Friday Feminist Fuck You: Super Bowl Commercials

Perpetuate this, motherfucker.
Transcript below.


Hello everybody, I would like to give a large Friday Feminist Fuck You to the Super Bowl commercials. As I’m most all of you saw, they were not particularly inspiring this year, in fact most of them played on some pretty ridiculous gender stereotypes and perpetuated a lot of violence and were generally uninteresting.
We’d like to single out three special companies, one of them being Teleflora.
[Teleflora commercial - flowers berating women]
Apparently the Teleflora difference is that you get some emotional abuse with your flowers. Basically humiliating women publicly, playing on really boring old cliches about women and their cats and playing on the idea that women have these really painful relationships with their bodies and that it would be really funny to humiliate them in their places of work about that. So fuck you, Teleflora.
We’d also like to to give a hearty fuck you to Doritos.
[Doritos commercial]
You know, I like my radioactive orange powder cheese chip as much as the next gal, but perpetuating the idea that men are just running around just waiting for women to be publicly stripped to reveal their perfectly coordinated Victoria’s Secret ensembles just so they can indulge some man’s fantasy, just not really appealing to me. And it also just seems to sort of perpetuate this idea that men are walking penises. Which is, you know, slightly reductive – would be slightly upsetting to me if I was a man and is upsetting to me as a woman who cares about men.
And finally, fuck you to Pepsi.
[Pepsi commercial]
Who apparently also think men have not evolved past some sort of cromagnum phase and perpetuates the idea that they’re unable to express emotions and publicly admit any vulnerability. Pretty dumb, pretty uninteresting – doesn’t really make me want to drink Pepsi, I don’t know about you.
Given that these Super Bowl commercials were 3 million dollars for 30 seconds of airtime this year I’m shocked and surprised that these companies don’t stretch to be a little more interesting, to try to appeal to a sophisticated contemporary consumer audience. instead they waste their thirty seconds on recycling tired sexist cliches, and to that I say – fuck you.
Have a good weekend.

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40 Comments

  1. profstout
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    You forgot the bridgestone firestone tire commercial using the potato heads. Mrs. Potato head is nagging Mr. as he drives, so he takes a hard curve and her mouth falls off rendering her silent. http://superbowlads.fanhouse.com/quarter1/Bridgestone-Mr_Potato_Head/2409722 They deserve a fuck you too!

  2. Qi
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow, the wonderful world of Super Bowl ads, huh? To think there was once a time (late 90s) when I expected Super Bowl ads to be cool. Now they seem to recycle the same gimmicks over and over again, not to mention the sexist tropes on display.
    I wonder if anyone has looked at past Super Bowl ads to see if there is more or less gender stereotyping than there was 10 or 20 years ago?

  3. Jacqueline
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I think these commercials need to be considered in a much larger scope of football, masculinity, and race. These commercials were not at all atypical from what I see all season while watching football (both pro and NCAA – with which I am completely obsessed). The tropes of male masculinity and patriarchy run very deep throughout American sports culture and are perpetuated through the players, commentators, and commercials which reify them. While the ads are sexist and problematic, they are but a mere part of male masculine sports culture and the problems therein.
    However, the florist one was in fact taken out of context – the company isn’t saying their flowers send sexist messages, they were implying that’s the message that dead flowers from another company would send – and while it is problematic, I also thought it was a humorous and creative commercial.

  4. Bekka
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    The commercials were…awful. You’d think that with a broad range of people (including women) watching the Super Bowl, they’d try something a bit more interesting and less offensive.
    a side note, your voice is so sweet and gentle, I love hearing you say “fuck you!” again and again. It’s interesting.

  5. The Green Jelly Bean
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow, these commercials are so ridiculously cliche and redundant, they’re not even funny anymore. I hate Pepsi to begin with. Not really a fan of soda anyway but always hated Pepsi.
    And I agree with Bekka–this young woman’s voice does sound very sweet!

