Well another Super Bowl has come and gone, and while the Ravens fans are probably all celebrating this morning, I have found myself asking a lot of hard questions.
And no, I’m not referring to the power outage.
After spending my evening tuning in and out of the game, I ended the night with an unmistakeably icky feeling. Some of the commercials were so explicitly sexual, so gratuitous, so vile, that I couldn’t shake them. It was as if they had crawled off the screen and glommed onto my skin.
Now I have to admit, before I even turned on the television I was already on alert. Late last week I read a challenging post about women and the Super Bowl, so I tuned into the game with that article in mind. In it the author considers how women in our culture are portrayed and what that portrayal communicates to viewers. To help us process the culture’s messages about women, he offered several general questions that are applicable to a broad array of scenarios:
“Where are the women in any situation being investigated? If they are not present, why? If they are present, what exactly are they doing? How do they experience the situation? What do they contribute to it? What does it mean to them?”
Based on these questions, and our near religious observance of Super Bowl Sunday, the author then writes this searing critique:
I also asked myself how the scriptures depict women, and how our arena sports influence my efforts to raise my daughters in ways critically illuminated by scriptural texts. I contend that the way we consume iconic national events like the Super Bowl better depicts what we really believe about women and their so-called roles than do our formal theological statements, denominational position papers, teachings about the spiritual disciplines, and admonitions toward modesty and fidelity.
Given how many churches host Super Bowl parties, I think there is something to this assessment. While my Facebook feed has been full of statuses condemning the worst of the commercials, the fact is that we all still watched them. We watched as the media served up an extremely narrow vision of womanhood, one in which women are either nagging wives or sex kittens.
In light of my December post on lust, and how these images of women literally shape the way our brains process the female image, we Christians need to ask ourselves: should we really be consuming this kind of media–or worse, letting our kids consume it?
Of course, there is a tension here. Any time we turn on the tv, watch a movie, or go to the grocery store, we risk exposing ourselves to the sexual objectification of women, among other ills. The solution is not to hunker down and cut ourselves off from the world. Jesus lived in the world and engaged the darkness, and so should we.
Even so, Scriptural passages like Philippians 4:8-9 compel us to ask some tough questions, especially given the way Super Bowl commercials are designed to influence us. Ad companies are payed a lot of money to manipulate our senses and sell a product. These images are not neutral, and we are not impervious bystanders.
All of this begs the question: As fun as it is to watch the Super Bowl with friends, is this really an event that Christians should be endorsing?
It’s time that Christians start having this conversation and thinking seriously about the filth that accompanies the Super Bowl. What does watching it say about how we view women? We may not be ok with the objectification of women, but are we ok enough to watch it any way?
If you have any ideas on how Christians can engage the Super Bowl in the future, please share them here because I would love to hear them. I’m sure there are some creative alternatives to avoiding the event altogether, but the important thing is that we talk about it. The Super Bowl may be fun, and it may even be an American tradition, but it has a dark side that we as Christians cannot ignore.
What do you think?