(February 11, 2021) Super Bowl LV (or 55) has just passed and, oh boy, was it a doozy. No, not the game itself (a 31 – 9 blow-out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), although apparently Tom Brady’s politics are easier for the NFL to separate from the game then Colin Kaepernick’s. No, not the game. The Charity Report is interested in reporting on the everything else that goes along with the game—the pageantry, drama and contradiction surrounding the event.
Every year, pandemic or not, the Super Bowl advertising campaigns are only outdone in production by the halftime show.
This year was no exception, with Scarborough native The Weeknd performing with a slew of well dressed back up dancers and lights, performing a medley of his most popular songs. Peppered through the game were advertisements featuring Bruce Springsteen, Cardi B, and the iconic Wayne’s World stoner guys, played by Michael Myers and Dana Carvey. As always, while some of these ads faired well and were legitimately funny, (Tracy Jordan was almost funny enough for some of us to forget about his homophobic tirade all the way back in 2011) quite a lot of them seemed to be, for lack of a better word, tone deaf.
Take, for example, Will Farrell’s commercial for General Motor’s new electric vehicle series, committing to 30 new electric vehicle models by 2025, a concrete step in the direction of being environmentally conscious.
The idea is fantastic, signaling that change is really possible. If GM can prove being eco-conscious is lucrative, other companies will have to follow suit, showing that environmentally consciousness can improve their bottom line. But the upshot of the ad is not that working together creates a healthier planet. It’s a caricature of the dumb American (Will Farrell) claiming that somehow, because more people in Norway drive electric vehicles, that they are somehow “beating us at EV’s!” as he, Will Farrell, exasperatedly tries to explain to a bow-wielding Awkwafina. The prevailing idea that American ‘exceptionalism’ and innovation can only flourish in opposition to another country includes the final somewhat depressing joke that encompasses the notion that America is a leader of technological advances, even though the ‘dumb American’ can’t find Norway on a map
Norway’s answer to Will Farrell drives home the point.
More contradictions are featured in the Wayne’s World stoner guys ad with Cardi B that encourages the audience without, what it calls “shameless manipulation” to support local restaurants.
Unlike the GM ad, the content is not at issue, it is the service they are claiming to provide. Uber is notorious for underpaying its couriers while taking large percentages, up to 30% of each delivery from the local restaurants.
That cut might be easy enough to pay for when you are a big chain, but for smaller local businesses these added costs, during a time where the entire restaurant industry is scrambling to adapt, can have a serious impact on the viability of day-to-day operations.
Cardi B asking me to shop local is not the issue. The issue is that Uber, a company with a reputation for mistreating its workers and gouging restaurants, is trying to tell me that somehow, they support independent local businesses. Every small business is a local business to the community it serves, and there is no evidence that suggests Uber treats these businesses any differently than the big chains that make up a significant amount of the food available on the app.
While GM’s ad may have just had a strange, off-message delivery, Ubers feels like a straight up whitewash job. Best to just call your local restaurants and, if you can, pick up your food yourself if you want to truly support the small eateries in your area.
The Weeknd was high energy and a fun performance, but it is striking to note how far the Super Bowl has come. It was not so long ago that Janet Jackson was pilloried, shamed and judged for what was described as a “wardrobe malfunction” when in fact, Justin Timberlake ripped off part of her attire as either a mistake or part of the dance routine.
Timberlake faced zero repercussions for this, while Jackson’s career took a serious hit.
Even Timberlake acknowledged two years later that he “received about only 10% of the blame” and even mentioned the racial context of the issue, suggesting “that America is, you know, unfairly harsh on ethnic people.”
While a 13-year-old quote about Justin Timberlake talking about ethnic people is “cringey” as they say, it is worth noting that even from a position of privilege that will not be known by the vast majority of the human race, he was still able to see the double standard himself.
Flash forward to Super Bowl LV, we as a society are comfortable extolling the virtues of someone open with sex and drug abuse. This is by no means a bad thing, the human experience is as diverse as it is interesting, and The Weeknd is an amazing performer. His stories deserve to be heard.
When compared to past performances, however, such as Jackson’s and Timberlake’s, it is hard not to notice the difference. It speaks volumes that a woman’s breast could be seen as so threatening, so devastating, meanwhile men are free to not only participate in these “wardrobe malfunctions” but to also throw out lyrics such as “we both know we can’t go without it” and “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you/And I love it” to an all-ages audience.
By no means does the author think these are somehow destructive or negative lyrics. Talking about substance use and abuse are important discussions to have. The issue here is whether female artists be treated the same way if they were so candid about their substance abuse issues. And, if they were treated the same way, do we still see their bodies as something so inherently dangerous and harmful in comparison?
As for the game itself and, in the spirit of athletics, here is a link to Colin Kaepernick’s publishing group Kaepernick Publishing’s project with Medium titled “Abolition for the People.”
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