Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
February 8, 2010

Enjoy a Little Violence Toward Women With Your Super Bowl

Tim Tebow Superbowl Ad.jpg

Screen shot from Tim Tebow Superbowl Ad for Focus on the Family

Was that really Tim Tebow taking out his Mom?

That’s some “focus on the family!”

Betty White violently tackled during Super Bowl Snickers commercial

Betty White Snickers decked.jpg

And then, why the violence toward women in these Super Bowl ads? In these screen shots, Betty White takes it in the name of a candy bar — using attacks by football players to make the violence seem like an extension of the game.

(If you do watch the videos, by the way, make sure to “appreciate” the sound of impact.)

(Screen shots from Tim Tebow Superbowl Ad for Focus on the Family, and the Betty White Snickers commercial via YouTube)

  • Gasho

    The strangest part was that these appeared at the beginning of the game and back-to-back. I saw that and *sighed*, oi, here comes a great theme.. !

  • thomas

    Here’s another post that doesn’t make any sense to me. I mean, who watches television and then says that the ads are offensive in some particular way? I’m not going to talk about how so many of the ads (these included!) depict men as violent, mouth-breathing, football-loving, self-sucking mama’s boys as though that were some sort of insightful critique because it doesn’t make any sense. That television and sports are like pollution is hardly a secret. They are lobotomized, cartoonish, vastly lucrative enterprises that are insulting to everybody. Everybody. Saying that they are also promoting a bad idea like tackling women is like saying you went to the ocean and found exactly the bucket of water you were looking for. Honestly, you’re not going to find anything else there!

  • bystander

    As I observed it phrased elsewhere…

    Oh yeah. It’s Straight Pride Day. Go Saints.

    Or, with respect to some of the ads, someone else commented…

    Every man is pussy-whupped and really hates his wife/girlfriend.

    As for the Dodge Charger ad (Mans Last Stand), I recall reading awhile back that one of the larger markets for muscle cars was women. Go figure.
    thomas is right; it’s insulting to everybody. But, hey, it’s just entertainment, right? C’mon, there’s no larger cultural message in it. S h u r e there isn’t.

  • Michael (The BAG)

    Thomas, please. Read what bystander wrote just below. The entire purpose of this site is to stop, put a frame around, and call out pictures (or the use of pictures) that are manipulative, or insidious, or damaging to our visual ecology. For someone to say — here at BNN — that the visual in these ads should just be dismissed as a group as pollution is to miss the point of this site.
    I don’t call out items randomly. Rather, I spent hours each day culling through visually-related stories and newswire image and, yes, visual content related to large sociocultural events like the (otherwise commercially polluted) Superbowl. In this case, I saw one or two things that, to my mind, rose about the typical contaminate swilling around the media space, and one of those was these two instances of men knocking the living shit out of women — the first instance above in the name of Christian proselytizer Tim Tebow and Focus on the Family. As an instance where a visual seemed particularly deserving to be called out … well, sheesh.
    We’ll have to see what else jumps out at me from today’s news cycle, but I should probably flag you in advance, there was at least one other commercial I saw yesterday that I found particularly revealing and socially undermining (using a visual narrative in a charming and subconscious way), reinforcing our helplessness in the face of a recession that is being soft pedaled by corporate media even as corporations exert greater and greater influence every day. If I do write that one up, and call out the visual toxicity that, otherwise, just jumps into people’s heads and reinforces “learned helplessness,” I hope — in the attempt to raise a little consciousness here — my effort will not just be written of as random.

  • john madden

    WHEW as i read some of these folks on some of these “blogs”—-i think to myself, “…..and these folks are the same ones that voted in a “regime” that says we can SPEND OUR WAY OUT OF DEBT”….how the hell can u guys an gals be so dam smart and yet so dam stupid —all at the same time?