  6. LalaReina
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I like sports myself from football to MMA. Sorry.

  7. Concerned_Citizen
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    After watching your post, my two roommates and I got into a heated debate about the merits of social commentary…particularly when it relates to jokes. Although I understand that some may find these commercials offensive, I don’t think that you are taking into account that a) they are meant to be funny and b) they are also commenting and playing off of stereotypes (at least the Doritos and Pepsi commercials). To me, when women who call themselves feminists comment on stereotypes in such a humorless way, it only serves to hurt their cause by perpetuating negative stereotypes about feminists and distracting from true social problems. Because of these stereotypes and the general view of feminists, I would personally be embarrassed to call myself a feminist because I do not wish to be associated with such inane blabber.

  8. Newbomb Turk
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I’m a knuckledragger, but I think I speak for most men when I say that commercials during football games are nothing more than a chance to get more drinks, more food, or to empty my bladder. I’m there to watch football, not commercials. I’d recommend that feminists (or anyone else) do likewise. Commercials are just so much white noise and should be ignored as such.

  9. Toni
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    You don’t even have to get into the sexism to say this year’s Super Bowl commercials sucked. The only ones I felt were good enough for the game were Budweiser’s horse spots and the E*Trade baby.

  10. adag87
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s really fair to say that Courtney is perpetuating a “humorless feminist” stereotype when she’s expressing her own opinions about what she does or does not find funny. In fact, I’d argue that she WANTS funnier, smarter Superbowl commercials. The argument is that commercials don’t have to play on gender stereotypes to be funny, not that funny commercials are inherently bad.
    Also I think it’s kind of a naive assumption to say that media criticism (which is what Courtney is practicing by deconstructing these commercials) is “inane blabber”. The point is that our media have profound effects on the way our society’s values are shaped. Discussion about that fact should not be discouraged, but fully embraced. If you disagree with someone’s interpretation, fine, but don’t discredit the discussion altogether.

  11. Oppose_Oppression
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    I am with you 100%
    The concept of the add revolves around the oh so obvious stereotypes. Society has come to the point where stereotypes are there to be mocked, as they clearly have been in these commercials. One could easily argue that by bringing them to light and to mainstream media, in the form of comedic relief, is a step forward. People are realising that such things are ONLY a joke.
    Anyways, like I said Concerned_Citizen, great comment ;)

  12. meeneecat
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand what’s with this hostility toward any sort of social commentary regarding these commercials. Sure, they are a chance for some people to go pee and get food. But marketing is also a form of media…we will easily see, watch, and be exposed to more commercials in our lifetime than all hours of football/sitcom/movie/etc/ watching combined. We are literally bombarded by these images and advertising tropes 24-7. What on earth is wrong with wanting to understand the effect that these messages have on ourselves and on our culture…and what they reflect about us as a society. For you to “recommend” that feminists and others just ignore it and watch the game…is, (i’m sorry), but I think, really ignorant. There is plenty of value in analyzing all forms of media and advertising, superbowl commercials included….Just open up a copy of “adbusters” sometime…there’s plenty that can be learned from an analysis of this 24-7 media/consumerism bombardment.

  13. Roja
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    Courtney,
    this is my top feminist issue in the US. TOP.FUCKING.ISSUE.
    advertising is one of those businesses that is very afraid of change, and they stick with old recipes as long as they can. they are equally as horrible about male and female stereotypes. There is NO feminist organization fighting this fight in an organized way as far as I know.
    here is the bane of my existence :
    http://www.myindiantube.com/show_video.php?video_id=gpD8zE-97AQ
    (it played regularly on my TV for the past few months.)
    Carls Jr (same as Hardees on the east coast) is coming to my school and despite my inquiry from the ASUCLA board of directors and despite my daydreaming about how I’m going to sabotage them, or complain to the chancellor, they are building their new location full-force.
    My remedy? retreat. I have to avoid that whole level of the food court. don’t ask me why, I am all alone in this battle, I can only lose.
    I have not been able to see the positive in this yet, but I’m trying to use it as a motivator to get my phd and get out of UCLA asap.

  14. meeneecat
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Speaking of adbusters, they do have a blog post up about the superbowl ads, echoing a lot of what Courtney said.

