Super Bowl ads: don't tell us what to believe, just what to buy

    What’s grinding your gears? Writer Julia Haskins has the answer to that question. In what, according to Haskins, is not at all a shameless rip-off of Family Guy, she will explore the unsettling and downright upsetting issues concerning civil rights, human rights and political correctness.

    Currently Grinding My Gears: Divisive Super Bowl Ads

    I fail when it comes to football. My first real game was here at Northwestern, and every Super Bowl party in the past has consisted of me trailing behind my father and tepidly cheering for whatever team he told me didn’t suck. My favorite part has always been the hors d’oeuvres and of course, the inane, kick-ass commercials. But this year might be a little different.

    As the whole world except for me knows, Tim Tebow is the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida. What the world probably doesn’t know is the story of his birth.  After his mother Pam suffered an infection during her pregnancy while on a mission trip in the Philippines, her doctors urged her to undergo an abortion, fearing for her life. But Pam refused, and 22 years later, the world has healthy, happy and successful Tim Tebow. Now Tim and his mom are expected to be in a 30-second spot  paid for by the conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family, on Super Bowl Sunday recounting the story.

    It’s a story with a wonderful ending, but one that doesn’t necessarily belong alongside Budweiser Clydesdales and the Burger King King.  Actually, I can’t imagine a more awkward scenario. Picture the commercial break. Haha, talking animals! Half-naked women — nice! Beer! Abor-wait. No, that’s not right.

    Some people may think that as someone who doesn’t care about sports, perhaps a commercial about such a serious issue would be a welcome change of pace for me. But it’s an issue that requires a lot of deep discussion; too much to encapsulate in a single ad.

    Tim told reporters, “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe.”

    I may not know what a BCS Championship is but I do respect you, Tim, I really do. I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it — in the right time and place and under appropriate circumstances.

    Airing the ad is not fair to audiences and it’s not fair to the pro-life movement.  Coming out with an ad during the Super Bowl is one of the best outlets possible, but it can easily be misconstrued as being more calculated than heartfelt. And frankly, 30 seconds doesn’t do the pro-life movement justice. There’s simply too much emotion on both sides about abortion to be squeezed into a 30-second spot. The Tebows’ story is certainly a powerful anecdote, but unless audiences are pro-life, it probably won’t change a lot of minds or soften a lot of hearts. In fact, it will most likely hurt Focus on the Family’s image by coming off as insincere, using a celebrity pro-life endorsement during arguably the most important day for T.V.

    Fox News came out with their version of the story in an article entitled “Women’s Groups Blast ‘Divisive’ Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad — Without Even Seeing It.” But that’s not really the point. I’m sure if people heard about the upcoming anti-war ad during the Super Bowl without seeing it there would be premature backlash as well. The ad will likely be heartwarming and tasteful, but it’s not content as much as it is principle and a matter of good judgment. Football is divisive enough — is it really appropriate to throw politics into the mix?

    All divisive issues make people uncomfortable, which is why CBS did the right thing by not airing advocacy ads for organizations such as, PETA and the United Church of Christ in the past. Unfortunately, CBS is now kowtowing to passions on both sides, and is planning to air more advocacy ads during the Super Bowl. Nay, I say. Because frankly, even though I don’t care about sports, I know that something is amiss when I’m being told to support Obama/stop wearing fur/convert to Christianity during the game.

    “An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year — an event designed to bring Americans together,” said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women’s Media Center.

    I’m not agreeing with her as a liberal or a feminist, but as someone who thinks that a topic so explosive, so heart-wrenching and so polarizing, cannot be aired successfully on Super Bowl Sunday, even with the best of intentions and in the classiest of manners.

    If I do go to a party, I don’t want there to be awkwardness or tension. I just want to kick back with some hot wings, forget about my own political views and root for whatever team Kim Kardashian’s boyfriend plays for.


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