Super Bowl commercials generally serve as an irritating reminder to Americans feminists that somewhere on the to-do list below ensuring girls in Third World countries can safely get an education, we need to get corporations to stop depicting women as only sex objects, out-of-touch morons, or shrill mothers.
While the NFL’s disturbing and commendably nuanced domestic violence PSA encourages viewers to protect and support women, the commercials that fill the most coveted timeslot on the television calendar have historically objectified them and reinforced negative stereotypes. It’s unclear whether 2015’s full crop of Super Bowl commercials will be a welcome departure—could we possibly see a woman who doesn’t seem irrationally judgmental of her husband/boyfriend, doesn’t have Kate Upton’s body or a sexually obsequious demeanor?
There’s more than sufficient evidence to make even milquetoast feminists throw their hands in the air, but below are some of most egregious examples.
Carl’s Jr. firmly believes the way to a male customer’s heart is through his stomach via his penis. The burger chain has a history of packing its Super Bowl ads with more cleavage than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Their 2012 ad featuring Kate Upton getting off on eating the southwestern pepper melt (if only it were so easy, dudes) was too risqué to actually make it to air. However, the 2015 one featuring Charlotte McKinney, Upton’s younger and bustier look alike, gives it a run for its money. Strolling through a farmers market seemingly nude, McKinney talks about how she loves to keep things “all natural.” She appears in her entirety in short-shorts and a bikini top that barely covers her breasts—and then every executive at Carl’s Jr. collectively ejaculates off screen.
The Teleflora’s Adriana Lima Super Bowl commercial is almost too unrealistic to actually be considered sexually offensive. Really, you think sending a bouquet of roses that appears to be one step above a suburban funeral home arrangement will get you laid? And you think that will be enough to win favor with a Victoria’s Secret angel who famously waited to have sex until she was married? Come on! Still, the unfathomable nature of the commercial’s premise didn’t make the ultimate message less irksome: all you need to do is give women pretty things for them to have sex with you.
I would wager the cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial spot that no one who doesn’t work for GoDaddy can tell you what the company does, despite its consistently cleavage-filled commercials that always get tongues wagging. While GoDaddy’s more colorful Super Bowl commercials attempts have been banned—including the 2008 one featuring women’s “beavers”—the ones that have made it through to the networks tend to be just as offensive, and even more boring. The 2011 “contract” ad featured Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels being forced to serve as GoDaddy spokeswomen while, presumably, naked. The commercial not only lacked any half-decent jokes, but it was kind of creepy. Seeing two grown women forced to de-robe and “act” visibly uncomfortable only made acute the total skeeviness of GoDaddy. Side note: even when GoDaddy doesn’t use breasts as its main advertising tool, it still courts controversy. It’s 2015 Super Bowl ad has already been banned for its treatment of a puppy.
The beauty of Super Bowl commercials is that there is so much sexist content that they are often demeaning to women in different ways. Rather than go the sexual objectification route, Chrysler decided to promote stereotypes of women as demanding, cruel, shrill creatures who suck the joy out of men’s lives—all for the purpose of selling cars. To Chrysler’s credit, there isn’t a single drop of cleavage in sight, just a lot of men who look like they’re dead on the inside because they have women in their lives telling them to put the seat down and be nice to their mother (yeah, we’re the worst). Of course, the antidote to this massive emasculation is a car.
What do beer advertisers think men like even more than hot women? Hot women who physically assault each other and then make out. The 2003 Miller Lite Super Bowl ad looks as if an adolescent boy joined with a romantically-jilted 45-year-old man to create 60 seconds of sexy misogyny that glorifies women beating up on each other. Two women in very low-cut shirts get into a fight over why they just love Miller Lite so much. One could argue that Miller Lite sort of saves itself in the end by cutting to two boneheaded guys as the ones behind the idiotic commercial concept. But while the company is in on the sexist joke, it goes for a cheap shot and closes with two hot women making out.