  15. meeneecat
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Holy —-, have you watched some of those other commercials that show up under the “related” section? There’s two commercials where girls are sticking things in their mouths that aren’t supposed to fit in a normal persons mouth (one uses her fist, another uses a bunch of straws)…And, I’m sorry that I have such knowledge, but that idea came straight out of a porno! I swear to god! I’ve seen the exact same thing done before…in a porno! (not that I watch porn as a hobby, I’m just familiar with a lot of it because as a feminist, I decided to sit down and watch all my ex roommate’s/friend’s porn as a study/survey…apparently my roommate was a porn addict, because it literally took me weeks to get through all of the crap)
    It seems the advertising execs thought it would be “cute” to do this concept as a commercial. A sort of “hidden” language where just about every guy who watches porn would know exactly where this concept came from, meanwhile most women who see it would have no idea. God that pisses me off!
    And then there’s also the “flat buns” commercial. Oh don’t get me started.
    Roja, I don’t live in California, but if I did, I would personally volunteer to set fire to the place with you (while no one is in it of course) because watching those commercials got me THAT pissed off.

  16. Posted February 7, 2009 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    How could you not mention the ads for GoDaddy?
    I thought those were the worst of the whole lot, and definitely much worse than the Doritos ad. (And Danica Patrick, can’t you get better endorsement deals?)

  17. spike the cat
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Agreed.
    When a company voluntarily plops down 3 million bucks to make “a joke”, I think we’ve safely entered into the realm of possibility that there just might be, might be I say, more to story here.
    Also I think the reason why these types of posts tend to get a fair amount of attention is the following:
    1) this is one of the few topics that most folks here (from the US) are experts on –ie., we are all experts on our own culture; we can reflect on these messages without having to guess the meaning here. We live it. Critiquing the commercials is a critique of what happens in our lives (i.e., sexist jokes, acceptance of violence as funny, such as kicks in the crotch, etc)
    2) no matter how small the gesture, the power of the individual consumer is one of the most cherished freedoms in this country. Choosing not to purchase a product or to write a letter gives a person an immediate personal gratification. I did it this summer when I choose not to give my money to Burton snowboards, thanks to a posting here on feministing and some further research about their corporate philosophy.
    3) conscientious consumerism doesn’t preclude other areas of feminist activism and discourse.
    Some folks will always complain that adults having a conversation perpetuates bad stereotypes about feminism, yet will sit back and excuse a bunch of million dollar commercials aimed at the general population (including kids) even though those ads are perpetuating stereotypes as well. Go figure.

  18. FLT
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I didn’t do it this year because it was too depressing, but one year I counted: something like
    40 percent mildly offensive (e.g. women as cooks waiting on men, etc.DiGiornos commercial)
    50 percent ticked me off! (e.g. one underdressed 20 year old woman jiggling in a commercial with 10 men in suits, GoDaddy)
    10 percent probably appealing to both genders (men and women of about the same age and attractiveness level talking about a product everyone can use.) I was probably being generous with the ten percent.

  19. magpie20
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps Go Daddy was ignored because they’ve been so insulting for so long? Either way, I don’t care. It has become increasing harder for me to applaud Danica Patrick for breaking into and succeeding in a male-dominated sport. I think she has completely, consciously, and somewhat eagerly commodified herself and I’m not sure there would ever be a reason to justify it. I’m incredibly disappointed and would never consider her a role model for myself or for females of any age. No, I am not suggesting that she should carry the weight of the feminist world on her shoulders because she’s had success where other women have not. But, she had a choice and she made it. And I certainly don’t have to respect her for it.

  20. Eli
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I, personally, am glad to call myself a feminist, and see no reason to give companies a free pass on sexism and stereotypes, just because they’re “trying to be funny.”
    That’s bullshit.
    Let’s go deeper. Why is it “funny”? (And I use quote marks, because I don’t think it is.) Why is a certain level of sexism still okay? Why do these stereotypes still persist?
    Might it be because people are so married to the status quo, that any time someone questions it, you just get knocked back with “Have a sense of humour, we were only making a joke.”
    Jokes say something about our society and culture. Commercials say something about our society and culture. And discussing that is valid as all hell.
    It’s just so fucking typical to accuse someone, and in this case, a woman, of having no sense of humour, when expressing a valid opinion about a few commercials.
    Guess what? I bet humourless feminists laugh a stuff all the time. When it’s funny.

