In the halcyon days of… less than 24 hours ago, it was possible to read headlines like, “Super Bowl commercials are finally showing strong women and it’s about time” with a straight face.
Now, of course, we know better. There certainly was something different about last night’s Super Bowl ads, but it had nothing to do with their gender politics. Instead, the cringeworthy-yet-predictable cavalcade of taglines like, “A dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do” (real) and, “Ladies be obsessed with weddings, amirite?!” (implied) collided uncomfortably with desperate attempts to seem contemporary — attempts that mostly landed #brands in the uncanny valley between advertisement and meme. Call it Buscemiland.
Cutting out the filler that was the actual game and leaving Beyoncé’s halftime hijacking for consideration all on its own, let’s go through this year’s worst offenders to figure out why Peak Capitalism 50 seemed like it was jointly art directed by Seth MacFarlane and David Cronenberg.
“Puppymonkeybaby. Puppymonkeybaby. Puppymonkeyb—”
All due respect to the Don Draper of our time who thought “chanting, animatronic Internet Frankenstein” was the pitch of his life, but the only zeitgeist this spot captured was its accidental resemblance to SNL‘s brilliant dudes-mindlessly-chanting-in-front-of-a-TV parody from the night before. Even the widespread Twitter horror (all publicity is good publicity?) was quickly nipped in the bud by this monstrosity, which made me instantly forgive Hillary Clinton for all her culturally appropriative sins.
Camping! Music! Bestiality?
Congratulations are in order, however, for Super Bowl newbie Marmot, whose lesser special effects budget and social media muscle mean they won’t get nearly as much flak for the night’s second-weirdest use of CGI animals. Still, if ending a simple man-hangs-with-animal spot with an attempted same-sex, interspecies make-out is ad agencies’ idea of progress, maybe they should stick to material like…
Doritos + Pregnancy = No
…this masterpiece, which condenses Judd Apatow’s entire early film career into a neat 30 seconds while simultaneously shearing it of any redeeming comedic value. A dude eats Doritos at an ultrasound (badass!) while his wife and the technician look on with disapproval (lame!) before a tossed chip looks like it basically rips out the wife’s uterus (cool!). You know what they say: extreme body horror played for laughs is the way to a woman’s heart!
Marriage Is a Football Game
Coming to you live from the era when it was still kosher to refer to the New York Times Vows section as the “women’s sports pages” is this ad, in which ladies’ mad scramble for a wedding bouquet — and by extension, marriage — is presented as the female equivalent of football, all of which is somehow connected to Buick. Emily Ratajkowski and Odell Beckham, Jr. are charming enough (though Ratajkowski gets exactly no dialogue), but “sports are for boys, marriage obsessions are for girls” is a message nobody should be able to sell in 2016.
Two different companies use two different versions of the same concept to be slightly insulting from two different angles. In one, Ryan Reynolds is too hot for lady drivers to operate a car without automatic brakes (a spot that’s doubly disappointing for not turning out to be yet another meta Deadpool ad); in the other, a nurse is so hot a dopey dude can’t pay attention his own dying father. Neither is blatantly offensive so much as simply tired — especially because Hyundai’s other major ad of the night put the “pat” in “paternalistic.”
The Sex Lives of Parents
But perhaps it’s fitting that the NFL itself was behind the most bizarre spot of the night, in which the league attempted to make the case that it’s still a net public good without ever mentioning the word “concussion.” Neither chronic injuries nor cases of borderline civic extortion apparently matters so long as football inspires couples to bone — and who better to testify to that than the products of said boning? Props to the casting directors who found the eight members of each age group willing to sing about being “Super Bowl Babies” to Seal and pretty much no one else.