Rachel del Valle | Giving in to the game
Duly Noted | Last night, a long-time Super Bowl avoidee gave the game a chance
February 6, 2012, 3:42 am·
Rachel del Valle
I have to admit that I’ve long had a tactic indifference to the Super Bowl. I never told it that I didn’t care about it, but I think it knew. I just never felt any sort of connection to it.
To be fair, I never really gave it a chance. But I’ve come to realize that there might just be something to the most-watched television broadcast in the country. So, this year, I decided to watch. All the way through.
As someone who claims to love popular culture, I can’t really ignore the Super Bowl. After all, there are a good number of millennial milestones that have emerged from the annual event — phrases like “wardrobe malfunction,” or “I’m going to Disney World!”
It’s sort of quaint to think that there’s still an event that can get over 100-million Americans to sit on their couch — at the exact same time — watching, waiting, sometimes screaming.
There’s something for everyone: 10 minutes or so of playing time for the fans, the commercials for the fringe watchers and the halftime show for the tortilla chips to watch when everyone else leaves the room.
When I was a kid, my dad would put on the Super Bowl. I say “put on” because that’s exactly what he did. He put it on like background music — the same way he played on Enya CDs — while he scribbled on papers for work, head downturned, reading glasses on. I never understood that. When I asked him why he watched, he said it was so he could “talk to the guys about it,” the next day at the office. I still didn’t get it. What was the point of watching something in such a superficial way?
Last night, I found myself doing the same thing. I had resolved to watch because I felt like I had no right to criticize if I didn’t. But even when watching — and writing this very column — I found myself waiting for the commercials. Those slivers of popular culture designed to sell cars and beer and soda were all that made sense to me in the middle of all the whistles and passes.
There’s just something alluring about the advertisements. Even when they’re unfunny or sexist or trite. I can’t help but stare. I know, there’s an inordinate number of women selling alcohol while wearing lingerie/bikinis or clothing that looks like lingerie or a bikini.
But as the David Beckham underwear spot for H&M proves, this objectification isn’t limited to the female sex. And there are an equally disturbing number of talking animals and babies.
At least some ads have become more sophisticated in the last few years, with cleverer writing and references, such as last night’s Ferris Bueller-esque ads with Matthew Broderick for Honda. There’s a Star Wars campaign for Volkswagen makes me proud to be an American.
I was also struck by the number of commercials that had a distinctly nostalgic feel. There were Budweiser ads that featured the Clydesdales during the Prohibition era. There was a Chrysler commercial with Clint Eastwood’s scratchy voice monologuing how it’s “halftime in America.”
In its own strange way, the Super Bowl is more inclusive than the Oscars or the World Series or the latest episode of Downton Abbey.
Simply watching the Super Bowl is one of the easiest ways to feel connected to Americana. Or it is, at least, an easy way to get a sense of the way Americans see themselves. It may be a caricatured, sometimes outdated representation of our culture, but the essence of it remains. And I think that’s kind of unique.
The Super Bowl is the cultural equivalent to a movie like Avatar — it’s not about the quality of the content — it’s about the spectacle, the event. And, more importantly, it’s about being able to have a mildly informed opinion on that event. No one wants to be twiddling his or her thumbs around the water cooler.
There’s something exciting about watching and being implicitly included in something that millions and millions of other people are also a part of. For the last 10 seconds of the game, some roommates who had been holed up studying all night came out just to see what would happen.
It didn’t really matter to me one way or another, but, when I realized how many people were staring at the same image, I got goose bumps.
Rachel del Valle is a College sophomore from Newark, N.J. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Duly Noted appears every Monday.