If you’ve watched the 2013 NBA playoffs – or any recent prime-time programming on TNT, ESPN, or ABC, for that matter – you’ve seen the following three ads. But have you really seen what’s going on in them?
My expert analysis paints you the picture, but I can’t promise that it’s pretty.
#1 – Prisoner Freed, Only to be Raped by Pirates:
- Product: Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
- Subtext: Rape
- Unfortunate because: 1. the obvious 2. Pirating is a hard enough career choice to explain to your parents
It’s 1668, in Port Royal, Jamaica, and an anonymous criminal of indeterminate guilt sits in the guard tower, slowly going mad while soiling himself.
Given the era, there’s zero chance he’s been mirandized. Given the squalid prison conditions, there’s a great chance he’s been tortured and has already gone partially insane. Did you see a chamber pot in that cell? Hell no. Using beard length and that thousand-yard-stare look in his eyes as rough measures of time, there’s two weeks worth of feces caking this man’s pantaloons. Put enough shit in his pants and any man will go crazy.
But, wait – hark! Here comes Captain Morgan to bust his ass out of jail… only to throw him like a piece of meat to his crew, so they can literally bust his ass. ”Haha”… except there’s nothing funny about rape. Even stinky pirate rape.
Luckily, by the time they get back to the boat, Captain Morgan has already gone out of his way to make sure the viewer knows who the good guys are. The breakout and escape is all very Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. You’re supposed to root for the plucky insurgents, with their shoestring budget and MacGyver-like cleverness, because the ruling regime is always assumed to be corrupt. Note the cheering throngs of people at 0:16, a decidedly different public reaction than the usual prison escape receives – commonly known as a manhunt.
In case you were still undecided about which side to be on, they even stop to play Temple Run at 0:19, because, you know, Captain Morgan is just like you, he plays all the best app games.
The Captain repeatedly hits us over the head with the obvious stick, telling us who the good guys are. He does so because when they get back to the ship, all bets are off. It’s go time. No, not let’s-escape-as-quickly-as-possible time, but give-me-what-I-really-broke-you-out-of-prison-for time.
I used to think pirates were cool. Why’d they have to get all rape-y? It’s all right there at 0:45, when Captain Morgan doubles down on despicable deeds for the day (and uses alliteration, because he aced Ms. Dietz’s 10th-grade Pirate English).
As if using sexual assault to get a treasure map isn’t bad enough, of course it has to be the hulking, black crew member who takes first crack at that lily-white ass. The Captain enlists Deebo from Friday, as if to say, “Arrrrrrr! Just in case you were still vague on what’s about to go down, white people, I’m invoking the most bigoted fear of your racist grandparents, and throwing it in your comfortably middle-class faces.”
I know, this is all in my imagination. After all, they couldn’t have shot the scene any other way, right? Unless they put the map on his chest, so he doesn’t have to be bent over a barrel when they uncover it. Unless he pulled an actual map out of his mouth like a clown scarf. (You call it ridiculous; I call it the magic of Hollywood.) But, no, pirates gotta take it by force. So bend over, Mr. Map.
The implied rape is there, and if you didn’t see it before, you see it now.
In the final scene, the victim is shown having a merry time with his assailants. Stockholm syndrome notwithstanding, that mirth is clearly roofie-induced – that is, if he’s even still alive.
Do you really think they keep him alive after they get their filthy pirate mitts on the map? No, he’s just one more mouth to feed. The pirates need the map, not the skin canvas it’s painted on. It’s quite likely that he’s already dead, and that raggedy corpse is being reanimated by pirate juju, or some devious rope-and-pulley system (recall that endearing pirate cleverness, above).
However, Captain Morgan is aware of the bad publicity pirates have gotten over the years, so he draws the line at killing this poor sap (or disposing of the corpse) on camera. The Captain is working double-duty here: one on hand, he’s adventuring and indulging his sadistic tendencies, and on the other, he’s rehabilitating the image of pirating worldwide. You could say the captain is an ambassador of sorts. He doesn’t want to tarnish the recent public relations coup they just pulled off in Port Royal (recall that cheering crowd, above).
So, instead of killing this poor shmoe, the crew is inching him closer and closer to the edge of the deck railing in the final shot. As soon as the cameras stop rolling, and that ball-busting pirate director says it’s a wrap, Mr. Map surely becomes shark chum.
