Super Bowl Sunday is a little more a week away, and the most exciting matchup so far is on the advertising field. CBS, which used to observe a proscription against “issue” advertising during the big game, recently dropped its objection, to accept an ad from pro-life evangelical group Focus on the Family, featuring star quarterback Tim Tebow. Now it’s reportedly in the midst of considering a spot from a gay dating service, Mancrunch—which is simultaneously perhaps the gayest and most football-appropriate name I have ever heard.
[Update: CBS just confirmed that it’s rejecting the Mancrunch ad, which showed two male football fans kissing, though it says it’s “open to working with the client on alternative submissions.” Yeah—like heterosexual ones.]
I say let them both air. The idea of a TV network acting as the gatekeeper for appropriate and inappropriate idea has always been ridiculous. But if you’re going to allow controversial themes into the game, then let everyone’s in.
Objectionable, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. It seems ridiculous to start saying that espousing religion or love between two men is objectionable in an ad environment of alcohol-pushing animals, slapstick violence and Danica Patrick’s cleavage.
The best and worst thing about capitalist advertising is that it is by nature amoral. If you’ve got the money and the market, you’re in. The alternative, though, is for a giant media corporation to decide whether one lifestyle is more moral, unobjectionable or “normal” than another.
Yes, families watch the Super Bowl together. I have kids, and there is nothing that repulses me more than people using their kids to justify imposing their personal agendas on the rest of society. Maybe you don’t want to have to answer your kids’ questions about abortion or homosexuality during the Super Bowl. Fair enough. Maybe I don’t want my kids being pitched high-calorie sodas that are helping turn us into the amoebic blobs from the last half of Wall*e.
My family has its own moral values, which may or may not be different from yours, and I neither need nor want Les Moonves to enforce them for me. From time to time, we all have to encounter things on TV or in ads that go against those values, and we have to deal with it, because encountering ideas that differ from yours is what happens in life. Sometimes I have to explain to my kids things I’d rather not talk about. Like orthodontia bills and 3 a.m. bad-dream wakeups, it’s one of the things I signed up for.
Alternatively, CBS could implement a consistent policy of rejecting any potentially objectionable ads. Ones about religion. Or homosexuality. Or violence, or sex, or alcohol, or junk food. Which would leave…?
Well, maybe they could convince Pixar to buy 70 ad slots for Toy Story 3.