The Super Bowl – but not the game

Feb 09 2009 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

One event that garners much attention this time of year is the Super Bowl. Millions of folks plan their lives around Super Bowl Sunday, including me. And among these millions are many who look forward not to the Super Bowl - not so much for the game itself - but for the ads.

Year after year, the curious wait for the stoppages during the game, the time-outs and for halftime to see what's new in the world of advertising.

While some engage in conversation, debate and arguments about the ads' content, most seem to be focused on the tools, technologies and visual effects, etc. with which the ads are created and delivered - the style more than the substance, the sizzle more than the steak, the eye-candy more than the depth of the message.

Me, I'm a bit different. I, too, look forward to the ads; however, not for the cool, but for the tone and tenor in which the ads are wrapped.

What I find, and found again this year, in the plurality, if not the majority, of the Super Bowl ads is the preponderance of abuse – physical, emotional, and verbal that runs through these ads, especially those that are created to be "humorous."

For example, we saw a fellow hit by a bus, an electrocution, someone hit in the head with a golf club, a terrible ski accident and a middle manager who is thrown out a fourth-story window, crashing to the ground below – and all this in the game's first quarter!

Life imitates art; art imitates life

There's a penalty in most sports called "unsportsmanlike conduct." Basically, unsportsmanlike conduct is called when a player, coach or spectator refuses to play by the rules or acts in an unbecoming way that is not ethical, fair, and honorable and includes behavior that is deemed deceitful, disrespectful or vulgar. Examples include throwing punches, deliberate physical contact with officials, verbal abuse and taunting.

My take is "unsportsmanlike conduct" threads through many of these ads. Where's the penalty flag!

What's curious to me is whether these ads reflect the intense physical, emotional and verbal abuse that exists in our culture or our culture reflects the abuse exhibited in these ads (and in so many others).

What I witnessed in these ads is the degree of deceit, violence, conflict, and abuse that is either directly generated towards another(s) or abuse, violence that is tolerated, enjoyed, and entertaining to those who witness it.

What I take away from these ads is the notion that disrespect of other human beings is an appropriate and acceptable way of life in our culture, and that abuse, deceit, cheating and demeaning and sarcastic behavior in any form is funny, "business as usual", and that's the way it is in our world.

What are they thinking!

My sense is that there is a "macho" (well, it is the Super Bowl!) element here that says all is fair in love and war. I'm curious about the writers and the so-called "creative" types who fashion these ads. I'm curious about their notions of male-ness, womanhood, and the need for abuse and violence to sell their message.

Since advertising is all about the "demographic", I'm curious about their notions of the American male and female these days. Where do they find the stats and information that says, "violence, abuse and deceit sells?"

What am I thinking?

Where are we in our culture where gratuitous violence, abuse and deceit is seen as appropriate and acceptable? Have we become so numbed and inured to such a way of life that few shake their heads and ask:

"How did we come to this?"

"How did we become so indifferent to violence, abuse and deceit?"

"Why do we choose to view violence, abuse and deceit as entertainment and humor?"

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.