Monday, February 8, 2010

Submission, Emasculation, Pathos: Being a Man in a Superbowl Ad

Last night, the USofA watched the Saints march in right over the Colts. It was a great game. Well played, some bold surprises and some genuinely tender moments. Had I been alone, I might have wept openly at Drew Brees (NFL MVP) clutching his son just after the big win. Brees is a charismatic and gentle presence on screen, and I was caught off guard at how genuine the moment was. He knew he was on camera, but it never felt inauthentic. Just a guy holding onto his baby boy at the proudest moment in his life. Jesus, Breesus. It was like getting shot with a Super Soaker loaded with Mom's Apple Pie and Unjaded Democracy.

The subplot to the Superbowl proceedings is, of course, the Commercials. Every year at this time, marketers sink millions of dollars into launching an ad campaign that will etch their brands into the American psyche for all time - at least until someone adds Bacon or Chipotle to the recipe.

For the most part, the spots were funny and well produced. We had our share of some real boner moves, thanks to Taco Bell (Rap is Dead.) and Go Daddy (Hey! Remember we were cool once! Right? Retread! Retread!) and a shocking overuse of the "Dramatic Hamster Meme". Honestly, fellas...where have you been? That thing came out in 2007 - which is like three decades ago in internet years.

And then there are ads like this one:


This falls into the category of "Beer is Better than a Woman". Granted, there is no beer in this ad, but the category reflects a broader attitude in advertising that makes me queasy: "A woman steals your manhood, and all that is left is a puddle of barely recognizable human jelly. How can you unblock the cock? BUY THIS THING."

What's worse is that it relies on the concept that all chicks can think about is shopping, candles and underwear and what we want is an emasculated BFF to tote our shit around while we giggle up the escalator like a third grade pageant doll.

If you need a portable TV to grow your dick back and preserve your sanity, you might want to rethink this relationship altogether.

AND..."Change out of that skirt, Jason." Here's another chapper - you can call a man anything, ANYTHING AT ALL, but a Woman. Suggest that he wears a skirt or behaves like a female and you have successfully infected the poor turd with social leprosy.

Then we come to this:

Watch out womens. In post-apocalyptica, you are not worth a set of tires, and are swiftly traded to some Mad Max bandits who - guess what! - don't want you anyway (thanks to a misunderstanding provided by the old Catskills joke). Not even in your skin tight pleather body stocking.

Once discarded, what will become of her? Idaknow. Least she's not weighing down the tires anymore.

and finally, there's this one:

1. I actually kinda like this ad. The writing is smart and funny. It takes the old tropes about work and relationships, and re-imagines them into a tyranny of paltry indignities. The images of a the men are arresting.


2. Does it really suck that much for guys, being married or in a relationship? Is it really so awful it causes you to go wall-eye and retreat into a fantasia of Cars, Beer and Pizza? Do you sacrifice your very will, soul and personality for this?


That sucks, yo.

I hate to tell you, though, no amount of automotivesexboxbudlight therapy is going to fill that ugly void you have inside you.

There appears to be a lot of tension with marketers about where to position ads aimed at men these days. With the definition of masculinity in a more liquid state, we get railroaded with images of pathetic, dopey guys, paralyzed by uncertainty and an unwillingness to evolve. This short changes everybody.

I don't want to be portrayed as a woman who only wants shoes/yogurt/cleaning supplies and finds her mate an impediment to her very femininity.

There is drudgery, frustration, sacrifice and compromise in the workplace and at home (for both genders). There ain't nothing wrong with tapping that font of comedic oil. But I don't think it's worth perpetuating the idea that relationships are starter graveyards to push a few units of beer.


Erica said...

We were clumping commercials into to categories like that, too. After one of these we'd say "that was a woman hater one." And then the 2 no pants ones in a row? Weird.

You'd think they would have more women friendly commercials during the superbowl, cause more women watch that game than any other.

Except for the beaver that played the violin, I didn't love any of them. But I did love the beaver and his violin.

And man, I sure did cry after that win. Beautiful.

NotNits said...

I'm with you, Jen. I'm surprised there are so many "You are a man, stop wearing a skirt" ads, especially during the Super Bowl. It would be at home on a Maxim website or something, but the idea that the Super Bowl is something women aren't in the room to watch is outdated and lazy.

I did love more than you did, Erica. Those were some of the funniest talking baby ads I've seen yet. I thought all the Doritos ones were funny, as well as the Snickers one. I think there was more of a focus on writing (even on the "I carry your lip balm" ones) than on spectacle this year. It's probably because it's more cost effective, but I found it refreshing.

