Monday, February 08, 2010

Hey Fellas, Seething with Unvoiced Sexual Hatred? Well Then Have We Got the Consumer Product for You!

Seth Stevenson, in Slate, on last night's Super Bowl ads:
"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?"
I think that hits the nail right on the head! We'd agreed on the same theory last night in front of the TV, in fact (over at Kate's place in Branford, with several folks). Years past, you've got the cheerful physical objectification (Simpsons reference!), but the grim-faced fear of emasculation seems new. Definitely "in" this year. I mean, that one Dodge ad was pretty much a parade of undisguised loathing. Chilling!

But, taking a wider view, isn't this exactly what advertising is intended to do? Provide water cooler talk for one day following the Super Bowl? Distort America's inchoate class anxiety into anti-female resentment that's less threatening to the sociopolitical status quo?

I thought most of the other ads were pretty unremarkable, although the series of spots where Denny's pitched their free Grand Slam breakfasts -- in which chickens, vested with a grotesque minimum of consciousness, react to the looming horror of industrial egg production with unhinged, shrieking terror -- were pleasantly diverting enough.

* * * * *
Hey, the actual Super Bowl was really good, though! That Tracy Porter interception was totally electrifying, and the whole game had an exciting arc to it. Props to Saints kicker Garrett Hartley and his three 44+ yard field goals, too. That's just got to be unimaginably frightening.


Blogger nate said...

I liked Stevenson's write-up of the ads too. I also was struck by how visceral the misogyny was, and wondered whether I was just somehow more observant this year than previously.

When we watched that Charger ad during the game Kyle remarked, tellingly, that for a while she thought the voiceover was talking about his boss when he was talking about his wife (wait, your boss tells you what his friends think of your friends?). Artful, and ugly, to run all the supposed indignities of the Man's life into one infantile gripe.

The unsettling part of the ad -- and the reason the Don Drapers of that project win, I guess, because here I am fucking talking about it -- is the visual language of tension and explosive violence. Dude needs to drive a taxi, not a Dodge! Without that, the content's no harder to brush off than the one commercial where the guy's mommy-wife makes him go shopping instead of watching TV. And certainly not as bad as the ad where the guy abandons his wife to a postnuclear rape gang or something in order to keep like $300 worth of passenger tires.

"A grotesque minimum of consciousness" is funny. Oh yeah, and Super Bowl good. I like Peyton Manning but I also like seeing that big lanky goofball all hunched over in inner self-criticism and defeat. I find him more relatable that way, I guess.

2/10/2010 11:40 PM  

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