  • DCNorthwest

    In Michael Shaw’s defense, I immediately noticed the two commercials in the very same way. If my recollection is correct, Doritos had at least two other commercials in which violence was supposed to be funny. In the first, the dog somehow got his shock collar around his owner’s neck. All I remember was the owner writhing on the ground in pain, eerily recalling the way many people react to being tasered. In the second commercial, the joke was for people to slap everybody in the back of the head. I remember asking my friends, What’s up with the violence?
    I found Focus on the Family’s ad troubling. But not because it promotes – as thomas puts it – “a bad idea like tackling women.” But because Focus on the Family, with all of the millions of dollars they spend promoting “family values,” and with the money they must have shelled out producing the commercial, after looking at all of their options, thought “Yeah, that’s a good idea! Let’s have Tim Tebow deck his mother!” It doesn’t make any sense. It’s an image that runs completely counter to the religious right’s entire message in which “woman is the weaker, and therefore the more valuable and precious vessel.”
    Sure, if the image is looked at completely void of any context, it may blend in with the ubiquity of violence-as-entertainment in our culture. But it’s an image that Focus on the Family paid to put in front of millions of viewers. It’s mind bogging.
    thomas’s post illuminates the contrast between a) a mind that looks at popular culture through a critical framework and b) a mind that passively absorbs the daily stream of images, messages, and attitudes that get reinforced through seemingly harmless advertisements like Doritos’ and Snickers’ and Focus on the Family’s super bowl ads. The point of BNN is not to be insightful. The point is to acknowledge what is right there on the surface, staring us in the face.

  • podesta

    Abe Vigoda got crushed in the last frame. Last time I looked he is not a woman.

  • Molly

    I think there is a bit too much analysis going on here. I loved the Betty White/Abe Vigoda commercial and admired the sense of fun. I am CERTAIN that neither Betty nor Abe were actually tackled and am CERTAIN no one thought of running out and creaming an octogenarian because the TV told them to.
    I did note that many of the commercials were overly aggressive responses to men feeling themselves pussy whipped, but since these ads are measure of truthfulness, maybe that is just the case.

  • Chris

    The current regime’s spending is merely an extension of the previous regime’s recommendations that we spend our way out of terror and debt. I am dismayed that the current regime chose to continue throwing money at banks instead of providing substantial stimulus to the working class who would actually inject those dollars directly back into the economy by spending them. For the record I voted for McKinney. And check out

  • podesta

    chris—try to stay on task.

  • Rima

    Is pussy-whipped the same as hen-pecked, or is there some qualitative difference?

  • thomas

    Michael I appreciate your comment and I do hope that I’m not missing the entire point of BNN. I’ve been a reader and an admirer for too long to think I’ve been doing it all wrong! Also, the behavioral science is absolutely clear that the demonstrable link between media consumption and aggressive behavior lies not in what you are watching, but in the number of hours spent watching. So while we readers appreciate the time you put in not being random, do be careful!
    I see in superbowl post mortems everywhere that the theme of misogyny—or bristling resentment of femininity—came through loud and clear. So not much deconstruction is necessary there. All of the ad agencies seemed to be working from the same market research, though W+K’s “Man’s Last Stand” seems to be the one that worked the hemmed-in, henpecked angle the hardest. And the “tackling women” ads seem consistent with this. Fine. The superbowl is a big spectacle but it’s still a voluntary, discretionary, situational spectacle. And a spectacularly self-referencing marketing exercise that you are seeing only because you’ve agreed to. So it’s a very self-selected visual ecology. And like other designed consumer experiences its appeal is its unreality. I’m not suggesting that your selection and isolation of an obnoxious theme is random, only that it would be nearly impossible to pull from this environment a theme that was not obnoxious.
    And regarding bystander and DCNorthwest’s comments, there absolutely is a difference in the way people consider journalistic and documentarian narratives as opposed to those that are deliberately manufactured for entertainment and advertising. And by thinking that you have discerned in an unreal scenario a secondary or unintentional message it doesn’t necessarily follow that that message automatically has ANY cultural significance, let alone LARGER cultural significance. Similarly, that you consumed something and found it distasteful is not evidence that other people lack a capacity for critical analysis. It is worth remembering that in addition to differing layers of analysis there are also differing scales of emphasis in how we think of what is important and what is trivial. Surely we can agree that this would qualify as a penetrating insight into the obvious.

