Despite O.J., athletes as gods still sell

June 30, 1994|By Derrick Z. Jackson

O.J. Simpson may be in jail, but the violence, sexism and idolatry that surrounds male sports marches on gleefully to the cash register. The parade was in full view last week in the commercials for Game 7 of the National Basketball Association title between New York and Houston.

Many people hope Simpson's alleged murder of his wife will spark a campaign against domestic abuse. But during the game, women in the ads were mostly bimbos, controlled and manipulated by a male's first material offering.

A commercial for Budweiser showed a woman trying to decide between two dates via a futuristic TV telephone. One of the men, playing a game of pool, plops down a Bud Ice Draft on her screen. That was the extent of the intellectual discussion. The woman zoomed upstairs to a close encounter.

Another Ice Draft ad had a man entering a futuristic apartment, ordering a female computer voice to decorate his surroundings, chill the beer and deliver the woman. All that was left for this Neanderthal to say was: "Woman! Fix my plate!"

A Miller Ice Brewed Lite ad had a man in a bar being approached by a woman with ruffled hair who extolled the merits of the beer in a husky, passionate tone and an eyeballing you would not hear or see in the office. The man is so impressed by this he says, "You must be from heaven."

Another ad depicted three shipwrecked, helpless women on television in a bar. Three men walk in, pop open a Miller and leap into Beer ads feature women as bimbos.

the TV to save the pitiful creatures. Another Miller ad showed as much leg and cleavage as possible of a woman who ogled a man holding a hubcap. This makes you wonder if Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders should issue a warning to use condoms at the end of beer ads.

Then again, Joycelyn Elders might be too busy cleaning up violence in the ads. An ad for the movie "Blown Away" had four explosions. An ad for the movie "Speed" had an elevator shaft and an airplane exploding, and a bus plowing through a building. Ads for an NBC comedy and for the movie "Little Big League" showed people bopping each other.

Ads for Arnold Schwarzenegger's "True Lies" and Jack Nicholson's "Wolf" wrapped sexism and violence into neat packages. The Schwarzenegger ad showed his wife in the movie at home cooking and talking to a female secretary. Meanwhile, Mr. Schwarzenegger was dodging missiles and explosions and blowing up bridges. His wife gets into the action, but she's either hanging from a plane or punching him.

In the ad for "Wolf," the hairy Jack Nicholson kisses and terrorizes a woman, with the woman shown three times in disheveled distress. It remains a mystery to me why Madison Avenue and Hollywood executives think women want to go to bed with wildlife, whether it be Wolf Jack or Joe Camel.

Those kinds of ads have been around for a long time. Particularly distasteful, given the discussion that Mr. Simpson and other athletes are false heroes, were two Nike ads. One features a crazed man who breaks into the Green Bay Packers training zTC camp to hug his beloved "freight train" -- star receiver Sterling Sharpe. Several Packers catch the man and throw him to the ground. Sterling Sharpe asks the man what's wrong. The man grabs the receiver's shoulders and shouts "Choo-Choo, Baby."

The other ad has the same man on the beach with a sand castle replica of the San Diego Chargers football stadium. He brags about Chargers' linebacker Junior Seau who just happens to jog by and accidentally stomp on the stadium. The man starts screaming until he realizes it is his idol. The man then points at the footprint and shouts rapturously, "Junior Seau's footprint, man!"

At face value the ads denigrate the mentally ill. They also tell a truth that Nike, dependent on star identification to sell products, surely did not intend to communicate. The ads parody a nutty society, one where politicians put sports stadiums before schools, where CEOs and media moguls put celebrity before wife-beating convictions and where fans hang out more at tailgate parties than at the PTA. The idolatry that allegedly led O.J. to think he could control his world of women through violence remains at large and very marketable.

Derrick Z. Jackson is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

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