Episode 136: Reprehensible and Not Even All That Sexy

The Overthinkers tackle the commercials of Super Bowl XLV.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel and Josh McNeil to overthink the commercials from Super Bowl XLV, including Al Bundy and demasculinization, meta-narratives of violence and ethicity, the reactionary branding of Coke, wealthy self-hatred, and the militaristic, futuristic halftime show.

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12 Comments on “Episode 136: Reprehensible and Not Even All That Sexy”

  1. lee OTI Staff #

    Lazy Internet: anyone have a link to a video of the Black Eye Peas halftime show? I missed it; heard it was awful and naturally want to see what the fuss is all about.

    Will comment on the podcast after I’ve listened to all of it, but I will say that the first 20 minutes I listened to on the way to work had me pining for more. And wishing I could have been on to discuss with you guys.


  2. Chris #

    Allow me to speak on the demographics of the Detroit area. The city is, of course, predominantly black, while the suburban areas have some largely black cities, but is much more white. There is a concept in the area known as “white flight,” which is presumably not specific to Detroit and has as much to do with socioeconomic factors as race, which is the backbone of the growth of Detroit’s suburbs.

    For example, the first stop for most people was the city of Warren, which is Detroit adjacent (and where Eminem is from). It’s population boomed, and it became a nice suburb back in the day. However, as time went on and more people left Detroit for the suburbs, a lot of people moved on from Warren. It now is the third largest city in the state, but has become more mixed in terms of race, and also has become a lot less stable economically (this was before the auto industry collapse, might I add. Warren has been going downhill since before I was born.)

    The next stop, and coincidentally where I was raised for most of my life, is Sterling Heights. It was only incorporated in 1968, and then it was almost entirely farmland. It is now the fourth largest city in the state, and in my youth it was almost entirely white (I went to a massive high school that had, honestly, I think 20 black students in the entire school). However, it is now starting the process of going the way of Warren, as people move on beyond Sterling Heights to other cities (the general direction people have moved is north, for the record). Incidentally, the second largest city in Michigan is Grand Rapids, which is on the other side of the state.

    However, what the Detroit area does have is a huge Middle Eastern population. In fact, the city of Dearborn has one of the largest Arabic populations for a city in a non-Middle Eastern Country. There are about 30,000 Arabic people in a city of a little more than 90,000.

    Also, I always want to hear about the Detroit Lions, because I love them and they are awesome.

    Lastly, regarding the subject of Ben Roethlisberger. I think it is very important to mention he was never even charged with a crime. None of us know what happened, and if they didn’t think bringing a noted person up on charges was worthwhile, I have to imagine there wasn’t much evidence to the case. As such, I don’t think it is fair to assume he committed the act in question, much less act as if it is definitive. It is highly inflammatory, and terribly unfair. If we do not consider people innocent until we know they are guilty (either firsthand or via a fair trial), that is just something I cannot abide.

    Obviously, if Roethlisberger is guilty, he is a horrible, monstrous person and I wish he were in jail. However, even if he is fairly clearly a scuzzy guy, to condemn him in the court of public opinion is not fair, and is an egregious slander to him. It is, unfortunately, something that has become far to common in this modern era, although I’m sure it was something that happened in the past as well. The world has always been a horrible place, technology just allows us so much more access to that fact. Plus, as has happened in the past, it is unfortunately not uncommon for false accusations to be hurled at famous people, and sometimes they don’t even have to be famous, as the Duke lacrosse case reminds us. Apparently nobody took the time to learn from that.

    If you want to disparage the character of an athlete, there are so many to choose from. Hell, just take a look at what Lawrence Taylor just pled guilty to, or the life of NFL Comeback Player of the Year Michael Vick. We have enough villians in life, and in sport, that we do not need to seek out the creation of new ones.


    • Gab #

      I can’t help but point out that the same court of public opinion calling Roethlisberger a sleeze is often the reason victims of sexual assault don’t even file police reports, let alone win a court case. Almost immediately, her credibility was being questioned, and now she has been made out to look like a drunken, money-grubbing slut. From what I saw in the media and what I know about sexual assault, I’d wager that what actually happened is she just gave up because the pressure was too much to bear. She declined an offer of a settlement, after all, indicating she wasn’t just after money in coming forward.