  21. Napalm Nacey
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    If you’re embarrassed to be a feminist, hand in your badge and get back into the kitchen. Criticising other women when they’re being brave enough to object to something that offends them doesn’t really help anyone, and in fact makes you look apologetic for the whole feminist movement. Which is about as helpful as a smack in the teeth.
    Courtney made some great points and it’s quite obvious that she has a great sense of humour, she just didn’t find the blatant objectifying of her gender at all hilarious. There is nothing wrong with that.

  22. Oppose_Oppression
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Eli,
    The reason it IS funny is because people see how very utterly ridiculous such things are. Its poking fun at the stereotype and how far fetched it is.

  23. Oppose_Oppression
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Ah, sounds like a nice attack on stay at home moms, not utilizing the freedoms given to them by our early feminists. Really, must you stoop so low? There are MANY women that would love to be a stay at home mother and not work a boring 9 to 5 job. I know you didn’t purposely attack house wives, but look at the wording, it degrades the thought of being a house wife.
    Anyway, Im not a feminist, at all. Not by a long stretch. But Im very for equal rights. See how everyone is brainwashed into thinking that they HAVE to be feminist or they’re not for equal rights?
    One of the many services Feminism seems to offer impressionable minds.
    Egalitarians FTW.

  24. cordelia9889
    Posted February 7, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    concern troll bingo!

  25. miss.k
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Just want to second the sentiment. The GoDaddy adds were the only ones that the entire room (mostly men) seemed to find completely distasteful where I was watching the game. Don’t think I’ve seen their adds before, so I was definitely surprised and disgusted.
    Not to defend it, but doesn’t the Doritos add end with the guy getting hit by a bus or something? Moral of the story being that a man who acts as he did will/should be ‘punished’. Does that make a difference?

  26. Eli
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Wow, thanks so much for correcting me on my erroneous opinion, but I am going to have to go ahead and reject your correction.
    It’s funny how serving up the same old shit, now with added “irony” still equals a chick with her kit off (Doritos ad).
    And the delicious superiority that comes from being able to claim that someone only thinks something is unfunny because they’re not picking up on the irony.
    I see no irony, I see the same old bull that I’m expected to eat up with a teaspoon without question.

  27. Oppose_Oppression
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    You’re only further perpetuating the stereotype that feminists are angry and condescending beings unable to engage in calm discourse. Please take a moment to inhale and realise the world is in fact NOT out to get us women.

  28. Roja
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Haha:) I appreciate the support, but well, I wouldn’t want to set anything on fire (although I have to admit I do let my imagination run with dreams of vandalizing their store:) )
    I wish there was a group active in this area (fighting sexism in advertising/mainstream media). I would join in a heartbeat.
    of course, this is something that needs to be done with a lot of tact by a group of people who know how to make an appealing case to the general public as to why these things suck. and how to navigate the waters of pop culture with diplomacy. a group who can organize a minimum number of people who complain to the right people.
    but alas, I don’t see this happening yet. maybe some day…

  29. Eli
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Why don’t you take a step back, inhale, exhale, and re-consider how your condescending attitude is contributing (or not) to this discussion.
    In the meantime, I’m going to recuse myself from this pointless discussion with you.

  30. Brandi
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    See that’s where I have a bit of a problem (the comment on the demographics of the viewers). I absolutely despise that people watch the SuperBowl “for the commercials” or for the halftime show or other non-football reasons. (Yeah, I know that seems like an overreaction, but it’s just a pet peeve.)
    It has, in my opinion, ruined much of the game-watching experience. I personally check out the potential audience of any SB party we’re invited to. If there are a lot of non-football fans (usually women) going, then I don’t. Part of that’s because those people aren’t going to have the same viewing experience because they don’t understand the game. They’re not watching the game (or commercials) from the same place I am having watched an entire season of games and commercials. (And because it annoys me when people ask things like “so who’s playing?” or “what’s that red flag for?”)
    I won’t go into football culture as a microcosm of both American society and American masculinity as I think Jacqueline did a great job of that. In some ways, it feels my turf (no pun intended) is invaded when people step in one evening a year and start in on an analysis that doesn’t take into account the larger social significance of sports culture.

