The 47th annual Super Bowl took place in New Orleans, La., on Feb. 3 between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. During the fourth quarter, nearly 108 million people tuned into CBS to watch as the Ravens claimed a slim victory over the 49ers with a final score of 34-31. Baltimore was announced the winners as players flooded the field in celebration. CBS cameras followed Ravens quarterback and game MVP Joe Flacco as he rejoiced with his teammates. “This is fucking awesome,” shouted Flacco. CBS, not expecting the foul language, failed to censor the “f-bomb” in time. Almost as soon as CBS let Flacco’s swear word slip through to viewers, the Parents Television Council filed a complaint against the network to the Federal Communications Commission.
In 2004, the PTC’s complaint against Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during the half time show led the FCC to fine CBS $550,000. Though the penalty was later appealed, some small damage to the network had occurred. The PTC’s newest complaint calls forth issues regarding levels of appropriateness on prime-time television. Why are Americans so harshly criticizing a network and potentially an MVP football player for one simple word that slipped out in a moment of excitement? How is one explicit expression so horrifying for children to hear compared with the overly sexualized and stereotypical idea portrayed in Super Bowl commercials?
The PTC and FCC need to reorganize their priorities. Americans’ acceptance of Beyoncé’s scant outfit during the half time show highlights a growing problem. Images of sexuality and violence are far more impactful than an overzealous expression of joy. It’s quite likely that many viewers didn’t even notice Flacco’s mishap, tuning out as the game ended. Even if a viewer was lucky enough to remain entranced by the television to catch the horrid “f-bomb,” the audio clip lasted mere seconds. Meanwhile, children and adults alike were bombarded throughout the football game by worse in advertisements.
GoDaddy’s 2013 Super Bowl commercial exemplifies American’s double consciousness in regards to the media. For 50 seconds, GoDaddy plays on customary American roles to reinforce gender stereotypes. The company portrays themselves as having a sexy side — represented by super model Bar Refaeli — and a smart side that “creates a killer website for your small business,” represented by the nerdy actor Jesse Heiman. “Together, they’re perfect,” claims GoDaddy. Refaeli and Heiman then proceed to make-out as the camera zooms in on their mouths for an excruciating 30 seconds. This advertisement perpetuates the stereotypical notions that women must be sexualized trophies and that only men can be smart and create a “killer website for your small business.”
The ideas insinuated by the GoDaddy commercial, and other sexualized Super Bowl advertisements, are more harmful to the minds of children than hearing the word “fuck.” And yet, the PTC hasn’t filed a complaint to the FCC concerning any of the provocative commercials. America’s obsession with vulgar language has blinded the Parents Television Council from the actual villain — harmful portrayals of stereotypical gender norms. Media regulators need to pay more attention to harmful programs and commercials rather than obsessing over every single explicative that slips out of an athlete’s mouth. By attacking overly sexualized content and stereotypically prejudiced programming, the FCC and other organizations can begin on the right track to actually bettering American media.
Aarica Marsh is an LSA sophomore.