      • Chris #

        Well, obviously that’s unfair to the woman in question and just as egregious. Of course, that doesn’t make condemning Roethlisberger in the court of public opinion any less unfair. The fact remains that outside of a very small group of people, we don’t know enough about what happened to really draw a conclusion. Maybe someday we will, but until then it should just remain an unpleasant cloud hanging over us all. That may not be a nice way to live, but to be fair the situation would be a depressing thing to deal with regardless of how much information we had.


  3. Gab #

    The group I watched it with were confounded by Sam Elliot (ahem, not Neil) at the beginning, actually, in a sense that they didn’t get why a dude in a bunch of Western movies was introducing two teems very much not from the west.

    I think my favorite commercial was the Dorito one where the dude kills his friends fish and plant and smashes the urn with the ashes. I thought the Chrysler one with Eminem was incredibly well-made until and WOULD have been my favorite- until it said, “Imported from Detroit” or whatever. That just totally killed it dead. But I think Eminem is being pitched as an everyman of some sort by Chrysler. I guess you could say he’s sort of post-racial.

    The Pepsi commercial with the black couple was, for me, a shrewish wife making her husband go on a diet that throws a can of Pepsi at him because he looks at another woman. I didn’t see it as an ethnic thing, it was a misogynistic one from my point of view.

    I also was rather shocked by the cowboy getting shot by a bunch of arrows in the Cars.com ad.

    The Home Away concept isn’t all that new, right? I mean, it was the premise for the movie The Holiday, at least.

    C’mon, almost 1.25 hours, and not a single comment on how Christina Aguilera botched the lyrics to the National anthem? That led to a good five-minute discussion at my party about what would happen if various others had made such a flub. We determined a member of the military would probably get a dishonorable discharge.


    • Gab #

      Oh, but that VW commercial with the kid dressed as Darth Vader was fantastic, too.


      • Megan from Lombard #

        that was my favorite commercial! (and not because I own a VW)

        There was actually a brief discussion at the party I was at about how many car commercials there were and how that was what our bailout money went to.


        • Gab #

          Oh, nice! I hadn’t thought of that. I forget- I’m pretty sure they all were okay and turned out pretty good profits in the end, but did any of them pay the government back?


  4. acm #

    Did you realize that the House-throws-cane commercial was a direct take-off on the famous sports-hero Coke ad from the 1970s? I think that undermines the “violence as release” interpretation — the original had the guy throwing the kid his towel as a souvenir, if I recall correctly…


  5. Megan from Lombard #

    The “Chicago Code” is where corruption runs through everything and no one says anything about it because if they did then they would be exposing themselves. It’s more obvious if you live in the city/area because you’ve grown up around it (and even make jokes about it during election time) than if you are from outside the state.


  6. Edvamp #

    I did not watch the entire Superbowl so missed most of the commercials. There was a comment made in the podcast about commercials in the “Bad things happen to people that use our product” category. Was there a Messin’ With Sasquatch commercial for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky during the game? Those commercials baffle me because I don’t see the selling point, other than use our product to become an idiotic prankster only to be killed by a monster.

    Re: Coke commercial. I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you regarding the animals as ethnic analogs. The commercial seemed to be a Warcraft parody with the invading army being orcs and the defenders a peaceful looking race. The dragon is clearly not a chinese dragon but your standard fire breathing fantasy dragon that is turned into a child’s toy of peace and love by drinking a coke. See it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Shvwd7VYpE0

    Re: Keeping KFC open while selling medical pot out of there. Every time an online discussion about the legalization of pot comes up I always say I am fine with that as long as I have a chance to double up my portfolio with McDonald’s and Frito-Lay stock.

    Re: Dark Knight hospital explosion scene. Internet scuttlebutt that I have read says that the Heath Ledger’s acting was actually improvised as one of the main explosions was delayed, and he really was surprised when it went off. See that here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1pyPY8w1TI


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