By Eric McGriff
Guest Blogger and member of Syracuse University’s A Men’s Issue
Every year, the Super Bowl commercials we watch are these amazing, over-the-top, extravagant, and sometimes controversial productions that air during what is one of the most popular games of the year. Creators of these advertisements pay millions of dollars to reach out to an audience of over 100 million viewers, hoping that the massive exposure will result in large profits. But, I think there are other costs that have to be considered. These costs are the consequences resulting from a lack of sensitivity toward issues revolving around the objectification of women and the hyper masculinization of men. These are the consequences that come from exposing ourselves to media that blatantly exploits harmful gender stereotypes and gender roles.
The first commercial to catch my eye was the Go Daddy “Perfect Match” advertisement, narrated by Danica Patrick. As an organization known for objectifying women in its ads, Go Daddy stayed true to their reputation by embracing the “Sex Sells” marketing technique in this Super Bowl advertisement. The ad uses sexual innuendoes such as “When sexy meets smart, your business scores.” to entice potential customers. The ad even takes it a step further by using model Bar Refaeli to personify the “sexy” part of the domain registry company. What does sex have to do with domain registry? That is a question I am still trying to answer. The target audience for this commercial is obviously heterosexual men, as if they are the only ones interested in obtaining a domain name. But, this was only the first in a long line of problematic commercials aired during the game.
And what about the Audi advertisement? A boy, who is upset about going to his prom, alone, suddenly transforms when his father hands over a set of keys to his Audi. One second, we see a quiet and timid young man, and the next; he is this reckless and impulsive person, getting into fights and speeding to and from his destination. Yet, in the end of it all, everything is fine because owning an Audi is about bravery, as suggested by the end message, “Bravery. It’s what defines us.”
The same arguments can be made for the Mercedes Benz commercial as well. Possession of this car promises to give its owner an exciting life. In this case, it was a man, and by owning a Mercedes Benz, he would get multiple, beautiful women to adore him. There is a kind of seduction associated with these commercial and even the one about the Audi. These commercials that are made to catch the attention of heterosexual men and suggest that in owning this material objects we can have all of these things that mainstream masculinity tells us are important. We can live an exciting life, and all women will want us if we just owned this car.
I think we need to be more self-reflective and critical of the media we absorb and the message it sends. We need to take time and think about the effect it has on shaping our identities, because as long as we remain desensitized to the misogyny, violence, and objectification, we are enabling it. So, we have to be active and speak up because passivity is not an option in any effort for equality, non-violence, and ending gender roles and stereotypes. Nothing can facilitate evil like silence, nor can anything make it easier for evil to grow. The objectification of women is wrong and it is not okay to engage in unsafe behavior, so why not demand that our media convey that same message? Let’s demand that our media project the values and norms of society that are most beneficial to our growth.