  • Michael (The BAG)

    One thing you touch on that is very valid is my opening a mine field in jumping from analysis of editorial and political imagery to that of advertising in general, and the collection of Super Bowl ads, in particular. I have to admit that the post would have been much different if I confined it to the Tebow ad, which straddles the two “market spaces” above, but can more legitimately be judged according to “more typical BAG terms.” In the past, I’ve stayed away from general ads but I think I did a better job with the Budweiser commercial in the next post because I thought it actually played on and exploited more political themes.
    Oh, and regarding the idea you might be “missing the point” or “doing it wrong.” …Impossible.

  • Bill

    As to the shock value of our culture’s treatment of women in football game ads, I don’t have much to offer. But it sure seems inappropriate to me for a Christian organization, as Focus on the Family purports to be, to be jumping on that bandwagon. I suppose they’d counter, “Yes, but she jumped right back up showing how strong she is!” Sigh.
    Be that as it may, my real question to the BAG is, wasn’t FotL expected to run an anti-abortion ad during the SuperBowl? I believe it was going to repudiate the centuries-old Christian exception of abortion to save the life of the mother, using the Tebow family as an example of “doing the right thing”. Did my other liberal news sources jump to conclusions or was this a major last-minute change by FotL? If so, wasn’t this a pretty major news item in and of itself?
    The way the ad came across, I suppose the take-away message for most viewers was “we need strong families, gosh, look how strong that lady is!” That certainly is a far cry from “abortion is a moral sin in any and all situations”. Yes, the ad included a URL that might have told their “real message” but come on, how many people follow a link off a TV screen during a Superbowl game?

  • DCNorthwest

    I appreciate thomas’ response. Clearly I misread what type of “mind” is at work from his first post. It’s proximity to john madden’s post may have influenced my characterization. thomas’ line about “some sort of insightful critique” seemed to me at the time as a dismissal of the kind of work that goes on at BNN. I stand corrected.
    I do wonder about thomas’ distinction regarding the ways that people consider journalistic and documentarian narratives differently from those deliberately manufactured for advertising. Sometimes the distinction is difficult to identify. Since advertising provides a large percentage of support for the journalistic narratives of the news media, for example, how do we tell where the advertising narratives end and the journalistic narrative begins?
    Moreover, I wonder about how the “appeal of unreality” that thomas attributes to the super bowl-as-voluntary-spectacle. It’s a very compelling argument. How do we understand the military’s role in this field of unreality? (Cf. the fighter jet fly over, etc.).
    Michael, why do you say that it’s “impossible” for someone (or just thomas?) to be “missing the point” or “doing it wrong.” How does this statement apply to john madden’s post?

  • Michael (The BAG)

    Oh, I was responding to thomas’s suggest there was some kind of theoretical method to what we’re doing here that he was somehow missing. Given his insight, and his thoughtfulness about how advertising, and specifically Super Bowl advertising differs from the analysis of editorial imagery, I think he’s working territory I never even considered. Regarding john madden’s comment — about spending and debt (that screen name isn’t based on the football coach, is it?), his comment and thomas’s thoughts seem like apples and oranges to me. I can’t see jm’s comment as doing anything other than holding the analysis going on here as hostage based on an ideological beef re: recession economics. And what that has to do with Tebow, the Super Bowl or violence toward women is beyond me.

  • Hans Stroo

    Anybody else notice how the strength and position of that tackle could be used to give a woman an abortion?

  • tinwoman

    I’ve been beaten by my ex, who has slowly and creepily morphed into a very conservative type. It starts with joking disparagingly about women and “those dumb feminists”. It works its way into full blown violence against women, (my ex eventually turned on his own mother, as well), for the sole purpose of keeping them in fear and subservience. I’m not surprised that FOTF feels that violence against women is okay, merely surprised that they are willing to be so open about it. But of course, the Super Bowl ad is “just a joke”–it always is, right? Whatzza matter, missy, you got no sense of humor?

  • Chris

    my apologies. Was trying to respond to “John Madden”’s post but must’ve gone about it all wrong. Not to mention being distracted from what the actual post is about. I believe there’s a big spike in domestic violence on Superbowl Sunday in any case. Hate to see ads instigating more, consciously or not.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes