The Superbowl was on Sunday, as most people in America are aware. I actually watched it this year, and I could not believe how bad most of the ads were. And especially, how horribly racist and sexist the Pepsi MAX commercials were.
PepsiCo, owner of the Doritos brand, ran a consumer-ad contest for the 2011 Superbowl called “Crash the Superbowl,” where consumers were encouraged to create ads for products Pepsi MAX and Doritos.
Watch them for yourself:
1. Love Hurts
This ad was directed by 28-year-old Brad Bosley, a white amateur filmmaker. He made this ad on a budget of $800.
What’s wrong with this ad?
Let’s see … it features an Angry Black Woman stereotype; a “dumb,” emasculated husband; a flirtatious blonde; uses men vs. women; places a “rounder” woman vs. a “hot” woman; laughs off domestic violence; and portrays black people as violent and criminal vs. the “innocent” white girl.
All in the name of “humor.”Oh, and money, of course.
Did I get it all?
On her blog The Beautiful Struggler, black feminist cultural critic Sistah Toldja points out how this ad uses color and weight to reinforce the Angry Black Woman trope:
Let’s talk about the actors couple for a second. The husband is bald, sturdy and marginally attractive … I’d say the wife is very pretty, aside from an unfortunate looking weave. She’s also darker and heavier than most of the women we see in print or TV ads (unless they are “big” women, such as the stars of the Pine-Sol and Popeye’s commercials). If I had to guess, I’d say she was a plus model (somewhere around the size 10-12 range; remember: most plus models aren’t actually plus sized). However, it’s very clear that she isn’t supposed to be a “hot” or beautiful wife- the juxtaposition of her and the pretty blonde makes that very clear.
2. First Date
This ad was created by 29-year-old Nick Simotas.
Man vs. woman again. And the sexism reigns.
The girl’s first thought is about money — positioning her in a stereotypically dependent role. And she obsesses over their “future” together even though it’s a first date, worrying over the guy’s future hair loss and aspirations for children. This portrays women as always relationship-minded and maternal.
The guy’s repetitive “I want to sleep with her” and abrupt change to “I want a Pepsi MAX” plays on the stereotype of men as simple-minded, unconscious of commitment, always thinking about sex, and easily distracted.
What astonishes me most about these commercials is that they were ever chosen to run in the first place. Why did Pepsi choose these ads as finalists to play during the Superbowl, an event renown for its “good” commercials?
Do good ads have to use stereotypes to be funny?
Both these ads make me angry, frustrated and disgusted. Racism and stereotypical gender roles are not okay. Some might “argue” that the ads are humorous and therefore “okay” — but laughing at stereotypes (or not recognizing them) only serves to disregard them as hurtful and wrong.