Monday, January 29, 2007
The Super Bowl Spectacle is About to Descend Upon Us
I read this week that "If people don’t watch the Super Bowl"…"they are not part of the American culture." This statement gave me pause to considerjust what is American culture and is there even such a thing as one American culture. Before addressing those issues, I want to point out that just about half the U.S. population views the game; gender is split 60/40 in favor of males. The Super Bowl is not only an American festival, but it is a media spectacle. Media spectacles like the Super Bowl become a means for the mainstream media, which are beholden to mainstream corporate interests, to distract citizens from the issues that really affect us. As a spectacle, therefore, the Super Bowl takes us away not only from the mundane quality of everyday life, but also distracts us from the serious political issues of the day. Even the Army Bowl, which this year was sponsored by Bell Helicopter, provided a way to combine--and therefore integrate--the experience of sports and war. I offer this brief critique as an introduction to the ways in which ideology is managed in American society. It is through spectacles like the Super Bowl that we celebrate commercialism. By the way, Christmas and several other religious holidays have been elevated to the level of spectacle. In the end, I’m wondering where are the other 160 million citizens of the United States, many of whom may be elderly or below the age where they are likely to be interested in the spectacle of sport. If the elderly and very young are not part of American culture, who else isn’t a part of it? And, even for half the country that does engage with this spectacle, it seems to me the nature of their engagement is quite varied: some people come together to watch the game (with varying degrees of interest depending on the teams that are playing), others watch for the commercials, others may not watch at all, but want to participate in the intimacy of the celebrations which themselves will vary greatly depending on age, income, ethnicity, among other factors. Is there one American culture? I think not. If you don’t participate in the Super Bowl celebration, don’t feel bad, as I maintain you can still keep your membership card in American culture. Invariably, even for those who watch, the game is likely to be disappointing, and in studies following the game, many people can’t even remember the products that were advertised, or worse, they confuse one product for another as in one study a respondent described a commercial for Doritos as being for Tostitos.