Superbowl Sunday: Random Acts of Violence, Kiddies?

kapowFeb. 2, 2009 We interrupt this teens in tech series for a Superbowl snapback.

Yes, it’s Ground Hog Day, and like the Bill Murray movie I feel it’s a ‘repeat’ of Superbowl advertising analysis veering into the pain-n-pummel anger management sphere to see how a $3 million media buy in a recession can boost buzz with the requisite angst-driven adults fielding more tantrums than an e-trade baby.

Sheesh, is the recession tension THAT palpable out there? From crashing snowglobes and screaming drivers to the Golden Gate Bridge taking at least a couple of wallops, it seems like the usual sophomoric sexual innuendo took backseat to the testosterone-fueled oopsie moments. (yes, I KNOW some were hilarious, we’re going for the big picture ‘mood’ this year; summed with ‘less sex and gas gross stuff, more ka-pow gags)

This list in the S.F. Chronicle ticked off the lineup in the game’s first quarter, “a guy got hit by a bus, an electrocution, a golf club to the head, a horrible ski accident and a low-level executive who gets thrown out a fourth-story window, crashing to the ground below.”

Nothing new in media analysis really;  two years ago the NYTimes conjectured the ‘cartoonish violence reflected the ‘toll of war.’ Now it’s the frustration of the recession…

superbowl-09I wonder what the new ISU study in Science Daily on violent video games and kids’ aggression would have to say about this year’s ad line-up?

Seems to me it’s just more attempts at the ‘shock shout’ of  ‘who can yell louder’ mode to get consumer’s attention in this cacophony of media proliferation.

Did it work for you?

p.s. Oh, yah, wait. One more irksome Superbowl thing before we get back to our  regularly scheduled programming’ of Shaping Youth’s kids & technology series…

kca_danicaCould the Fem2.0 folks convening in Washington D.C. today PLEASE convey to the ‘pop culture panel’ live on ustream that Danica Patrick’s ‘racy role model’ bit with her Go Daddy ’09 teen fantasy shower scenes on Superbowl Sunday does NOT qualify for the “3rd wave femme” bollox touting the pretty, tough, sexy ’empowerment’ bit?

If dear Danica were with me at the Teens in Tech conference Saturday to watch the few girls there cringe as the T.I.T. acronym flashed on the powerpoint slide reducing the size of their engineering brainpower to a brasize, she might get a clue as to the cultural cues she’s sending…

Especially bumping up alongside her Nickelodeon Kids Choice 2008 award as a kids’ fave…Put that in your fuel tank and rev it, baby…it’s time for a change in your media message.

Related Resources

Superbowl Sexism (Mr. Potato Head edition, Feministing)

Pretty (cool sports blog/women)

Commercial Arhive: 37 years of Superbowl Ads

AdRants Roundup via Twitter Feedback

Ad Freak LiveChat Post Mortem Wrap w/Agency Creatives

Commercial Archive: Superbowl Shortlist

Adweek Media Coverage of All Superbowl Spots/video

Adweek Media: Barbara Lippert’s Critques

Ad Age: Bob Garfield Video Critique of the spots

“Pepsi Max: For Men” (um, yah, macho diet cola cues amidst blooper whack-n-sack ouchie moments…”I’m good.”)



  1. I found the Pepsi ads to be quite amusing, and I’m not even a football fan. The ads, where men are accidentally hurt, due to bone-headedness (with heartfelt apologies), were sweet and self-deprecating. Male stoicism in the face of pain is not necessarily a bad thing– women certainly endure their share. In contrast, the beer ad, where beer-drinkers intentionally do hyper-violence to someone for threatening to take away their precious beer is a dangerous and unhealthy message to give kids. Big difference. And, can we really criticize ads for being too violent during a FOOTBALL game– without criticizing the game itself? (feel free).

