Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Spectacle

I watched the Super Bowl last night, one because I love football and two because that's what good 'mericans do on that blessed Sunday in February. It's the last real football game until August, pitting what are arguably the two strongest teams in the foremost league in the world against one another in a game that receives unparalleled herald internationally. You're almost guaranteed some good food and good times with friends, all while witnessing some gladiator-like brutality and athleticism right alongside some well-received hilarity and strategically-placed boob shots, what with the current trend (and our accompanying fixation on) commercials and what not.

So watch I did. And having absolutely no vested interest in the outcome (thanks for NOT stepping up against A-Rod and the Pack when the time came, Vick...), I was able to absorb the game for what it was: a strong football game played between two teams who gave their hearts for the whole 60 minutes in the name of a championship. In the end, it came down to turnovers--as it often does--and a final necessary drive that Big Ben just didn't have in him. Much kudos to Aaron Rodgers: homeboy is good, and he deserves every bit of the Brett Farve-replacement fame that is about to come his way. But that's where the solid, respectable aspect of the evening stopped, for me at least, and the embarrassingly dim, spectacle-based circus began.

Now, it's nothing new that the Super Bowl is a hot bed for marketing, capitalism and the outright exploitation of Americans and the people who entertain them in the name of the almighty dollar. Plenty of people swear year after year that they "only watch the game for the commercials." And that's fine, because usually the commercials are, for the most part, hilarious, entertaining and well written.

But for some reason this year I was much more acutely aware of how dumb they must think we've all become. In lieu of intelligent, unavoidably hilarious commercials--even from the heavyweights like Budweiser and Coke--we were given spot after spot of animated sensationalism, adolescent violence and desperate reconnoitering of Eminem's supposed "talent" from rap star to Detroit mayor (although the cinematography in that ad, right up until Eminem appeared, was solid). The crowning slap in the face for me was the Groupon commercial mocking the plight of the Tibetan people for the promotion of an American-based It was shameless, disrespectful, anything BUT funny and represented yet another nail in the coffin for U.S. international relations. No wonder the whole world thinks we're a bunch of imperialist dicks.

Without a doubt the evening's highlight for me was the Volkswagen Darth Vader commercial. Who can argue with the Imperial March and the endearing nature of a fully-costumed six-year-old channeling the motherfucking Force? Damn you, VW with your likable marketing schemes and what not. Makes me wanna go buy a Jetta and a six-year old in a Darth Vader costume. I digress, but that one-minute spot represented not only the highlight of the first half, but the entire game. Then came halftime...

What once could have almost been considered a real hip hop group (before Fergie) has now clearly decomposed in to the musical anti-Christ. I've never been a huge Black-Eyed Peas fan, but after watching that talentless degradation of what were already terrible club hits, I'm positive I never will be. What was with the light-up Tron-themed space suits? Really? I never saw the movie, mostly because I'm positive it sucked, but I'm also pretty certain that it barely made any money, other people thought it sucked too and we sure as hell didn't need to theme the halftime show around it. Why would any self-respecting musical act sign on to a carnival like this anyway? Oh wait. It's the Black-Eyed Peas and they need a pay check. No doubt The Situation and his minions will be macking bitches to the "Super Bowl Medley" for the next 364 days.

I especially like how we can no longer count on the audience--or the band--to pay attention for an entire song, so we've adopted this frantic, stage-morphing flow of artists rappelling from the rafters and popping up out of the floor as myriad artists course through a medley of 30-second mini versions of super hits. Even Slash doesn't get a full song, and after Fergie strutted over to vomit all over Axel's part, one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time is now forever ruined in my memory.

Nor can we count on the audience to be an audience anymore: instead of letting several thousand actual "fans" rush the stage to make this Disney/Fox Productions Cockfight look like a real "concert" as they've done in Super Bowls past, now they simply pay a few hundred professional dancers to further blow our minds as they spring around the field making fun, choreographed geometric shapes out of their illuminated hazmat suits. So does the same dude hold the remote control for the light-up suits on everyone? Man, next year we should hold a contest for some lucky 'merican to win a chance to light up Fergie's boobs on stage.

I'm still not quite sure what the producers of the Super Bowl commercials and half-time show were going for, but I know who they were after. Broadly targeting the overfed and over-sensationalized masses has clearly proven profitable, and these days they're unashamedly stepping up the assault on Joe Six-Pack and his old lady. The current trend in marketing and entertainment is impossible to ignore, and is frighteningly reminiscent of our own demise that was so hilariously predicted in the movie Idiocracy.

Most frightening to me, however, is the fact that as much as I hate to admit it, I think they're right on target. Ohhhhh, shiny, pretty, 'merica. Shiny pretty.

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