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super bowl reflection: consumerism or sexism?

super bowl ad

As a daughter that was raised on yearly Super Bowl parties, complete with pounds of guacamole and endless mounds of wings, available in every heat level desirable, it’s no surprise that I was a little disappointed when I wasn’t at home to partake in the action this year.

Many weeks have past since that weekend where sports fans cram together in front of big screen TVs and yell at the pixels, but I’m still thinking about what I saw.

They were always my favourite part, the blatant consumerism, the need to appeal to the believed “target audience,” the endless exploitation of women by whatever means necessary. That’s what makes the Super Bowl worth watching, right?

Wrong. It is true that they’re my favourite part, but year after year I find myself endlessly disappointed by the blatant sexism, idiocy, and poor management that they always seem to possess.

After spending a day filled with endless hours of academic reading, unrequited love, and standardised testing preparation, I was excited when I stumbled across a Buzzfeed post that contained some of this year’s biggest Super Bowl ads. Perfect, I thought. I’ll take a study break to see what the mega corporations have been up to this year.

The third commercial featured was for Carl’s Junior, and mentioned something about a woman named Charlotte McKinney.

Now, I’m still not sure who Charlotte McKinney is, if she’s been in the spotlight for a while or if she’s what’s considered to be a “fresh face,” but after watching the ad I’d really be okay with never hearing her name again.

The shot opens with a farmer’s market from an aerial view. Nothing wrong with that. But seconds later the frame cuts to an unnaturally glowing McKinney, bleached blonde hair bopping up and down at the same rate as her painfully large breasts. She’s glowing, the editors clearly trying to engage the eye into looking at only her and not the jumble of people of all shapes, sizes, and colours behind her.

This woman walks slowly through the market, wearing absolutely nothing, might I add, as random men are distracted from their tasks at hand to literally gawk at her. In a slow, sultry voice, McKinney says, ‘I love going all natural. It just makes me feel better.’

At first, I’ll admit to thinking this was a joke. Soon they’ll cut to a man doing the same thing and mock how ridiculous this is. But they just kept going; tomatoes placed to look like her backside, squeezed by an ominous hand in the left side of the frame.

My mouth literally fell open. The ad continued with various men distracted, different produce used to sexualise different parts of her body, until eventually she somehow acquired a barely there bikini top, short shorts, and a burger the size of her face.

She bites into the burger in the most sexualised way possible, and then a voice comes over the screen to say that this entire commercial is for Carl’s Jr.’s all new Natural Burger. A burger.

She’s naked, walking through a farmer’s market, just to let you know that the cows packed into over-processed circles of grease are now, for the first time ever, all natural. The woman is parading herself around in one of the most despicable acts of over-sexualisation I’ve seen in a long time, for a fast food burger.

I was so angry I couldn’t speak.

The rest of the Buzzfeed article was filled with various other typical Super Bowl ads, sprinkled with the occasional commercials that I expected to be showcased in a modern Super Bowl.

One of my personal favourites was one I had seen countless times before on various YouTube ads, Always’ “#LikeAGirl”, and it’s the kind of ad I expected to see more of this year: ads that show women are just as capable, just as strong, as men.

Ads that combat the over-sexualisation that the Carl’s Jr. ad itself is an example of. Ads that combat the stereotypes associated with the ever-infuriating wage gap. Ads that make young men think it’s okay to only appreciate women for their bodies, to base their value on their cup size and not their I.Q. or their passions.

Another of my favourite ads was Dove’s ‘#RealStrength,’ which showed various clips of some of the most adorable babies I’ve seen in a long time, with different “Dad’s” taking care of them. ‘What makes a man stronger? Showing that he cares,’ comes on the screen.

Yes! This is what we need, these are the gender roles we need to solidify for the people who have yet to wipe the drool from their chins after watching and rewatching the Carl’s Jr. ad for the past five minutes.

People question why we live in a society where women are still afraid to speak out when they’re raped or sexually assaulted. But they don’t question why we’re still making ads that depict women as products.

It is a naked woman, advertising beef. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

The media depicts only one type of woman. She’s the “perfect” 34”, 24”, 34”. By eliminating all other possibilities, the media is making it increasingly easy for girls to become ashamed of themselves and their bodies, thus decreasing their self worth.

Now, I’m not here to attack our modern-day media giants. But there is something to be said for a culture where teens spend over seven hours a day consuming various forms of media. Where rates of depression among teen girls have doubled between 2000 and 2010. Where 91% of women on a college campus, when asked, said they have attempted to control their weight through various forms of dieting.

Girls are being taught from an early age that their worth depends on their image. Our world as a whole is working hard at breaking out of this mould we’ve sealed so tightly shut. Companies like Always and Dove are starting the conversation. But with constant counter-advertising, just like the Carl’s Jr. ad, it’s hard to find stable ground.

It’s up to consumers to respond. Tell companies what kind of advertising you want to see more of. Don’t buy from organisations that promote the exploitation of women. Start a conversation with a friend about what stereotypes you’re still seeing represented on television.

Don’t let this conversation die.

For more about this, as well as other issues regarding over-sexualisation of women in the media, my personal favorite organisation is The Representation Project, created by the same people that made the documentary Miss Representation back in 2011.

For more about them, visit Miss Representation. They’re an incredible group of people dedicated not only to acknowledging stereotypes, but combatting them.

One thought on “super bowl reflection: consumerism or sexism?

  1. I loved this article! It’s great to hear a young girl expressing the truth about the still backwards state of the advertising and marketing industry. Keep it up S. Makai!

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