    HOWEVER, the blatant, silicone cleavage in the ‘enhanced’ ad is no doubt a crass, sexual exploitation of the viewer (but you won’t hear too many of them complaining), and represents the infantile, ersatz attitude toward sex promulgated by the commercial, corporate system which corrupts American culture– and kid culture. These ads are designed to appeal to the most adolescent of male fantasies. The sexuality is voyeuristic and vicarious– just like spectator-sports. Not to mention the childish ageism inherent in the “ha-ha, old people talking about sex, how funny” scenario.

    According to GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons (a dead-ringer for Larry Flynt) Fox rejected the much tamer Danica Patrick “beaver” ad simply for using the word “beaver”, which, in the ad, is literally a small furry puppet– there is NO cleavage, no T&A at all in the BANNED advert. Only suggestive language. Yet, Fox allowed far more skin in the GoDaddy “Enhanced” advert. Apparently, Fox is not pleased with adverts that use naughty WORDS, but lots of explicit T&A is no problem. Why?

    I applaud Janet Jackson’s action at the ’04 Super Bowl for it’s gutsiness, and I’m relieved the FCC fine against CBS was eventually dropped . Maybe the FCC’s problem was that Janet’s cleavage is not silicone. Or that she didn’t pay someone $3 million for privilege of showing her natural self.

    This is congruent with a society in which public breastfeeding causes a moral outrage, despite the fact that it’s LEGAL in most states, and is now widely recommended by health professionals (what a sad comment that we need experts to tell us this). The media, and the baby-formula companies, have sought to indoctrinate people , including young people, that breasts must be viewed as sexual objects ONLY, disconnecting us from our natural selves, and our health, for the sake of their profit.

    Breast-feeding in public is common in much of the world. It’s eye-opening that, in these personal stories from around the world, people observe over and over that breasts are far more sexualized in America than elsewhere, and that Americans are much more uptight about public breastfeeding.

    Personal stories about public breastfeeding in North America

    …in Europe

    …in Asia & Africa

    If public breastfeeding were more common in the USA, it might instill in the minds of men and boys some mature respect and appreciation for the NON-SEXUAL function of breasts: Women Have Boobs, Get Over It. But that would undermine the ability of politicians to distract the public with phony morality campaigns (scroll down to “sensationalism”), of GoDaddy to exploit our immature conception of breasts, and of baby-forumula companies and porn peddlers to profit.

    Vegetable Sexiness Is Ok

    I agree that the “TIT” display at Teens in Tech qualifies as “sophomoric sexual innuendo” which MIGHT contribute to the immature mentality that women are just sex-objects, not intelligent equals. Thank goodness Jessica Mah was there to represent. I might be naive, but I think today’s post-feminist, post-gay, post-YouTube, post-modern San Francisco tech-kids might be a little bit more socially savvy than your average American football fan. Besides, no boy is going to dis Jessica Mah’s intelligence and get away with it. American teenagers are more sexually sophisticated than ever, which may be a good thing– we’d have our heads in the sand to pretend that young people are not highly-sexualized by nature, not JUST by culture. I think it’s damaging for adults, and authorities, to demonize, criminalize, or over-react to youth sexuality. Likewise, we should not over-react to sexual images of women in the media, if we are not the anti-sex religious right, or born-again Andrea Dworkin’s, or Islamic vigilantes.

    Censorship leads to immature or repressed or ignorant or abusive or angst-ridden sexuality. If we agree that using sex to sell a product corrupts kids’ concept of sex, can we say that delivering a healthy message about sex does NOT? Maybe not all sexual innuendo is NECESSARILY sophomoric or exploitative or bad for kids.

    NBC’s refusal to air PeTA’s erotic, but far less crass, pro-vegetarianism Super Bowl ads is totally hypocritical. By NBC standards, a sexy girl enjoying a loving hot-tub with a bunch of asparagus is IMMORAL AND OFFENSIVE, but they felt just fine about airing the GoDaddy “Shower” ad, in which a group of hot and bothered adolescent boys gather ’round to ogle two women getting ready to jump into the shower together.