  31. conductress
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The fist and straw commercials are disgusting. I can’t believe they got away with that. Actually, I wonder if those are solely available on the internet, and never made it to TV. I’m not in the habit of watching porn, and I can say without a doubt that those are overtly sexual. The women’s body language and the coy looks on their faces… You don’t need to see the same act in a porno to know what those ads are getting at.

  32. nacho_mama
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic! Love it! Thanks :D

  33. FoxinSocks
    Posted February 8, 2009 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    What gets me is that if I remember correctly, the Superbowl audience is 50% male and 50% female, so these ads are insulting 50% of the potential audience. I know I’ll never use GoDaddy if I need a domain name, for example.
    And Vermont Teddy Bears is now dead to me, DEAD!, after the insulting commercial they’ve been running right before Valentine’s Day.

  34. ferrin
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Yes, finally a woman that speaks the truth!

  35. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Oppose_Oppression,
    I’ve always objected to this idea of women getting a “choice” to have a job or sit at home and live off the paycheck of a man (or a welfare check from the government).
    Men don’t get that “choice” – we have to put our nose to the grindstone at 17 (or 22 for the college guys) and we don’t get to leave the labor force until we’re 67.
    A man who stays home is lazy.
    A woman who stays home is “making a choice to be a homemaker”
    Equality works both ways, folks – if we have to enter the labor force at 17 and stay in for 50 years, you women do to – because there are no equal rights without equal responsibilities.
    Now, I know I’ll hear a lot of shouting about men not doing their share of housework and childcare – and you’re right, most married guys do not pull their weight at home.
    But that just means that married guys should do their damned housework (just like us single guys do), it does NOT mean that women get to have a “choice” about pulling their weight in the labor force like us guys do.
    If you want to be equal to men, earning your own keep by making your own wages isn’t a “choice” – it’s MANDATORY!

  36. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    So, sexist advertising is more important than the right to choose, ending rape, wage equality and affirmative action for women, ending female poverty ect ect ect???
    Those are some odd priorities – talk about turning Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on it’s head!

  37. Newbomb Turk
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m not hostile to taking notice of the overall stupidity of advertising, or of sexism in particular. I’m just pointing out that it’s not worth worrying over that much since most people pay little attention to it -especially men watching sports. If ad agencies want to flush millions of dollars on TV spots, the joke is on them. I’ll be grabbing more pizza during the break, as will most people.
    In fact, the only way Super Bowl ads have any real effect is if people fall into the trap of analyzing them at length, giving the companies tons of free advertising to go along with the few ounces they actually paid for. It’s the same trick used by a red-baiting politician in The Manchurian Candidate, who claimed there were 50 Reds spying in the State Dept. Then he changed the number to 100. Then 250. Then 200. People who argued these points were only taking his bait: by wrangling over how many commies had infiltrated the government, they had (a) given him undeserved publicity and (b) by implication, agreed that the communists had subverted the state.
    I can see why NBC would want people to think that multimillion-dollar ads during the Super Bowl would attract customers -they want to sell air time for as much as possible. Why should anyone else play along? I don’t.

  38. GiaCor
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Okay, so can we not say, “motherfucker?” I tend to curse a lot I guess, and just recently, I thought about this phrase in particular. Where did it come from? I laughed out loud when I read “perpetuate this, motherfucker,” but then I was like WHOA!, I was JUST thinking about this! How about fatherfucker? Something about that isn’t right either, but I like it better.

  39. Oppose_Oppression
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    why oppose women having the choice? why not advocate men getting the choice instead? =)
    I personally think one parent should stay home (man or woman, i dont care) and one should work until the kids are older.

  40. Oppose_Oppression
    Posted February 11, 2009 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    -_-”

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