Douchebag Decree: Super Bowl Commercials

Before each Super Bowl, we see media obsess over two things: commercials and halftime performances. And this year was no different, especially with her majesty Beyonce giving what was arguably the best halftime show in the history of the human race.   

As for the commercials, many will never be considered the best in history. Yesterday, Bitch intern Emilly Prado sounded off about the game's string of sexist commercials. Today, we're declaring that several Super Bowl commercials that didn't land in our "top five most sexist" picks instead succeed at redefining 'douchebag' for other reasons. Let's hear it for Coke, Audi, and VW!  

 

Audi: "Prom"

"The Prom" presents us with the underdog who never gets the girl. But luckily, privileged enough to have access to a new, shiny Audi! He drives it to Prom, parks in the Principal's parking spot (because being "the man" means you have access to everything) and walks straight up to the Prom Queen on the dance floor. Without even a word of consent, he jabs his tongue down her throat. 

The commercial ends with him leaving with a black-eye from the Prom King,  but smiling, obviously proud of what just happened. 

So in summary: if you buy an Audi, feel free start making out with her, no consent necessary, consequences be damned! Now that's romance. 

 

Coke: "The Chase"

"The Chase" opens with a group of Arab men walking their camels towards a gigantic Coke bottle in the desert, but are quickly passed by cowboys, some extra's from the film Mad Max and then showgirls on a bus. The group of Arab men struggle to get their camels to move, because silly them! They don't have the convenience of popular Western modes of transportation! Arabs are out-dated camel riders! Who wants a Coke?! 

 The commercial continues with everyone in the race, besides the original Arab men who have been literally left in the dust. In the end, no one wins but rather the race has to continue for another 50 miles. 

Also, beyond this racism, I'd argue that this commercial rips off the bus full of drag queens in "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert." You may be wondering why they didn't use drag queens? Well,  because Coke probably didn't think America could deal with men in dresses instead of uniforms. So, instead they served up some good ole' fashion racism. 

 

Volkswagen: "Get Happy"

This commercial presents the idea that YOU TOO can be happy if you drive a VW Bug, because it will miraculously make you speak with a Jamaican accent and be super chillll and happy, man.  

NYTimes columnist Charles Blow called this technique of mimicking an ethnic accent "blackface with voices," which were my thoughts exactly. Plus, the idea of Jamaicans being senselessly laid-back and happy is a stereotype that reinforces a misconception that Jamaicans are just bud-smoking, lazy folks who walk through life stoned and smiling. VW failed with this one—I was left feeling angry, not happy.

 

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Comments

17 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Male gaze etc

Male gaze etc

Yep

Blackface with voices... I've never thought of it like that before. But that's totally what it is.

Come On, Get Offended

Feminist Laurie Partridge would have been offended and embarrassed. As someone who is familiar with the 1970-74 TV series, I share in those feelings.

The VW commercial

Actually, the country of Jamaica has officially embraced the VW commercial.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-capitalises-on-VW-Super-Bowl...

You might find it offensive, but the people in Jamaica don't. They love it. Of course, not *everyone* will love it, but I think that this is a case of cultural misunderstanding. I don't think that you ought to be offended for them because clearly, I think it's safe to say a majority of Jamaicans don't find it offensive but rather charming.

"Plus, the idea of Jamaicans being senselessly laid-back and happy is a stereotype that reinforces a misconception that Jamaicans are just bud-smoking, lazy folks who walk through life stoned and smiling."

I saw no reference to marijuana or indication that Jamaicans walk around stoned all of the time n that commercial, and that was *your* stereotyping and perception coming in there. Nor laziness (it was an office setting, come on), but rather a happy and "look on the bright side of things" attitude.

A few more things:

**Also, beyond this racism, I'd argue that this commercial rips off the bus full of drag queens in “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.”**

You do realize that they were Vegas showgirls, right? So I guess any portrayal of a bus of showgirls is a rip-off of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert"?

Regarding the Audi commercial, I agree. I found the kissing assault very problematic, along with the idea of a high school kid driving an A5. that's almost a $40,000 car. It was not only a missed mark (loved their vampire spot last year) but failed to capture their key demographic: Men and women in their 30s and 40s who can actually afford a car that expensive.

Re: The VW Commercial

Hi Mariam,

Thanks for your comment!

I saw that Jamaica endorsed it, which does make this a little complicated. However, just because Jamaica's government endorses something doesn't automatically make it ok. (I think a lot about the wonderful documentary, "Jamaica For Sale," which discusses how the government brings in SO much tourism and exploits their people, while destroying the island. The office of tourism, which endorses VW, is key to this problem.) Also, Racialicious does a great analysis that I highly suggest: http://www.racialicious.com/2013/02/04/the-least-happy-jamaican-on-volks...)

