Most football fans are thinking about the match-up between the Saints and the Colts later today. I, not being a huge fan of the game, am thinking more about the Super Bowl commercial controversy. Don’t think that I dislike football. I enjoy a good competitive game as much as anyone, and I’ll probably watch tomorrow.
The controversy over what ads CBS has decided to show and what they rejected is important, though. Those decisions over what an expected 90 million people will see says a lot about CBS’s and the NFL’s points of view. It also says a lot about what they think the 90 million viewers want to see.
The network rejected ads from ManCrunch, a gay dating website, and the web domain and hosting firm GoDaddy, whose ads have been rejected from previous Super Bowl broadcasts. CBS has agreed, though, to air a pro-life ad from conservative group Focus on the Family featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. There have been sexy ads that have aired during previous Super Bowls, including some from GoDaddy, and there will surely be some this year. There’s very little flesh in either the ManCrunch or GoDaddy ads, though. This seems to be more about sexuality than straight-up sex.
In the ManCrunch ad, two guy’s guys are on a couch watching a football game. Their hands touch over a bowl of potato chips, they share a glance and then they start making out. It’s nothing racier than something you might see on a late night sketch comedy (and apparently it’s already been done there). Here’s the ad:
In the GoDaddy ad, you have a gruff looking footballer who retires, comes out of the closet after leaving football, is flamboyantly gay, and starts a lingerie line using GoDaddy’s services:
See a pattern?
Two NFL-lovers who, while watching the game, realize they themselves want to be lovers. In the other ad, an ex-football player leaves the game and comes out of the closet.
Dan Neil says in the Los Angeles Times that there could be something going on here.
The subtext in both [commercials] is that football itself is, well, kind of gay.
…American football strikes me as a pretty homoerotic spectacle, beginning with the hypertrophic masculinity of the male form in tight pants and huge shoulder pads and ending with the most undignified gesture in all of sports, the hands-between-the-cheeks snap of the ball. Hike, indeed…The pats on the fanny, the showering together, the endlessly rolling around in the dirt. All things considered, I think figure skating is more butch…If I were one of football’s guardians, I might be a little touchy about it. Perhaps that is at the root of the ads’ dismissal.
Maybe. If Neil’s supposition is correct and the subtext (intentional or not) of both commercials is that football is “kind of gay,” no one had to make a big deal about it. CBS or the NFL could’ve just shrugged, laughed it off, or ignored it, but still aired the ad. Instead, CBS pulled it. So, was someone worried about the NFL being offended? Did someone worry about viewers being offended? CBS puts out generic statements when ads are rejected which read something something like the ad is “not within the broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday.” So, we don’t know.
Let’s get to the pro-life ad. It hasn’t been released yet, but it reportedly has Tebow’s mother talking about when she was sick while pregnant in the Philippines. She was told she should terminate the pregnancy, but she decided to keep the baby. Tim was born and grew-up to be a Heisman Trophy winner. The ad reportedly ends with “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”
Is that going to play with a Super Bowl audience? How’s it going to fit with the violent – um, action movie trailers, sports cars and buxom women selling beer? Will the ad fit in with the game itself that has 250-300lb men slamming into each other at top speed?
It’s one of the strange things about America. Violence, on some level, is ok. Most sex, is not. On it’s face, it seems antithetical that a violent, macho game would have an ad that’s supposed to “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life.”
The powers that be – not just those at CBS and the NFL, but also those in Washington – think the Super Bowl is an event that every American family should be able to enjoy. Remember how everyone flipped-out over the Jackson/Timberlake Wardrobe Malfunction in 2004?
Celebrate Football. Celebrate Family.
When 90 million people are watching, celebrating anything other than violence, in movies or on the field, or heterosexual sex, within marriage for the sole purpose of making babies, is unacceptable.
Neil also says in his piece, “The [ManCrunch] ad’s real transgression is to imply that football-loving straight men, the sort who high-five after touchdowns, might under the right circumstances act out sexually with another man.” Someone saying that gay sex is possible by the very men who are watching the Super Bowl is out of the question. Making that implication to almost 1/3 of the American population would be pretty ballsy.
This whole thing reminds me of something Bill Maher said a few years ago about how Americans who are homophobic really don’t have an issue with lesbian sex. They have a problem with gay male sex. “In America, when a man puts something in another man, it had better be a bullet.”
Violence is ok for family time. Straight sex is ok, too. Sex between two men is a no-no.
What do you think?
Are CBS and/or the NFL too conservative? Are they being anti-gay?
Is CBS being careful because of the Jackson/Timberlake Wardrobe Malfunction?
Does CBS have to be ideologically fair or neutral when choosing the ads that run on it’s air?
Leave a comment below.
UPDATE: I saw the Tebow/Focus On The Family commercial. With the exception of the “Celebrate Life” tagline at the end, it wasn’t overtly pro-life. I’m not sure what the controversy was for. It would have been easy to release the ad before the game to show how benign it was. It makes me wonder if the ad wasn’t revealed so it could be hyped. By doing that, everyone would be talking about the abortion issue and the ad itself. And since so many people know about the controversy, there wouldn’t be a need to say anything explicitly pro-life. It’s implied. Or did the controversy make CBS decide to have Focus On The Family pull back on the more blatantly pro-life rhetoric?