Super Bowl Ads Promote Same Old Stereotypes

Offender: Super Bowl Ads

Media Outlet: FOX, 2/6/11

The Offense: The usual parade of sexist commercials, including objectified women, buffoonish men and cartoonish violence.

NOW’s Analysis: Thanks to everybody who sent in suggestions for good and bad ads from this year’s Super Bowl. First, the good news. A decent number of funny, non-offensive ads popped up this year.

Here are the ones you (and NOW) liked best:

  • Bridgestone: Reply all email
  • Budweiser: Singing in wild west saloon
  • CarMax: Kid in a candy store, etc
  • Chevrolet: Truck helps save Tommy
  • Doritos: Grandpa comes back to life
  • Kia: Epic forces battle for car
  • Volkswagen: Young Darth Vader and beetle running through jungle

We have to note that even the “good” ads feature far more men than women, and the genders are often split into stereotyped roles. But that’s nothing compared to the bad ads, and there were a bunch of them this year.

Here’s what made yours and our worst list:

  • Apparently even talking cars like to objectify the lone female car in their group
  • Chevrolet: First the car company features two male narrators who talk about how “hot” the woman in their commercial should be (she likes to drive fast and she’s a sweet schoolteacher, get it?), then they build another ad around the groundbreaking notion that old people don’t hear very well
  • Dwelling at the bottom of the barrel as always, this advertiser promises female nudity online and pokes fun at the unsexiness of 77-year-old cosmetic surgery enthusiast Joan Rivers in two typically sleazy ads
  • Groupon: An ad that appears to be a moving plea to help those struggling in Tibet segues into a cynical pitch to save you money on dinner out
  • Ok, so the “test baby” that hits the wall face-first is not real, but it still makes you wonder why someone thought this was funny
  • Mini Cooper: A male contestant plays “Cram it in the Boot” — which we’re pretty sure is a tacky allusion to a sexual act
  • Pepsi Max: The soda company’s “first date” ad relies on the supposed differences in how women and men think about each other, but the “love hurts” one is the real offender — it manages to promote negative stereotypes of both women (angry, no-fun shrews) and men (hapless, junk food eaters) and it ends with an innocent woman getting hit in the head with a soda and falling on the ground while the couple at fault runs away
  • Skechers: Kim Kardashian shows off her body in an ad filled with sexual double entendres
  • Snickers: Roseanne Barr is the woman who gets knocked to the ground this time, and we’re supposed to be tickled because she’s just so whiny
  • Stella Artois: Could this be the stupidest ad of the night? Women swoon (and cry!) over a torchy male singer who, in fact, is singing to the beer he loves
  • Teleflora: In just a few simple words, this ad may have entered the pantheon of bad ads — Faith Hill, who surely has something better to do than this ad, encourages a youngish man to “write what’s in his heart” on the card that accompanies the flowers he’s sending to his girlfriend, so he says “Dear Kim, Your rack is unreal” — ugh

So, what have we learned from the Super Bowl ads? Same old, same old: Being sexy is job one for women. Men get really excited over beer, junk food and sexy women. Hot women are often not too bright. Women who don’t fit the “hot” ideal are usually annoying, emasculating or the loving mother in the background. Oh, and people getting hit and falling down is hilarious!

And the number one lesson? Advertising agencies employ mostly 13-year-old boys in their creative departments.

Take Action: You can write to any one of these advertisers and give them a piece of your mind. We recommend Pepsi or Teleflora.

Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director

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