As for the lazyness/marijuana part, I was discussing that this caricature they were presenting stems from this idea of the "lazy, bud-smoking Jamaican." Sure, there was no direct linkage to marijuana in the commercial, but I think it is inherent, I mean the name of the commercial is inspired by Bob Marley's song "Don't Worry Be Happy," which is also linked to cannabis. As for the lazy part, I think VW shows that by having the main character who is performing a certain "Jamaicaness" by showing him not actually working but walking around the office bothering people who work. And they punctuate this laziness by in the end having three employees leave and come back to work late, which is starkly highlighted. So, actually the guy in the character doesn't work and is late = lazyness, per se.

As for the Coke commercial, it was intentionally referencing famous movies set in deserts (e.g.: Cowboys, Mad Max, Lawrence of the Arabia.) The most famous -- and the only, according to my research -- to show 'showgirls' in a desert is "Priscilla..." The buses even look pretty similar. Lots of outlets have been discussing this sanitizing of a queer subject (Queerty is great: http://www.queerty.com/why-did-coke-turn-drag-queens-into-showgirls-for-...) So, yes. Any portrayal of a group of showgirls in a desert, in my mind, is going to have to be linked to "Priscilla..." because it was the first and the most famous and is even on Broadway right now, to prove how famous it is.

Thank you, again, for the comment!

Zach

Zach Stafford is a Tennessee writer living in Chicago. He can be found writing on various media outlets, both on-and-offline. Zach hold’s a bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from DePaul University. While not writing he works in HIV Pre

I still can't help but feel

I still can't help but feel that you're being outraged for a group of people who are not outraged themselves (and who are saying, "well, we are like that, you know."). And, in regards to tourism... that's pretty much all they have in regards to an economy. Most island nations (and Hawaii included) rely heavily on tourism to employ people and bring in money because not many companies are based on island nations because it's too expensive. that's where the jobs mostly are.

As for the second paragraph, that's making a huge stretch. I would understand if the guy was acting stoned, but he wasn't. As for it being inspired by the song.... well they didn't play it, they played "Come On Get Happy." And as for the laziness part, I just can't take that seriously. I work in an office and I have a few coworkers who walk around chatting with people while they work. I certainly don't consider them "lazy." The lazy people I know sit at their desk and do nothing. Not taking life too seriously doesn't equal being lazy. Like I said, of course some people aren't going to agree, but I'd rather let actual Jamaicans speak for themselves.

As for the Coke commercial... as an average viewer, I was thrown off by the commercial in general, as it didn't make sense to begin with, but I've never seen any of the movies supposedly referenced to begin with. And, I can only imagine the backlash Coke and CBS would have received on both sides if they did feature drag queens instead of showgirls. People were outraged by the Calvin Klein underwear commercial (which I thought was inappropriate along with numerous other commercials).

"Douchebag" Decree

I agree that the mentioned commercials are bad--on many levels. What I don't understand is why this "politically correct" forum doesn't see the use of douche bag in equally poor taste. The douche bag, antiquated as it is, is a highly personal hygiene aid for women. Until recently, I only heard men referring to this product in a negative manner. I don't see any difference in calling an unacceptable act "so gay" or "retarded" as the speaker assumes his audience finds these terms equal to the undesirable act to which he refers. I think we could all agree that using a term like gayness or retardation in the negative is unacceptable. I think comparing creators of tasteless advertising to a douche bag is misogynistic and offensive. While I believe this was never your intent, can we suppose it was also not the intent of these commercial's sponsors to insult. It's all a matter of interpretation--but come on, some things seem so obvious once pointed out. (I will spare you and not get in to the reasons why the too-common term "bitch" is misogyny in it's most base form.)

"Douchebag" Decree

I agree that the mentioned commercials are bad--on many levels. What I don't understand is why this "politically correct" forum doesn't see the use of douche bag in equally poor taste. The douche bag, antiquated as it is, is a highly personal hygiene aid for women. Until recently, I only heard men referring to this product in a negative manner. I don't see any difference in calling an unacceptable act "so gay" or "retarded" as the speaker assumes his audience finds these terms equal to the undesirable act to which he refers. I think we could all agree that using a term like gayness or retardation in the negative is unacceptable. I think comparing creators of tasteless advertising to a douche bag is misogynistic and offensive. While I believe this was never your intent, can we suppose it was also not the intent of these commercial's sponsors to insult. It's all a matter of interpretation--but come on, some things seem so obvious once pointed out. (I will spare you and not get in to the reasons why the too-common term "bitch" is misogyny in it's most base form.)

They aren't offended why should we be?

The "majority" of a people's not being offended or upset by something is not the only criteria you should employ in deciding whether to critically assess its morality or validity.

Perhaps there are countries where majorities believe and accept certain things as an inevitable or justifiable part of human nature (e.g. Rape, genital mutilation, child labor, anti-feminist thought from women). In the case of these broad issues (and all the specific examples with that could be referenced) --- would you still only say, well "India's majority haven't cared about x, or z and are okay with it so why should I be offended?

If a newly immigrated black person is subjected to street racism and doesn't care/doesn't know or fully get it /isnt offended for whatever reason: are you as a passerby seeing the situation not correct for assessing the wrong that occurred?

A Feminist female from america and India (via mobile apologies for typos)

Well....

I'm sorry but i really don't understand the comparison here.

"would you still only say, well "India's majority haven't cared about x, or z and are okay with it so why should I be offended?"

No, I wouldn't only because what you were describing are human rights violations, which is vastly than what is going on in this commercial and the Jamaican government's acceptance of it. Plus, what you describe is how the culture treats its own people, not how others perceive their culture. A lot of people perceive Jamaicans to be happy-go-lucky, optimistic, and laid-back and a majority of Jamaicans aren't offended by that. That's the difference.

"If a newly immigrated black person is subjected to street racism and doesn't care/doesn't know or fully get it /isnt offended for whatever reason: are you as a passerby seeing the situation not correct for assessing the wrong that occurred?"

I'm not going to be offended for someone. And I'm not going to tell them that *I* think it's racist. It might make me uncomfortable, sure, but I'm not going to walk up to that person and tell them that it should bother them. And as a woman, if I see a woman being cat-called and it doesn't bother her, it's not my place to tell her how she should feel about it.

Actually...

"Don't Worry Be Happy" is by Bobby McFerrin (who is not Jamaican) and was released many years after the death of Bob Marley. (It's a very strange internet phenomenon that most every reggae-ish song is misattributed to Mr. Marley...I also commonly see a lot of UB-40 songs attributed to him as well, but I digress...) "Don't Worry Be Happy" was written based on Mr. McFerrin's spiritual experiences and is not about marijuana.

At any rate, the commercial made me uncomfortable, too, and I agree with the sentiment that it's insensitive. But I see no reason to base discussion around why it's problematic around false information. :)

So it came on and I watched

So it came on and I watched it again... and not only did someone else point out that the commercial was not in reference to a Bob Marley song (it was actually sung by Bobby McFerrin, therefore no association with marijuana), but you do see the guy working. You see him in a meeting and yeah, working. And, I might add, as someone who works in an office, and it can sometimes get depressing and boring, we all love having "that guy/woman" who is always cheerful, and being encouraging, and positive around the office. And, of those three employees who leave and go to lunch, one includes the boss, and are three minutes late, and the guy's happy attitude has rubbed off on them, and we all know that happy employees = more productive employees. Hardly lazy if you ask me. I still think it's a huge stretch that you're going for here.

At least..

..he didn't go after the prom king

"Douche bag?"

I agree that the mentioned commercials are bad on so many levels. What I don't understand is why this forum doesn't find the use of douche bag in equally poor taste. The douche bag, antiquated as it is, is a highly personal hygiene aid for women. Until recently, I only heard men use this product as an insult. I don't see any difference in calling an undesirable act "so gay" or "retarded" as the speaker assumes his audience finds these terms equal to the undesirable act to which he refers. I think we could all agree that using a term like gayness or retardation to communicate something negative is unacceptable. I think comparing the creators of tasteless advertising to douche bags is misogynistic and offensive. While I believe this was never your intent, can we suppose it was also not the intent of these commercials's sponsors to insult? It's all a matter of interpretation and prospective--but come on, some things seem so obvious once pointed out. (I will spare you and not get into the many reasons why the all-too-common term "bitch" is so offensive and misogynistic in it's most base form.)

Volkswagen: “Get Happy”

I will start by saying my boss is jamaican and we watched this commercial together while watching the super bowl and she loved it, when I told her a few days later that people on the internet were saying that it was racist she said " I don't understand this country everything has to be about race, it can't be just a funny commercial it has to be picked apart looking for the bad" So zach you sound like you need to get over your white guilt and maybe go to jamaica and try to grow a sense of humor and maybe get happy.

Oh, come on. Really?

Zach, Zach, Zach. This is all starting to reek of self-promotion through self-righteousness. On top of that, it completely smacks of mining for controversy where there is none.

First, a little background. I'm a Chicago actor and I appear in the commercial as "Winston", the guy who admonishes the group in the car for being late, and in turn get's told to "chill" by the boss. I thought Mr. Blow's comments was one of the most ridiculous displays of race-baiting I've ever seen, made that much more hilarious when Soledad O'Brien (who apparently didn't remember which network she was working for) said she liked the commercial.

I was on set, so I saw who was there and what they were saying. In addition to the tent full of VW suits, we had a number of Jamaicans on set to make sure we were being as respectful as possible and actually throwing in lines on different takes, many of which were used in the spot.

Let's be honest here: the internet and talking head, editorializing TV shows masquerading as "News" wouldn't have let "All in the Family", "Sanford and Son" and "The Jeffersons" get on the air - three of the funniest TV shows ever produced. And that's just sad. However, it seems the outraged audiences are fading - and the outraged columnists like yourself are finding fewer and fewer "true believers". Hopefully, the crowds will continue to wear thin, the soapboxes will come down, and we remember that sometimes it's okay to laugh at our accents, our traditions, our accents and ultimately, ourselves. Because sometimes laughing at the absurdity of humanity is the best way to remind ourselves that we're human.

Jeff Dumas

So in summary: if you buy an

So in summary: if you buy an Audi, feel free start making out with her, no consent necessary, consequences be damned! Now that's romance dispensary denver