I’ll be the first to admit that, on the surface, the controversial Focus on the Family-sponsored Tim and Pam Tebow ads shown during last night’s Super Bowl were two of the least offensive in a series of ludicrously sexist spots.
I expect as for beer, featuring ample bosoms, during the biggest game of the year, but I had no idea that we were living in a world of men so whipped into submission by their strident harpy wives/girlfriends that they can’t even wear pants anymore. All right, so the Docker’s ad featuring men wandering in their tighty whities through a field singing “I wear no pants” followed by an offer of free Dockers is probably more of a meta/hipster construct than a statement about men regaining the authority over the womanfolk in their lives; but amidst the other company it was keeping, it was hard not to think it was part of a mini-meme. (I have a healthy sense of humor, but I’m not the only one seeing it.)
A good friend of mine said that, “each commercial is an island, not related to any other,” but the sheer number of ads making fun of men in long-term relationships for compromising their manliness while simultaneously telling them they can regain their cojones by purchasing a) A Dodge Charger, b) Dove for Men, or c) FloTV (so they can watch TV while the old lady drags them out shopping, plotted enough points to make it a trend. Adding to the oddly aggressive tone of the Dodge Charger add: Michael C. Hall’s narration. That’s right, America’s favorite fictional serial killer wants you to buy this car to reconnect with that Y chromosome.
And even the boob and beer ads were completely gratuitous. What exactly do Indy, and now NASCAR, driver Danica Patrick and a female massage therapist have to do with domain name registration provider GoDaddy.com? Absolutely nothing. At least the female scientist riding on a giant telescope in the Bud Light ad made sense. Oh wait ….
And don’t think that Jets QB Mark Sanchez’s disjointed PSA about women’s heart disease symptoms (CBS cares about women, especially those watching football) is some sort of de facto Fairness Doctrine.
So while I am in strong disagreement with Focus on the Family’s political agenda, I found the ads featuring Tebow, the 2007 Heisman trophy winner, and his mother, Pam, talking about their loving relationship rather welcome, even though the first spot did seem a lot like, as others have noted, an almost oedipal eHarmony.com ad thanks to similar production styles (white background, simple testimonial).
However, the Tebow ads were paradoxical in so many ways: They showcased a strong man respecting the woman in his life and respecting the choice she made to carry him to term at serious risk to her health but were sponsored by a conservative Christian group that doesn’t respect, and even seeks to outlaw except in severe cases, a woman’s legal right to chose. Mixed messages much?
On the surface, the ads had the potential to be, depending on your camp, the least female-friendly spots in a sea of misogyny, but instead came across to most viewers as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-like happy family PSA due to the toned-down language that CBS asked for, with Pam Tebow simply describing Tim as her “miracle” baby and leaving out the politicizing details. In fact, the ads, in and of themselves, probably do not violate CBS’ longstanding policy of not allowing advocacy ads, but the same probably could not be said of the accompanying online content, which viewers were encouraged to visit at the end of the ads.
In reality, this ad preached to choirs on both sides of the issue, but probably didn’t gain any recruits. As one viewer, who felt the ad wasn’t controversial enough, told me: “If you didn’t know what Focus on the Family is, you wouldn’t really think anything of it. Most yahoos just think [Tebow's] into family…that’s nice…whatever.”