Monday, February 2, 2015

Did The Super Bowl Jump the Shark?

New York Times photo of Katy Perry at Superbowl, by Chang W. Lee.
Well, not really, at least not yet, although it may at some point—and neither did Katy Perry, in my opinion. She was OK for the halftime show—several wardrobe changes and no malfunctions. As one of my students put it today: “Halftime is for the girls. The game is for the boys.” And jumping, or at least dancing, sharks are for Katy, I suppose.

The student was wrong, by the way. Some boys like halftime. As a boy, I’d much rather watch Katy Perry than football players any day, and I've never quite figured out my fellow heterosexual males who don’t share that point of view, but that’s another story. As my children would confirm, I’m well known to have a “thing” for female pop stars, although I’ll take P!nk or Sheryl Crow, or—dare I confess a guilty pleasure, Taylor Swift—over Katy Perry most days. But Katy is OK.

And Katy sang “that” song although she didn't launch rockets from her mammal bits like she did in the video, even if there were plenty of explosions behind her.

Not everyone liked Ms. Perry. A professor at Simpson kept up a running, grumpy string of posts that I saw on Facebook about Ms. Perry, mostly because he thinks, I suppose, she lacks talent. I can’t say that he’s wrong. She’s not exactly a great artist and doesn't write her own music. But my expectations of Super Bowl halftime performers aren't that high to be begin with, so Katy Perry on a shooting star easily cleared what I admit would be a rather low bar. And the New York Times seems to agree with me, so there.

But on to the important stuff: The commercials, of course!

Here are three we’re looking at in class:
  1. An ad by Budweiser that features a lost puppy. Sure, it’s a heart-warming, powerful ad in a sort of Hallmark sentimental way, but what, exactly, does this have to do with beer? Then again, what exactly does Budweiser have to do with beer? (Sorry—Brian can be all old-man grumpy about the state of pop music if he wants to be. I reserve my ire for more important topics, like the unfathomable mystery of why any sentient creature would drink Budweiser when the last bottle of Fat Tire or Killian’s Irish Red or Third Shift or Guinness has not yet disappeared from the planet …)
  2. An ad for glue. Most of the students readily recalled this one, and were mixed about it. They at least remembered that it was a glue ad, but didn't recall the product name. Still, I would say this has more to do with what it is trying to sell, which is a nice change.
  3. The sad ad that says children are mortal. Say what? Right in the midst of this riot of football and California Girls, comes this downer of an ad that says “I died” and implied it was your fault because you weren't safety conscious enough. Students were aghast. I’m not sure I’m aghast—or at least not for the same reasons. I’m old enough that references to mortality don’t shock me. I’m more uncertain about the implication that Someone Is To Blame every time a child dies from an accident. But, I’m on board with an insurance company trying to reduce accidents, risk management and saving lives and all that.
Note that I have resisted the Fiat Viagra ad. There is something deeply Freudian about that ad, and you’ll just have to look at it yourself.

So, blog universe or CO 140 students, what did you notice about Super Bowl ads? What worked or didn’t, and why? What elements of cultural assumptions and stereotypes did you see? And yes or no—are dancing sharks a good idea?

Post a link to your favorite or most hated ad and comment on it.

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