Super Bowl, Totino’s, and SNL

As the Super Bowl is this weekend, it is only fitting that my contemporary media analysis is a parody of a super bowl commercial that was shown during halftime of last year’s game. Saturday Night Live reenacted a commercial for Totino’s Pizza Rolls emphasizing gender roles and using rhetorical appeals to identify the misogynistic characteristics of advertisement in society.

Ironically, the commercial displays a typical Super Bowl viewing party: men surrounding a TV, cheering and eating. The setting of this commercial automatically assumes society’s mental construction of gender by implying that sports are for men, who are generally thought of as the stronger sex, while women have a familial duty to be “in the kitchen,” as the only woman in the commercial states. The notion of gender roles is reinforced by the interaction of the cast. For example, the woman continues to internalize her role as the provider of food and alcoholic beverages for the men instead of watching the game in addition to cooking—or microwaving in this case. Another example is when one of the husband’s friends asks if she wants to watch the game and it is assumed that she does not want to join by her husband. I think an interesting thought to entertain is that this s an economic advertisement with the point to increase sales in Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Watching this skit makes me wonder if there are men behind similar commercials geared towards mothers, and also now would really like to know what Totino’s advertising thought about the SNL version. This portrayal of male identification is an everyday example of the social reproduction of heterosexual norms.

The SNL cast made sure to use rhetorical appeals, such as irony, humor, and exaggeration, to convey their disgust with the portrayal of women’s positions in the home. One brilliant example of the use of rhetorical appeal is the “Super Bowl Activity Pack for Women”—“for grown women ages 5 and up.” This “activity pack” is patronizing to women as it is for keeping one’s “mind active and learning” by completing children’s mind puzzles.

Women are supposed to have equal access to education as well as economic opportunities, but this interpretation of the commercial depicts women having characteristically low intelligence, such as the demeaning easiness of connect the dots and crossword puzzles. Personally, my favorite part of the activities was the option to “count her own money,” except the money was fake Monopoly money. This part of the commercial reminded me of the economic inequalities women face outside of the home because of institutionalized social interactions. The activity pack is another example of how the patriarchal hierarchy is continually made fun of here.

It is important to take Saturday Night Live’s interpretation of the commercial with a grain of salt and recognize there is an entertainment quality to it. Saturday Night Live’s parody can be construed in two different perspectives. One could watch this skit and view it as a way to poke fun at feminists and the “extreme” views of today’s culture. On the other hand, the message I took away from this performance is that consumer advertising generally caters towards a particular gender to increase sales. SNL profited off of the generalization of gender roles to poke fun at our society.

This skit was performed to parody a common visual the recognized by the general public. This interpretation of the Totino’s Pizza Rolls commercial reached a wide audience, since it is a popular comedy show and social media continued to share this skit repeatedly—both men and women of all ages, races, and classes have viewed it. So although the main purpose of the skit was to evoke humor, I think it also is an interesting way to naturally generate a conversation about gender roles and the inequality that exists between genders. In this way, I believe this skit to be effective, as it sparked a discussion between my friends at Davidson College. Some may view the parody as an extreme view of feminism, while others may say, “Wait, actually this brings up a good point!” The most effective methods of societal change start with a conversation, and in today’s age of technology, social media and TV shows can provide the first steps toward that change.