Spots in the Big Game have become iconic and popular because of their cinematographic quality, unpredictability, humor, use of special effects and celebrity cameos. Above everything else, one aspect remains consistent: the demeaning male gaze on both sides of the commercial camera.
From Carl’s Junior ads featuring Kate Upton (featured above) and Charlotte McKinney eating food with sexual innuendo to Pepsi creative starring the perpetually sexualized Brittney Spears to this year’s banned T-Mobile spot featuring New England Patriot Tom Brady and Gronk, female objectification and lowbrow locker room humor underscore 37 years of men directing Super Bowl ads.
Out of most recent roundup of 2021 Super Bowl commercials, only 3 out of 61 coveted spots were directed by women. Making 95% of the most watched, highest paying and highest grossing commercials male-dominated.
It’s as obvious of a pattern as one of Andy Reid’s offensive calls on Sunday.
In 2020 the ads were 92% male directors with only 4 women getting the opportunity out of 61 spots. 2019 followed the exact same 92% male consumed numbers, preceded by 83% male in 2018, and 89% male in 2017. It’s important to note that these are the recent, more inclusive numbers, after conversions of the need for female representation and opportunity have been brought to the table.
The history of the Super Bowl has exhibited that the highest-profile, highest paying, and in turn highest grossing television commercials featured in U.S. television are male-dominated and don’t seem to be letting women into the “boy’s club.”
The hyper masculine sporting event appears to be shutting women out, unless they want to be objectified in an $5.5 million spot or as a cheerleader at the game.
An even more shocking statistic on the 2021 Super Bowl ads unveils even less inclusivity of minorities; an embarrassingly low 4 out of those 61 ads were directed by men of color.
It seems baffling that after movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo brought conversations to light on lack of representation and opportunity for these and other groups, that the deficit of variety in directors would still be this bleak.
These numbers don’t reflect the diverse world we live in, but they certainly reflect a recurring theme of white men in positions of power and opportunity at the top of their field, leaving women and minorities out of the picture.
All in all, the Super Bowl LV advertisers disappointed when it came to diversity.
Free The Work, a curated talent discovery platform that connects underrepresented creators to those who hire in film, TV, advertising and media, has called out these advertisers for their blatant disregard of women and people of color.
This platform was created by Director Alma Har’el who disrupted the ad world with Free the Bid, a searchable platform of women directors, followed by Free the Work.
A 2010 ESPN Magazine article declared, “Super Bowl ads: Time for a change.“The article went onto say, “Neither the Super Bowl ads nor the people who produced them reflect the nation’s diversity.” Over 10 years later, the headlines sound eerily similar as they declare a need for change. The words are the same, as are the patterns.
Without giving underrepresented women and BIPOC directors a fair shot at an iconic Bowl spot, next year there will only be another headline after the Big Game.
Megan Penn is a Los Angeles based, New York born actress and writer. Megan has a passion for stories in which women are in the drivers seat, along with a bad case of retrophilia.