Erica said...

Personally, I hate those babies. And it bugs me that they had that one with the girl babies with a sexual connotation. Not cool when your actors are babies. They can trade stocks all day, sure, but a story line about being caught cheating with another woman? Not cool.

I liked plenty, especially the Taco Bell one, actually, cause I love me some Charles Barkley. But none really made me as happy as say, last year's Nanerpus. There will never be another Nanerpus.

joe g said...

For me the height of Lazy was Bud Light stealing the "Auto-Tune The News" trick.

As far as the gender issues, I'm going to have to think about that one. While I pre-order a stuffed bear for Valentine's Day.

rebar said...

Wow. I must be way more critical than you guys. I only found like 3-4 commercials funny or effective enough ads that they'd be worth the insane rates you pay for the Superbowl.

1. Snickers. Betty White telling the guy, "That's not what your girlfriend says,"...priceless.

2. Dodge Charger. I was on the fence until I heard, "I will hold your lip balm and watch your vampire show with you." Yes. Another of the "I is an emascualted male" meme ads, but the best written one.

3. Wow. I can't think of a 3rd.

Honorable Mentions:

Dr. Pepper - Kiss appearing with Mini Kiss (which is an actual Kiss cover band.)

Monster - Everyone else in the room dug this one. All I could think watching the fiddle beaver was...Well, at least an animatronic beaver can get work. Not so much an actual human, in this economy.

Dove - Granted, it was awful, BUT you have to give it to them for attempted to GO THERE. "Now that you're comfortable with who YOU are, isn't it time for comfortable skin?" Oh, no they didn'! Yes. Yes they did. A car crash, but one I can't look away from.


Budlight - Seriously? NONE of the insanely predictably BL ads came close to "Clothing Drive" (the "sequel to "Swear Jar" - which I think won an award for best ad of the decade?) - I'm still unsure why they didn't sit on that one until the Superbowl instead of releasing it last month?

Also, I almost have to believe that every single ad that had guys in their drawers took their inspiration from Clothing drive...which was heads far above the rest.

McD - A retread of the Larry Bird/MJ ad? Bah.

E-Trade - ME NO LIKE CGI TALKY BABIES. (or CGI in general, but especially applied to babies.)

Audi - Use of an awesome song gone wrong. Love the Cheap Trick sample but, the "Green Police" came off as a complete mixed message. If you fuck with the eco-system and aren't green, Big Brother will haul your ass to Guantanemo, yo!

(Similar deal with Bud's Select 55. Love a little ELO...but, blah. boring ad.)

Boost - the retread of the Superbowl Shuffle was even more embarrassing than the actual video from 1985.

Bridgestone - the obvious reach to try to capture the fanbase from "The Hangover" with the CGI whale. (as well as the MadMax "life/wife" ad you mentioned.) Double Bah.

Denny's - Free meal is cool. Screaming* robotic chickens? Less so. My only response is, why aren't they warning the pigs? They have much more at stake.

*they get ONE point for the robotic chicken silently screaming in space. Unfortunately, that one note could not redeem the myriad of screaming robotic chickend. hell, they did 3 versions. Ugh.

Okay...that's all my caustic soul can pour out right now.

joe g said...

Rebar, I hate to break it to you, but that wasn't a Cheap Trick was Cheap Trick, hired to re-record and re-sing the song with the new lyric. Hideous but true.

The Dove spot I can't comment on.

One animatronic rodent, we can get away with...but I think there were four different advertisers doing animatronic rodents, unless I counted wrong.

More later.

rebar said...

>>it was Cheap Trick, hired to re-record and re-sing the song with the new lyric. Hideous but true.


(my brain just exploded and the remnants of my soul just died.)

Dove for men:

Again, it's a car crash, the guy doing the VO is awful...but when I think about the ad guys sitting around a table trying to come up with a way to sell "DOVE" to gents...without coming off all "It's like Axe, but less douce-y (and more moisturisers!)"

It just feels so damn desperate.

rebar said...

Actually, I might be able to get behind an ad campaign honest enough to say, "We know this doesn't look good, but really, we're totally less douce-y than Axe."

joe g said...

Here's more, from another angle: your man isn't nearly as hot as this guy, but the right body wash can make life with the fat schlub tolerable, somewhat:

Anonymous said...

It is not the art I resent, it is the intent of it.

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