A guest post by Kate. Kate is a freelance writer and full-time law student. Follow her @itscompliKATEd on Twitter.
Superbowl ads are sexist. This is well trod ground: Marketers objectify women and play up stereotypes in order to sell things to (heterosexual) men. But we knew this year was going to be special. This year there was going to be some extra anti-feminist flavor. This year, there was going to be Tim Tebow.
We’ll come back to Tim and his anti-choice ad in a second. But for now, let’s take a look at the companies that decided that it would be a great idea to isolate half the population from their consumer base.
There were fewer half-naked women and dick jokes this year. Instead, the 2010 Superbowl Ad Mantra seemed to have one common theme: “Feeling castrated? . . . by women? Man up.”
Dodge Charger: Man’s Last Stand
A male voice-over starts with a first person monologue of the mundane life of the American male (“I will walk the dog, I will have fruit for breakfast”), as the ad cuts to shots of men staring blankly, blinking at the camera.
“Yeah, life is boring,” you think, “a car could fix that.” But then there’s an eerie crescendo, and it becomes clear that this voice isn’t just listing his gripes with the world, he’s listing his gripes with a person — and not just any person, a woman: “I will say yes, when you want me to say yes . . .I will take your call, I will listen to your opinion of my friends. . . I will be civil to your mother.” Simultaneously the voice-over seems to be getting angrier as the shots get tighter, finally focusing on the twitching eyes of a man in a suit. “Because I do these things, I will drive the car I want to drive.”
The ad is actually frightening. Not only because the voice-over gets more incensed as the tasks get more mundane (putting your underwear in a hamper? you mean being an adult? you think you deserve a car for that?), but because it’s maybe the most explicit misogyny I’ve ever seen in a Superbowl ad. “Feeling emasculated by your wife?” the ad seems to be saying. “Reaching your boiling point? We know you probably want to hit her, but buy a car instead.”
Oh, and did I mention that a television serial-killer (Michael Hall who plays Dexter) does the voice-over? That’s not creepy or violence promoting at all.
Dockers: Men Without Pants
The first-wave feminist symbolism is almost too much. Literally pants-less men parade across a field singing, “I wear no pants,” seemingly happy until a baritone voice-over interrupts: “Calling all men. It’s time to wear the pants.” Man-up moment #2.
Flo-TV: Spine Removal
A man stands in a lingerie store draped in bras (explain to me why that’s so bad for a presumably heterosexual male?) while the voice-over begins with an “injury report” on Jason whose “girlfriend has removed his spine.” Nice.
Oddly, Jason seems perfectly happy to be shopping with his girlfriend. But he shouldn’t be, the pitch man suggests and closes with the admonishment : “Change out of that skirt, Jason.” Apparently, if you’re not actively feeling emasculated by women, you should be.
Man-up moment #3.
Dove: Men’s Lotion
Of all the man-up ads, this one is perhaps the least offensive, but it still carries the theme. A male voice lists the life of a man from birth to adulthood all to the tune of the William Tell overture — in what seems to be a gentler version of the Dodge Charger ad. It starts with climbing ropes in gym class and ends with changing flat tires in the rain while your family waits in the car.
As one Tweeter put it: “Have you seen this Dove for men ad? It’s pretty horrible. Basically life for man = work, meet woman, have kids, DOVE FOR MEN!”
Focus on the Family : Tim Tebow
I’m going to be honest: it didn’t seem that bad and maybe that’s what was so terrifying about it. I mean if I didn’t know the story behind the ad in the first place, or what Focus on the Family was, I’d be a little confused: “What the hell is she talking about? What’s she talking about ‘I can remember so many times when I almost lost it’ and ‘I still worry about his health’ on a Superbowl ad for?”
And maybe that’s the idea — because then a web address for “the full Tebow story” pops up at the end.
Oh, and “Timmy” tackles his mom in the middle. Funny, that’s just what *I* wanted to do.
But there’s a silver lining to this year’s ads: Watching these spots you’d think women never buy pants, cars or beer. You’d also think having ads with men complaining about being under the thumb of women made men want to buy your stuff. But you’d be wrong — at least according to the live voting at Hulu’s Adzone.
Throughout today’s game, Hulu has been posting the ads to its page. There, viewers can watch the ads and vote whether they like or dislike the ads. But here’s what makes this awesome: Hulu lets you see how other people voted, and break down the voting by demographic (gender, age, location).
And here’s what men and women are saying: they don’t like the sexist ads. Among men of all age groups and locations, the Tim Tebow mom-tackle; the Dockers’ men-should-wear-the-pants ad and the Dodge Charger misogyny rant were in the top five least liked ads. That’s right, apparently men don’t like being told how to be men.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re making some progress after all.
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