Confession: I thought the Audi Super Bowl commercial with the high school kid kissing the prom queen was adorable. I thought everything about it was charming, from the boy’s younger sister who deflates his mom’s encouragement that don’t worry, honey, lots of people go by themselves to prom (cue Ms. Thang with the pigtails: “No they don’t”), to the utterly delighted grin on his black-eye’d face as he drives back home.
I was pretty much downright shocked to learn that many people not only didn’t find it even remotely cute or funny, they felt the ad promoted sexual assault.
For instance, as this article from Wired puts it,
The message is: gain confidence, forcibly kiss a girl, it will feel good, and she will like it. (…) this is a dangerous message, (that) unwanted sexual contact is cool. There’s a reason the term “rape culture” exists, the theory that a culture sends messages that it’s okay to force oneself on a woman.
The Audi spot is just one of the commercials that upset parents during the Super Bowl. Go Daddy, as always, is under fire for being sexist and overly provocative. The Calvin Klein “Concept” underwear ad was described by many as too revealing. Kate Upton’s Mercedes Benz “Car Wash” spot was criticized by the Parent’s Television Council, who state that the ad “isn’t selling cars, it’s selling sexual objectification.”
Not only that, but Beyonce’s halftime show wasn’t exactly controversy-free. One commenter says the performance was inappropriate for what should have been a PG-rated event:
A lot of viewers expressed comments on other sites saying they were disgusted with Beyonce’s adult entertainment of booty grinding for what should be a FAMILY football game. It was not appropriate at all. She’s talented but save that sort of dancing for her adult concerts.
The director of communications for the Parents Publishing Council also spoke out about Beyonce’s show:
Here’s Beyonce, who has such a powerful voice, and yet she falls back on sex appeal so often. I know that a lot of people were disappointed in the halftime show, that it was too sexual for a family event.
The thing is, I guess I don’t really think of the Super Bowl as being a particularly kid-friendly television event. I know entire families tune in for the game, but the fact remains that the biggest sporting event of the year comes with the biggest televised ads of the year (to the tune of a jaw-dropping $4 million for 30 seconds this year!), and those ads are aimed at adults. Ditto the halftime show: it’s not currently intended to please the 12-and-under crowd, and it never has been.
There’s a completely valid discussion to be had about media influence and social issues, but the fact remains that we don’t all agree on the same values. I don’t personally feel that the Audi ad was offensive for me OR my kids to see, and that doesn’t make me a bad person who endorses rape. It makes me a mom whose opinions are her own. How can we possibly come up with a set of standards that will result in commercials that don’t offend a single viewer?
I don’t think it’s possible, nor do I think it’s reasonable to expect that an event like the Super Bowl is going to be completely devoid of stereotypes we don’t want our children to emulate. Hell, even football itself is becoming a wildly controversial topic among parents lately, with the emerging correlation between football-related head injuries and permanent brain damage.
Personally, I think it’s far more important to talk about our individual values at home rather than try and mold media messages to match our beliefs. While the Parents Publishing Council thinks some might be getting to a point where watching the Super Bowl as a family is no longer an option for some families, they add,
If you have older kids in the house and you want to be able to share the experience … they’re going to be more influenced by what mom and dad say than what they see on TV, ultimately. If you turn these moments into a chance to build on values, you can mitigate the negative effects of these advertisements.
Exactly. As parents, it’s our job to address these issues at home, and a good start might be to talk to your kids about how you feel about a certain ad. Or, if you prefer your kids not to see this stuff altogether … well, maybe turn off the TV when the ads — or Beyonce — makes an appearance.
What did you think about the Super Bowl ads and halftime show this year? Were you upset by anything your kids saw?