Do You Give a Rat's Ass about Super Bowl Commercials?
A recent trend in advertising has commercials not only ripping open a years-long void of emptiness 30 seconds at a time in all our lives, but expending hours of human thought imbuing them with meaning and value as well. It has also become routine for lazy executive producers of certain TV current affairs programs to use up their reporters’ time with the task of doing roundup pieces on “Super Bowl Ads,” when his/her time would certainly be better spent on investigative work that might actually result in “news”.
At any rate, the overall message of the commercials seems to have been conveyed to its intended audience. Unified by the common theme of “buy things,” things were indeed bought on the day after, according to leading economists. But though the ads universally shared a common message, they varied widely in method, ranging from the arrogant to the embarrassing to the downright inept.
An example of the latter was Pepsi’s “Britney’s Hands” spot, which intended to be a mini-movie in which the “Britney Spears” character is acutely addicted to Pepsi, and undergoes a dangerous operation where doctors surgically remove her hands and replace them with Pepsi cans that feed the brown sugared water directly into her bloodstream. “Britney” then gets fame, money, and a boyfriend.
Another was Microsoft’s 120-second “ER” parody which used the viewers’ assumed shared knowledge of Hollywood-insider speak and showbiz gossip to mount a vigorous onslaught of pop-culture references. It showed a patient dying from AIDS who is miraculously saved by a multicultural and multi-sexually-oriented team of doctors and a giant, red-eyed surgeon robot running on Windows XP.
The Bush administration, keen to get into the act, spent $3 million of taxpayers’ money on three ads imploring Americans to alter their behavior to help fight terrorism. One showed two shady looking men in a darkened alleyway conducting an illicit business transaction. A menacing mid-Atlantic-accented voiceover (provided by Anthony Hopkins) intones, “We wonder where the terrorists get their money. Money they use to kill Americans. One answer: gay sex. The terrorists have their fingers in the trade of gay prostitution. So when you drop your drawers, you’re dropping America’s drawers and bending over for evil.” By this point, the two surly men are engaged in a sordid sex act depicted in shadow. The final title fills the screen: “God hates fags… but terrorists don’t. Repent.” The instantaneous and hysterical outcry from gay rights groups has been largely ignored.
But it was Budweiser’s audacious “Ground (Z)Hero” that perhaps took the cake. It opened with a plane being hijacked in midair by a gang of Arabic-speaking chimpanzees armed with samurai swords. A group of young men in white baseball caps and t-shirts emblazoned with Greek letters finish off their beers and decide to bum-rush the cockpit. A slow-motion struggle with the apes ensues accompanied by epic orchestral swoons, and the plane veers downward and straight into a Budweiser brewery. The young men’s bodies are torn apart, the parts falling into a massive vat of the piss-like brew. A worker nearby wearing a hardhat with the word “taster” written on it in large red letters takes a sample of the mass-produced plonk and sips it. A proud smile forms on his face and a lonely (computer-generated) teardrop rolls down his cheek. The words “DRINK HEROISM” in a classy-looking font appear on a somber black screen, along with the Budweiser logo. Astonishingly, the tone of the spot is of complete and utter earnestness. Even more surprisingly, cries of exploitation have yet to be heard.
The “obvious” question becomes “Which is your favorite?” One could be forgiven for replying “Do I give a rat’s ass?” Personally, if I were presented with a choice between relinquishing ownership of a rat’s anal apparatus and forming an opinion on the relative merits of the advertisers’ efforts to shove products down our throats during a bellicose orgy of barely-disguised repressed homosexuality, I would gladly keep the rat’s ass.
After filing this report, Loquisha Meng has been placed on extended leave.