I have to admit it; I am not a football fan. So why am I writing about the game? Well, my personal taste aside, it is the most-watched telecast in the world, and last night, among those watching were at least four young men I call my own.
I have never enjoyed watching televised sports, and I used to pride myself on wisely marrying a husband that doesn’t watch them either. Since that newlywed era, however, we have filled our house with quite a number of children, many of whom are boys, and most of whom enjoy watching sports on television. Especially for my stepson who does not live in our house, watching sports is a great way to bond with Dad for the time they do have together.
I wholly approve of some quality time amongst family members enjoying some men messing around with a ball. At the same time, I wince even at the thought of the “trimmings” of the game, and the impact they may have on my young men.
The commercials, cheerleaders and half-time show have very little to do with football and very much to do with the objectification of women and oversexualization of just about everything.
Now, this year the two teams competing just happened to not have cheerleaders and I am relieved they were not a part of the “family time” this year.
Also, the NFL is responsible for the half-time show, and since the famous “wardrobe malfunction” of 2004 they have gone far to try and stay out of trouble. So much so, that they have been criticized in the media and blogosphere for playing things "too safe" and not appealing to the audience they should. I find it interesting that so many voices out there seem to lament a cleaner, more family-friendly approach to half-time. Rather than a celebration of a family game being available to the family, there is a prevailing attitude of “When will they get over it and get back to real half-time shows?”
This year’s pick of The Blackeyed Peas left some optimistic that the NFL would finally "get over" the trauma and try to be “cool” again. Did that mean reverting back to things I don’t want my family to watch? I'm afraid so. I like their music, yet I just could not believe that a middle-aged Fergie had to don a leather mini-skirt, expose all of her cleavage and bump and grind in order to put on a good show. What an appalling and embarrassing waste. There was a clear choice to go "edgy" again, at the expense of decency as well as good taste.
The raciness and inappropriate content of Super Bowl commercials also gets a lot of attention. Apparently the network that airs the game monitors the commercials to the extent that some ads have been banned; I am not sure who is on the panel deciding what gets through, but I am pretty skeptical that there is a mother of any elementary-aged children amongst them.
It's too bad, because these 30-second ads costing 3 million dollars are a great example of private industry bringing out human creativity and innovation at its best. There are people who tape the Super Bowl just so that they can watch the ads. A reported 15% of those who watch the game do so only for the commercials. The advertising reaches so many, and has to be clever and entertaining enough to keep you from using their 30-seconds as your bathroom break.
This year's roster included some really great ads. Volkswagen's mini-Darth Vader was my clear favorite. But I fear it will not be remembered nearly as well as Kim Kardashian's gratuitous and lewd performance for Skechers, or Mini's insistence that we "cram it in the boot". Really?
The commercials are so frequent and so brief, that seemingly out of nowhere, barely dressed women, inappropriate sexual references and other offensive and unnecessary material appear in the middle of a string of harmless and amusing material. As parents, it is easy to get wrapped up in the game, and so involved in the entertainment that the revolting stuff just kind of sneaks in there without much notice. I am certain that it doesn’t go unnoticed by the 9-12 year old boys in the room. I am pretty sure they also notice if it goes by us with no reaction.
I'm not sure if we can expect the networks to filter out more than they already do. The raciness of the commercials is part of why people stay tuned in, and why there is a 3 million price tag for half a minute.
If we cannot rely on companies to clean up their ads, what is left?
Does one have to mute or turn off all of the advertising to avoid exposing one’s children to undesirable material? I am afraid so. If there is a gathering of family and/or friends does Uncle Joe have to bother shutting off the down time of commercials because his little niece is still in the room? Seems annoying, but I think he does.
We are careful about protecting our kids from other unwanted outside influences. The same media that promotes and celebrates the depravity in television advertising in one minute, tells us that “every little bit counts” and that we can “change the world” by reducing pollution of just one bottle. We can reduce damage to our precious earth by turning off one light, or carrying one reusable item.
What about pollution of our children? What about the unwanted images and messages that are dumped in their brains and left there to never disintegrate? Can that happen from a 30-second commercial? I think it can. If one little act can clean up the world, then couldn’t one little mute button--or one little OFF button--clean up their minds?
There was a trailer for "Fast and Furious" within the first half hour, with women in bikinis, women making out, and crazy amounts of violence and "adrenaline shots"; then there was an ad for the show "Fringe" that included the word "hell" and disgusting, frightening images for young children.
The power to do something lies once again in the hands of us mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents or friends. It may seem like a small act to bother muting or shutting off the commercials, but small acts can mean a lot. And don’t worry; if you must watch, the lewd half-time show was already up on YouTube before the game had ended. Within a measly half-hour after the game ended, there was already a plethora of "commercial digests" compiled, filed, ranked--presenting all of the Super Bowl commercials for you, too.
What did you do at your house? Did you tape and watch the Super Bowl on a delay, fast forwarding through commercials and half time? Did you attempt to mute, and if you did, was that successful or did your family protest? Or did you just not watch?