    Fortunately, we have Whoopi to provide the vegetable experience for us (almost).

    Perhaps NBC rejected the PeTA ads, not for sexual content (as they claim), but for being anti-corporate. The meat industry is big business for NBC. PeTA has come under fire from the Center for Consumer Freedom, a well-paid media front for the meat industry.

    Whatever one thinks of PeTA, one need not be a radical animal rights activist to acknowledge the health and environmental problems related to meat-eating. As Mark Bateman, food writer for the New York Times, explains at TED (to which Teens In Tech’s messenger-bag maverick Mark Dwight, president of Rickshaw Bags, bicycled 527 miles from San Francisco last week), even meat-eaters (like me) have good reason to eat less meat and more veggies (scroll down to video).

    I wish mass media would stop portraying infantile, unrealistic images of sexuality, and instead engage young people in a discourse about sexuality which encourages attitudes which are respectful of themselves and others, with messages like ‘good health is sexy, and healthy sex is good’. And what better way, than to associate sex with health-positive, self-positive things, like eating vegetables?

    -johny radio

    Stick It In Your Ear!

  2. wow…Now THAT is a heckuva comment—Wanna write for us and spell me a jiff?! 😉

    While we clearly disagree on a variety of fronts, I’m thrilled to find you via Teens in Tech, and anxious to hear more about what you’re doing when I can get one nostril above the pounding surf of teen life here…Meanwhile, Banzai! And thanks for the cogent commentary…(I’ll simply invite you to peruse our “body image” category for a debriefing on the WHYs in terms of the harm in boy toy objectification and innuendo with beaver puppets in the body shame cultural connection)

    p.s. I should add that you’re not alone in the wth feelings about the arbitrary nature of what passes muster and the PR ‘banning’ blitz being used as a viral marketing tool in itself though…

    In fact, one of our advisory board team (producer/director Michealene Cristini Risley of the Tapestries of Hope documentary) sent me this note,

    “go daddy go? I am beyond irked. I watched it with 7 boys, from age 5 to 12. What lousy messages we are giving them.”

    And the stoicism is something you might want to check out on our Virtual Iraq piece on the dangers of implanting that ‘shut off valve’ too early (though I agree there are benefits on the coping skills front too)

    Several other guys reiterated the inherent contradiction of football/violent ad scrutiny too…so yah, I ‘see the elephant’ in the living room so to speak. And for the record, I found both the Pepsi spot AND the Doritos vending machine slapstick violence amusing, so it’s not like I’m a hyper-critical zealot, (I mean, big picture, Tweety Bird/Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, ALL of my childhood faves were uber-violent) …BUT…

    We ALL need to look at the framing and cultural zeitgeist universally for context when discerning the ‘signs of the times’ in what’s coming at kids in surround sound media messages…That’s where the behavioral influencers tip the scale so, so FAR out of balance.

    That said, I got MUCH more feedback from folks on the Danica spots and outrage on the perpetuation of objectification, and stereotypes etc. (inc. the Mr. Potato Head one, or the McDonalds ad where the hubby tries to feed his wife to the deep sea monsters under using burger bait) than I did with the kapow violence in general…

    This tells me people are SICK and tired of the hyper-sexualized damage being done to kids of both genders (see the APA study) when healthy sexuality and respectful relationship cues are lost in the cacophony of b/ho/T&A crud.

    In fact, the general tonality (which is prolly why it’s not landing in comments, but instead in my email 😉 has been:

    “Goodby (the agency) should be hung by their gonads for doing that spot” etc.

    Anyway, thanks for the link laden info, and pls. DO ping me when you post a meaty comment as my akismet filter DOES snag inadvertently, as it’s set to the highest screen (700,000 spams caught will do that to ya!)

    I want to be sure I hand-pull it outta there and get your voice in the mix 🙂

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