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The 6 Best and Worst Commercials for Women at the Super Bowl

The 6 Best and Worst Commercials for Women at the Super Bowl

Audi Ad

Sure, there was no Carl's Jr. level of overt sexism in this year's ads, but there were some clear winners and losers. 

From the New England Patriots' eleventth-hour win over the Atlanta Falcons to the Lady Gaga's half-time spectacular (that was either political or apolitical, depending on who you talk to) to several commercials featuring diversity and inclusiveness, Super Bowl LI will be one for the books. While none of the multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ads featured Carl's Jr. food-dripping-off-the-face level of overt sexism, there were some winners and losers in terms of stereotyping and depictions of gender.

Winner: 84 Lumber -- "The Journey Begins"

A spare, heartrending commercial about a Mexican mother and daughter journeying to find a better life is a gentle but pointed rebuke of Donald Trump's insistence on building a wall between Mexico and the United States to ostensibly stem the tide of illegal immigration.

The original ad for the family-owned 84 Lumber featured the mother and daughter encountering an actual wall, but Fox refused to air the spot in that form, resulting in an amended, if more subtle, message.

"If everyone else is trying to avoid controversy, isn't that the time when brands should take a stand for what they believe in?" said Rob Shapiro, a spokesman for Brunner, the agency that created the ad, told The Washington Postabout the decision to go political.

And in featuring a woman and her daughter on a grand journey in search of for a better place, the narrative runs counter to so many stories of men and boys who adventurously set out in search of new lands and opportunities.

Watch the full ad that Fox did not air below.

Winner: Hulu -- The Handmaid's Tale, "My Name Is Offred"

Hulu's upcoming series (in conjunction with MGM Television), based on Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian feminist novel The Handmaid's Tale (1986), tells the story of Offred, a woman living in the not-so-distant future society of Gilead, where a woman's worth is based on the ostensible viability of her reproductive organs. The novel is a stunning rebuke to patriarchal structures the fallout from which leads to environmental disaster resulting in widespread infertility, along with religious fanaticism, a complete shutdown of the media, and xenophobia.

Hulu's series is more timely and prescient than ever, and that the streaming service chose the Handmaid's Tale teaser for its first-ever Super Bowl spot was a bold and deeply political move.

Winner: Audi -- "Daughter"

The carmaker Audi sent a crystal clear message about equal pay (an issue front and center during Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign) with its #DriveProgress Super Bowl spot that features a little girl trouncing her male competitors in a soapbox derby race as her dad offers a voice-over narration. "What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa's worth more than her grandma?" the narrator ponders. "Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?"

By the time the narrator's daughter crosses the finish line well ahead of the boys in the race, he's concluded that perhaps by the time she's old enough, he'll be able to tell her a different kind of story.

The commercial ends with a message from the automaker that reads, "Audi is committed to equal pay for equal work."

Clear, simple, direct. Audi nailed it.

Loser: Mr. Clean -- "Cleaner of Your Dreams"

There are those who are excited about Mr. Clean reimagined as a sexy daddy type, but the spot sends the regressive message that because domestic chores are not the purview of masculinity, men who dare to get their hands dirty doing "women's work" are instantly hotter than they are and should be rewarded with sex.

In the ad, a woman fantasizes that a reimagined, new and sexier Mr. Clean shows up to save the day when she's faced with some spilled sauce on the stove. He scrubs, sprays, rubs, dances. and grinds his way into her daydream. At the end of the day, it turns out it's her husband who's offered to help with the domestic chores. Since men helping around the kitchen and bathroom is not ingrained in the culture, the wife is deeply aroused by her husband's willingness to help.

If the ad were truly progressive it would have posited that there's an expectation, even a duty as a member of the household to share in the domestic chores.

If the imagery alone doesn't drive home the point that men who clean are the exception to the rule and should be paid for their work with sex, the tagline from Mr. Clean is "You gotta love a man who cleans."

Loser: Febreze -- "Halftime Bathroom Break"

Febreze's Halftime Bathroom Break spot piggybacks off of part of the Mr. Clean ad's assertion that a woman's place is in the bathroom. Only this time, the woman is standing by to drop some Febreze and improve the smell in the bathroom after who knows how many people have held back their beer, wings, and, nachos for fear of missing the game or the commercials. But never fear the bathroom, because this woman has nothing better to do than stand by for that moment when all of the guests have unloaded during those 10 minutes between the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the can't-miss halftime show.

The tagline for the spot is "I love you, halftime bathroom break." Sure, every woman loves to stand by a reeking bathroom in time to drop some Febreze in there.

Loser: Yellow Tail Wine

The ad for Australia's Yellow Tail wine begins harmlessly enough, if a bit stupidly, with an Aussie bloke in a bright yellow suit pouring wine and introducing a kangaroo to the viewer. "If you see a roo at a party, it's a good party, because at Yellow Tail, we believe in fun," he says. It's revealed later in the spot that having fun equals getting women to do things to the "roo."

In the next scene the kangaroo, wearing a bright yellow apron that reads "Kiss the Roo" flips burgers at a grill. Next up, the man in the yellow suit and his kangaroo are strolling along the beach when they run into bikini model Ellie Gonsalves. The man, still holding his Yellow Tail bottle, suggests to her, "Do you want to pet my roo?"

"Sure, I'll pet your roo," she replies, before bending over to stroke the kangaroo, as the guy nods with satisfaction.

If "roo" weren't used as a euphemism for the guy's penis, the ad would be just "meh" at worst, but rather, it posits that any guy with a little booze can get a sexy woman to pet his "roo."

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.