I suppose I should be happier about what took over the television last night.
First, I’m from New England, and though I have never been a huge NFL aficionado, I root for the Patriots and am pleased that they won. So let’s get that out of the way.
And like many a good New England liberal I’m a dyed-in-the-wool feminist as well. I loathe gender roles! I oppose the exploitation of the female body (and the male body too, though that makes it more difficult to enjoy football)! I believe in emotional and behavioral freedom for both men and women! Yippee!
So last night we saw a very different tone in our Super Bowl ads. An insurance company solemnly urged parents to look out for their kids and avoid childhood death by preventable accident. Two car companies gave parenting advice to Dads that boiled down to “be present and have an emotion once in a while”.
A nebulous foundation aired an anti-domestic-violence PSA that didn’t really give any suggestions for preventing men’s violence against women. Do we really still need awareness of domestic violence in 2015, when we have known for decades that the highest rates of domestic violence take place – you guessed it – on the day of the Super Bowl?
A feminine hygiene company showed little girls being proud of doing things “#LikeAGirl”, a mindset I’ve been advocating since long before hashtags were created. I suppose I should be happy.
But I didn’t tear up, and I didn’t stand up and cheer, and I certainly didn’t learn anything about myself or have my mind changed by such socially conscious commercials. Instead, I felt like this:
I'm not sure moralism is a good color on you, Super Bowl.
— Margaret Felice (@margaretfelice) February 2, 2015
Maybe moralism isn’t quite the right word, but I can’t have been the only person who was a wee bit put out by being told what I already know by companies who can afford to pay millions for a few moments and have decided that our current consumer climate demands feel-good, moderately- thoughtful, family-oriented themes in order to sell their product.
In the end, it’s all a marketing decision, built up throughout the year by a multi-billion dollar non-profit with whole host of its own moral issues. I know better than to think businesses have morality, and I know that by watching and commenting I have some culpability in the system.
I didn’t have to watch a long line of porn-culture-sells spots. But instead I saw something more precious and real being sold to me, and I never expected to feel just as violated by it.
Last night’s offering prompted conversation, and it brought some of the issues I find desperately important out into the light. But I know (and I’m sure you do too) that we can never count on the money-makers to save us. We can use their business decisions as a springboard for what we want to do or say, but they will never be our allies. They are trying to sell us things, and we are trying to change the world, and all the while we are still watching, even if we’re not buying it.
Did you watch last night? Which messages stuck with you from the Super Bowl?
Edited with clarification: the bit about Super Bowl Sunday being a hotbed of domestic violence calls has long been discredited. I hate to perpetuate an urban legend.