about sexuality. I use them to teach my students about sex in the media, and how so many people take what they see on television at face value and never dig a little deeper to examine what it is they’re actually watching and buying into. Let’s examine some of lasts night’s ads now.
A boy is bullied in the Hyundai commercial and has his football stolen until he “comes back with a team”. His mom drives him around picking up tough friends to construct a football team. Of course, they’re all boys. Why can’t a girl play on the football team?
Well if you believe what you see on TV, it’s because she’s too busy playing princess, like in the Doritos commercial. Here, a girl is dressed like a princess and asks her dad to play. He opts to hang out with his friends instead, until she bribes him with a bag of Doritos (father of the year, eh?). His friends come in looking for him, and glare at him with judgment until they also agree to wear dresses and tiaras to receive those Doritos. The wife comes home, sees all the men in dresses and makeup, and walks away appalled. The ad is trans-phobic and is supposed to be “funny” because it plays on the stereotype that men don’t wear dresses. If they do they should expect to be mocked.
Godaddy.com is known for using blatant sexism as a marketing strategy, and this year was no different. In one, they used the tired stereotype of woman as nag (also used by Wheat Thins and Century 21 last night), depicting wives nagging their husband to register their good idea as a godaddy.com domain before somebody else does. Of course, women never have good ideas, start businesses, or register domains. I’ve done all three, but apparently I got it all wrong.
I was supposed to be passively cheering my husband to pursue his good ideas instead. But of course the worst Godaddy.com ad last night was the kiss. A beautiful super model and a traditionally geeky overweight guy have a sloppy make out session, representing the sexy side and smart side of godaddy.com coming together. You will NEVER guess which was supposed to be sexy and which smart. Sigh. So again we’re being told that women sit there and look beautiful, and let the men be smart and have the good ideas. I think it’s insulting to both.
It’s supposed to be “funny” because it plays on the stereotype that a sexy woman would never kiss a guy that looks like that. Why not? That’s right. Women are shallow and only beautiful people—male or female—can be loved! The one problem I didn’t have with the ad was the actual kiss itself, but that’s the part that everyone else has been complaining about. Complaining about the kiss is just the product of our prudish, erotophobic society. It’s just a kiss: get over it. The assumption that she’s dumb and shallow because she’s beautiful, now that’s worth complaining about.
Kia’s ‘where do babies come from’ ad probably got laughs, but it ticked me off as a sexologist. Why couldn’t the dad just tell kids the truth when he asked? Why concoct this huge bullshit story? It’s parents like these that make my job difficult. Stop lying to your kids people, or in 15 years they will be on my office trying to overcome the shame of believing babies shoot out of rockets from the planet Babylandia.
The worst contender of the night was Audi. A boy heads to prom with no date. His younger sister emasculates him by making fun of him about it. But when his father lends him the car keys to the Audi, his masculinity is regained. He drives recklessly, parks in the principal’s parking space, and walks onto the dance floor and kisses a girl without her consent. The commercial ends with him driving away with a black eye but howling with joy and the tagline: Bravery. It’s what defines us.
This ad is a mess. First, kissing someone without consent is called sexual assault. She starts pushing him away, but then smiles at the end. This is the worst part because it perpetuates the big rape myth that if you keep at it, she’ll eventually like it. Calling this “brave” and insinuating that reckless and irresponsible behavior, even if it ends in a black eye, is worth it because it restores masculinity is really insulting to men.
Perhaps next year there will be less ads that insult masculinity, insult femininity, and make light of sexual violence.