The Critics On The Super Bowl Ads: Boring, Misogynistic


Last night, everyone was a Jezebel commenter.

The misogyny of many of the commercials proved nearly impossible for advertising and television critics to ignore. As Time‘s James Poniewozik put it,

Wow, Super Bowl ad men really hate Super Bowl ad women this year, don’t they? …. Why would CBS turn down a Super Bowl ad from a gay-dating service, then run a bunch of ads with the message that men can’t stand to be around women?

Or Seth Stevenson in Slate:

Is it me, or was this year’s dose of casual misogyny a little rawer and angrier than usual? Are men feeling especially threatened by the fragile economy and by the fact that the vast majority of job losses have afflicted traditionally male, working-class strongholds like manufacturing and construction?

The Times’‘ Stuart Elliott maintained an almost comically antiseptic distance from it in his liveblog:

The overly masculine tone is upsetting many people who are posting comments to blogs about the Super Bowl spots, particularly women, who are decrying those spots as misogynistic….The thoughts were not of the type to win plaudits from feminists…More grist for the mill of those who believe there is a misogynistic streak in the Super Bowl spots.

USA Today’s writeup offered an innocent brow-furrowing:

Some odd trends surfaced this year, including the recurring theme of men of all kinds as buffoons or as wimps. Dockers had men marching in their underwear singing, “I wear no pants.” And FLO TV showed an utterly spineless guy whose girlfriend takes him to the shopping mall on the day of the Big Game.

That is odd! The Washington Post‘s Tom Shales also noticed something… off:

An oddly recurring theme had to do with men asserting their masculinity, or attempting to assert it, as well as the perpetual male fear of emasculation.

So what about Focus On The Family’s Tebow ad? It was generally agreed that it was far more low-key than expected, although NOW stayed firm on opposing it. Per the Los Angeles Times:

NOW president Terry O’Neill said it glorified violence against women. “I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it,” she said. “That’s what comes across to me even more strongly than the anti-abortion message. I myself am a survivor of domestic violence, and I don’t find it charming. I think CBS should be ashamed of itself.”
Not all abortion-rights supporters agreed. “It’s absurd to claim that this is an endorsement of violence against women,” said Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice. “These people came across as affectionate, loving, funny and happy.”

Some saw that as a stealth move: Said Stevenson of Slate:

As for Focus on the Family, the group behind the spot: They tricked us. Their clever media strategy thrust Mrs. Tebow’s story into the national conversation long before the ad aired. The spot itself turned out to be their post-game celebration.

And Jeff Bercovici at Daily Finance thought they’d achieved their goal — just not the one we’d expected.

The group used its 30 seconds to achieve a different goal: Branding itself in the minds of viewers as a friendly, nonconfrontational organization with a hard-to-argue-with pro-family mission. The subtext was: That fire-breathing right-wing outfit you may have heard about that hates gays and women and is always picking fights? That’s not us at all. We’re just nice, decent folks who love our kids, like you do.

How accurate or inaccurate that characterization may be is beside the point. By setting up an expectation that it was going to do something controversial, Focus made it easy to come off as moderate and inclusive by comparison.

EW’s Ken Tucker disagreed:

I think what we’re seeing here is FF backing away from a more aggressive statement in order to get its spots on CBS’ air. The result is classic bad advertising: The personalities on display distract from the message this deeply conservative organization wants to spread.

In general, Ezra Klein put it on Twitter,

You know, I liked these Superbowl ads better when they were a Susan Faludi book.

Earlier: Woes Of Bros: Super Bowl Ads Star Pathetic Men – And The Women Who Ruined Them

2010 USA TODAY Ad MeterSM Tracks Super Bowl XLIV Ads [USA Today]
Tim Tebow’s Tempest In A TV Spot [Salon]
Tebow Ad Falls Short Of The Hype [LAT]
The Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials 2010 [Time]
Focus On The Family’s Super Bowl Ad Was Actually Pretty Clever [Daily Finance]
See BOTH Versions Of The ‘Controversal’ Tebow Ads — And Why They Don’t Work [EW]
The Best And Worst Super Bowl Ads [Slate]
In Super Bowl Commercials, the Nostalgia Bowl [NYT]
Tom Shales On TV: Super Bowl Commercials [WP]

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