For millions of American men, football is both an outlet and a pacifier.
It makes sense. In an increasingly secular America, men’s headship role in family and society at large is nearly completely debased. Where men once led their wives and children, they have been replaced by a paycheck. Where men once led their communities, they have been replaced by the administrative state. Fewer and fewer venues remain for men to fulfill their natural desire to lead and to serve. Even and especially in churches, men find themselves disaffected and disposable.
So football (an implicit celebration of the heroism men are denied in their waking lives) becomes an obsession. Of course.
Leading up to the Super Bowl, a whole lot of men of every generation have devoted themselves weekly to hours by the television, fantasizing and prognosticating about the strength or cerebrality of their favorite players and teams. Whether one’s football heroes succeed or fail, ritualistic devotion to players and franchises hardly waivers. Operating as the homily they no longer receive in church, the football game tells an archetypal story week by week in consistently interesting ways. As they watch, American men become witnesses to the virtues programmed in them by natural law but rooted out of them at work, school, and everywhere in between by the reigning misandry of the day.
This misplaced religiosity when it comes to football does not surprise. Football remains one vestige that does not extinguish the masculine virtues but instead exalts them. One would be hard-pressed to find another venue in this day and age which does not—at least tacitly—admonish men for being who they are. Watching the NFL allows men vicariously to experience the life they wish to live from the comfort of a recliner. However superficially, a man can experience from watching football that which is no longer available to him in the world outside his man-cave. By this proxy, men may shamelessly taste victory, valiance, male camaraderie, and the cheerful support of beautiful women.
But those instinctive desires, once simulated, must immediately be subverted lest NFL fans realize their capacity to exhibit the same manliness in real life. God forbid the average American man stand up to their real life enemies with the same level of enthusiasm! Imagine if infanticide generated as strong a reaction in American men as Deflategate did.
If men woke from their sedation, they might discover that they no longer need the sedative. To subvert this possibility, Corporate America gleefully intervenes.
Effective commercials in the age of woke capitalism invariably follow a formula: 1. provoke an emotional response (dull rationality), 2. inject a message relating to morality du jour, and 3. pan out with positive sounds and images. One, two, punch. Sensory overload in the beginning and end nestles the message in the impenetrable complexity of human emotion. Before one can consider the implications of the company’s slogan, another commercial has already begun.
Bumble, a dating app which requires women to send potential suitors a message before the man can talk to them, secured a commercial slot at the Super Bowl this year. The ad features Serena Williams; its central message is that in every area of life but especially love, the “ball is in her court.”
Williams’ monologue is predictably banal:
The world tells you to wait. That waiting is polite. But if I waited to be invited in, I never would have stood out. If I waited for change to happen, I never would have made a difference. So make the first move. Don’t wait to be told your place. Take it. Don’t wait for people to find you. Find them. In work, in love, in life. And most of all, don’t wait to be given power. Because here’s what they won’t tell you: we already have it.
Interlaced with the riveting story of Williams’ rise to power to the tune of what sounds like gospel music, the audience passively absorbs an insidious message: Women shouldn’t wait. There is no value in waiting. Patience and prudence be damned. To be empowered is to act like men in your professional life, but more importantly, your sex life. And that’s what women’s empowerment truly looks like. Of course, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble need women to believe this lie. If young men and women rejected the siren song of the sexual liberation, dating apps inevitably would suffer. But by concealing that message inside a broader point about professional success, many continue to be fooled.
This ad and many just like it send a traumatizing and paralyzing message to men: Men, you have no power, and you don’t deserve it anyway. Also, men, you simply aren’t worth waiting for. Though, of course, you must wait.
How ironic and how cynical! During every commercial break of the manliest competition in the country, the pinnacle of male athletic achievement, audience members gleefully absorb the notion that male power is actually problematic. Toxic, even.
What is left for men in a world where women can do anything, have anything, and achieve anything in spite of them? What role can men play in a world where even the most basic sexual pursuit of woman by man is undermined by the woman herself, who emasculates her suitors as a matter of course? While the messaging might seem platitudinous, its delivery is powerful.
Kraft Foods went to pretty disgusting lengths to undermine the everyman with their “Devour” Microwave Dinner advertisement. The goblins in Kraft’s marketing department chose the “humor” route for this one. In it, a woman describes her boyfriend’s addiction to “food porn” in the same way one would describe an actual addiction to pornography. We hear that he has become a “three minute man.” Grotesque imagery alluding to the man’s indiscriminate masturbation actually made it past the censors for what is generally understood to be a program watched by families. Corporate values, eh?!
But it’s so funny! LOL! Haha! This stupid white dude can’t control himself, please his woman, or operate like a normal, responsible person in any way whatsoever! Hilarious!
The commercial normalizes and implicitly excuses porn addiction through cheap humor. No company would make a similar advertisement about any other kind of addiction. But because this addiction primarily affects men, I suppose it’s ok. Their slogan? “Never just eat. Devour.” Their message? Keep watching your porn, guys. Your crippling addiction isn’t tragic, it’s funny. Trick your brain into thinking you’ve experienced a sexual conquest while simultaneously draining your real-life drive and ambition, sexual and otherwise. Don’t just be satiated, be saturated. Above all, consume.
Whatever virtues (courage, self-reliance, resiliency, loyalty) the football game might have tickled in the subconscious, the degenerate, anti-masculine cultural force sweeps away instantly during the commercial breaks.
Both producer and consumer seem to behave these days as if brands represent something more than the interests of investors, and that by consuming certain products or services, we may take part in something greater than ourselves. We are made to believe that our selection of consumer products constitutes a meaningful identity. Hence, we exist to consume. We dress ourselves as vessels of corporate virtue. The product itself is now secondary to the simulacra of morality that the company attaches to it. In the current year, all of us are Patrick Bateman on some level.
Nature hates a vacuum. When men and women’s innate desire for meaning, love, community, each other, and above all, for God, goes unmet, something superficially satisfying will fill the gap. Companies pretend there is a moral dimension to their product because the consumer desires moral truth in a modern world devoid of it. The panacea is temporary; nagging emptiness will persist.
It is probably especially difficult for men to wake up from their Sunday night football-and-beer-induced slumber given that football still seems like their only outlet left, but it is a lie. No outlets remain in mass culture for men. They must instead be created. America’s crisis of masculinity, and the related crisis of moral relativism, requires waking up and rediscovering the power in masculine virtue that has been surreptitiously plucked out of the American moral fabric. It requires first that men stop tolerating their own public shaming. Men should respond to all woke capitalism that demeans them the same way they responded to Gillette. Get off Bumble. Never buy a Kraft microwave dinner again.
And don’t let football distract you from your own demoralization.
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