Did We Just Witness the First Empowering Super Bowl?
By Claire Trainor--The Super Bowl is arguably the most important sporting event in the United States. Every year, millions of people gather around their televisions, in bars and at friends’ houses to watch two teams compete for the world championship (although how it’s a world championship when only the USA is involved is an issue for another day).
Super Bowl advertising time during is highly sought-after and incredibly expensive. Super Bowl ads are well known for being funny, but are also usually sexist and objectifying. It’s understood that if you’re going to watch football, you’re also going to have to deal with the culture that surrounds it.
This year, there were loads of advertisements featuring cute animals—like the one of the dogs dressed up as hot dogs running to their owners, or the Subaru advertisement featuring a parent golden retriever driving its puppy in the car. Kids were also a big hit—my personal favorite was the Super Bowl babies advertisement, featuring kids born nine months after their parents’ favorite team won a championship game, claiming that “football is family.” There were even advertisements encouraging us to reach our full potential, like the Advil commercial, both Jeep commercials and Pokémon’s inspirational advertisement encouraging kids to keep trying to reach their goals.
What was the Super Bowl missing? Advertisements that objectified or shamed people’s bodies in any way.. The advertisements that did focus on bodies were centered on achievement and what the body can do—sometimes the focus was on fitness, but music, art and chess were all featured as well. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find an advertisement that promoted negative body image, body shaming or objectification.
More inspiring than the advertisements, though, was the halftime show featuring Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. Typically filled with pop music, the Super Bowl halftime show is hailed by football fanatics as a time for snacks; for non-sports people, it is the highlight of the event. I fall in between, never skipping the show entirely, but more excited for the game than the music. This year, however, was the best performance I have ever seen.
It was, as mic.com wrote, “a 12-minute tribute to LGBT love—with an epic Black Lives Matter interlude.” Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin danced with a pride flag, Bruno Mars knocked the audience off their feet and Beyoncé, performing her new single “Formation,” brought Black Lives Matter messages to the Super Bowl. The performance ended with everyone in the stands holding up signs that read “BELIEVE IN LOVE.” If we’re being completely honest, it left me in tears.
As a Broncos fan, I was thrilled with the outcome of the game; I watched my team win a championship for the first time that I remember. But at the end of the day, for the fans at least, a game is just a game. I had nothing to do with the Broncos’ win, or the Panthers’ loss. What stuck with me, and what will continue to impact me more than the outcome of any sports game, is the change I noticed.
Comparing this year’s advertisements to last years’ ads, and the ads from the years before that one, and every single year that I remember, I noticed a shift. For these few hours, there was no objectification. There were no advertisements that made me worry about what I was eating or made me feel guilty about my body.
Tonight’s advertisements displayed a shift away from a culture that prizes looks toward one that prizes strength, intelligence, creativity and, more than all of those, passion (and puppies!).
As much as I'd like to believe that the change is due to the goodness of advertisers’ hearts, I'm not sure I can. Recently, there has been backlash against the Super Bowl advertisers, and advertisers in general, for their sexist, body-shaming commercials.
The shift in Super Bowl commercials is a testament to the power of our voices, the power we have as consumers (and people) to say, “No, we will not stand for this.” It's a testament to the change we can make if we yell loudly enough, for long enough and with enough voices. It's encouragement to continue on this path, to continue speaking out against the injustices we see and feel, and to know change is possible.
For the first time that I can remember, I watched advertisements without feeling angry about the way our world treats women’s bodies. For the first time I can remember, I watched advertisements with hope.
What did you think of this year's Super Bowl advertisements? Tell us in the comments below!
About the blogger: Claire Trainor is a student at DePaul University majoring in creative writing and psychology. In steady recovery from an eating disorder, she wants to educate, support and inspire those struggling in any way. She likes her dogs, hot chocolate and books. Claire currently runs a (new) blog that can be found here.
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