It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
It was bound to happen. After the Dockers ad I was sure someone would complain about the commercials being evil because there frankly was not much else to complain about. The Tim Tebow pro-life ad turned out to be a tame as a kitten. No “abortion is evil,” no “ban abortion,” no “kill women who have abortions” and no “Tiller the Baby Killer deserved to die.” Instead we were greeted with a so-so spot featuring a mother who values her son’s life when she could have aborted him. The spot did not even mention abortion.
So there was nothing left to really go on. However, there is still a need for a pound of flesh, ergo Amanda Hess felt the need to excoriate a few of the spots. The only criticism she mounts that makes any actual sense is the her response to the Metro PCS spot. That ad was not only poor marketing, it is was also tasteless. The rest of her complaints, however, come across as someone who just needs to be upset about something since the Tim Tebow ad was not the anti-abortion screed she wanted.
Like a lot of advertising, the Superbowl ads were mostly satire, including all the ones that pushed Hess’ buttons. It is curious that she failed to notice the sarcastic tone of most of those ads considering she routinely engages in sarcasm. However, what is truly remarkable are the leaps in judgment she makes. For example:
This was one of the only Superbowl ads I noticed that featured people of color. The other was a Doritos ad where a black man walked into his date’s house, checked out her ass at length, and then received a firm slap in the face from his date’s small child. In Superbowl ads, people of color are never employed to, say, return an Orca to the ocean after a wild bachelor party; they’re just here to get some laughs out of racial stereotypes.
Where is the racism in the Doritos ad? What is the racial stereotype? A young black man visits the home of a woman he is dating? That is racist? How? Of course, there is no mention of the misandry in the ad. A child putting a man in his place is a fairly common spot and it is a fairly insulting cultural norm, but since it is targeting men perhaps that gets a pass.
Hess criticizes one of Danica Patrick’s GoDaddy.com ads, curiously stating:
Just a reminder that even women who excel in traditionally male fields (a girl who’s really good at driving!) are still forced into traditionally female representation (boobs!).
Danica Patrick was forced into traditionally female representation? At 27-years-old she is not capable of deciding whether or not she wants to play off her sex and sexuality? She does face sexism in the racing industry and that may impact what companies might sponsor her, but that does not mean she does not have a choice or more importantly did not consciously make the choice to participate in the ad.
Hess also considered the Dodge Charger ad sexist, although it is not clear from her comments who the ad is supposed to be sexist against. The Dodge spot plays on cultural norms about men having to sacrifice their autonomy in relationships with women. It is pure satire, and in the fashion of great satire it is both hilarious and stabs at a kernel of truth. That is what makes the ad so effective and so memorable. It works because on some level people believe it is true, just like the countless ads portraying men as dimwitted, barely human, marginally intelligent, grunting masses annoyance. And as I noted in a previous post, those sort of portrayals apparently get a pass. That is the “good” sexism.
However, the comments that are just baffling are Hess’ claims that several spots were homophobic. First, she calls FLO TV’s spot homophobic because of the last line from the spot is “Change out of that skirt, Jason.” Hess seems to think the spot was a critique about an effeminate gay man. However, the ad is about a man who has lost his spine. The politically incorrect term for the idea the ad tries to get across is “pussy whipped.” He simply does what his girlfriend tells him to do rather than make up his own mind and enjoy his hobby, i.e. watching sports. What is curious about Hess’ criticism is that it is actually more homophobic than the ad because it seems that Hess thinks being a gay men means one is effeminate. Many gay men do not behave in a feminine manner and are not interested in feminine things, so it is quite remarkable for Hess to jump to that conclusion.
Secondly, she goes after the Motorola Megan Fox ad, stating:
I believe that this Megan Fox ad contains the Superbowl’s sole same-sex couple: Two guys who slap each other with dramatically limp wrists when they discover that one of them has been checking out Megan’s sexy pix on the Internet. Apparently, gay men can only be represented in Superbowl ads in the pursuit of hilarity. We are truly living in a post-sexual-orientation America, people.
Let us break the ad down: Megan Fox ponders what would happen if she sent out a picture of herself naked in a bathtub. The picture results in one mishap, one embarrassment and three acts of violence (all committed against men). So just to be clear, causing a power outage is funny. Mocking a boy masturbating is funny. Letting a man fall 100-feet to the ground off a ladder is funny. A woman hitting a man is funny. Two gay men slapping each other is not funny. Ironically, after just using the effeminate gay male stereotype, Hess then takes issue with Motorola’s use of the same stereotype.
The most confusing one is the third critique:
At first, this Careerbuilder.com ad was is headed firmly down the casual homophobia route: Naked dudes! Around other dudes! Touching their own nipples! But then a couple of underwear-clad female co-workers show up, and the ad refuses to go the aggressively heterosexual route with them. Careerbuilder.com actually reveals itself to be the rare Superbowl advertiser that doesn’t exploit boobs for faux “sexy” controversy. Ah, the complexity of Superbowl ad politics.
Where is the homophobia? All the spot shows is some man who is uncomfortable seeing his co-workers, male and female, in their underwear. All of the people in the ad were slightly chubby and they were deliberately clothed (as much as they could be) in unflattering, tight underwear. If one wanted to object to the ad, one could say it perpetuates the cultural norm that only super-skinny people are attractive. One could also say the ad plays off misandry in that it perpetuates the cultural norm that the male body is dirty, ugly and should be hidden away. But in no way does the spot even suggest homophobia.
Hess is certainly entitled to her opinion, selective as it might be. She made no complaint about the Doritos spot where a dog puts a shock collar on a man and barks just to get the man’s Doritos or the E-Trade spot featuring a love triangle between babies. Hess has also made no complaint about that dozens of ads humiliating and demeaning men and boys as stupid, dimwitted, barely-capable-of-stringing-together-words buffoons. Those get a pass.
It looks like Hess just wanted something to attack (like a number of other feminists), something that pushed one of her “ism” buttons so that she has somewhere to displace her frustration. In the end, her article is ironically as much of massive fail and as stupid as most Superbowl commercials.