This tale didn’t have a happy ending. Or beginning. Everyone loses.
Unless you pick up a bottle of Captain Morgan Private Stock from your local retailer. It’s really good, and it makes me feel like I’m fifty feet tall and carved out of diamond, so no one can hurt me.
#2 – Wet Dreams On Rise for NBA Stars, Redefines Morning Shoot-Around:
- Product: Gatorade
- Subtext: “Kevin, who used all the Kleenex?”
- Unfortunate because: Dwyane should totally just tell Kevin how he feels
All you need to know about this one is that Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant wake up at night in cold sweats thinking about each other. HOTT. (With two T’s, that’s how you know it’s for realz). (With a Z, that’s how you know it’s serious.)
Hey, if Kevin and Dwyane want to get it on, good on them, I’m not here to judge them.
Even if they don’t want to hose each other down with G2, I’m sure it’s difficult to see past a mountain of Gatorade money to care much about the art direction of a commercial. But I seriously doubt that wet dreams were part of what Gatorade wants to peddle here.
This generation of NBA stars – oy vey!
Do you think Michael Jordan ever woke up thinking about his contemporaries? No, he was busy being a creepy weirdo in social situations. He was focused on winning… the NBA’s Worst Dressed award, every year he was in the league.
Do you think Magic & Bird ever dreamed about each other? No. Magic never slept. He was busy mowing down groupies on his way to contracting and beating AIDS. Larry Bird never slept. He just sat in the dark for eight hours, silently grinding his teeth and waiting for the rest of the world to wake up so he could punch it in the face.
However, this does beg the question: if two people each have nocturnal emissions about the other, does it count as sex?
#3 – Suburban Housewife Discovers Husband Missing, Lustily Eyes Replacement:
- Product: Sprint Truly Unlimited Data
- Subtext: Cuckoldry
- Unfortunate because: Marriage seems hard enough without multimillionaire , non-identical husband-impostors taking a stab at compliant housewives, am I right?
This wins the award for Most Blatant. This has to be on purpose, right? Where the undertones of infidelity and cuckoldry are so obvious that it gets me thinking/talking/blogging about it, thereby bringing more attention to Sprint Truly Unlimited Data?
No, this isn’t coincidental or accidental. If Mad Men has taught me anything, it’s that advertisers put the ‘b’ in subtle when it comes to surreptitiously communicating messages to consumers. Then again, there’s nothing subtle about your mother leering at Kevin Durant like Wile E. Coyote licking his lips over a bucket of fried roadrunner legs.
She can’t get the kid out of the room fast enough at 0:16. “Go play,” because, you know, chores are private things that mommies and daddies do. Or mommies and Uncle Kevin. At 0:19 she even starts to take off her wedding ring.
Further, if the total lack of smartphones on Game of Thrones has taught me anything, it’s that magic and technology never exist simultaneously. This commercial has technology, so we know that magic is not real. Ergo, that doesn’t look like Kevin Durant, that is Kevin Durant. He’s standing in their kitchen, wearing dad’s pajamas no less! It couldn’t be more macabre if he showed up wearing dad as a skin suit. Dad is gone, and if he isn’t worm food already, he’s slowly suffocating in the trunk of an abandoned car on the South Side of Chicago.
Ask yourself, America – is Truly Unlimited Data worth cuckolding and murder?
Then there’s the racial component. I often like to say that “I live in a post-racial world,” and, “I don’t see race, I just see people,” because it’s the truth. Then again, I won’t pretend I don’t live in a world full of shitty racial stereotypes and tired cultural tropes. A fair number of you saw this commercial and thought, Uh-oh, huge black man and an Asian woman, there could be trouble here.
Sure, it’s an NBA ad, so there’s just a demographic likelihood that it’s going to be a tall black guy, because white athletes are more likely to be funneled into baseball and accounting, but if it’s Steve Nash that shows up in the kitchen, you wouldn’t be thinking the same thing. You’d be thinking, Did that drifter follow this lady home from the market?
This is probably where someone tells me that they “didn’t really see that” in the ad, so I’m supposed to suddenly feel weird about feeling weird. Double egg on my face.
In any case, this ad has enough stink on it that I’ll never consider switching from Verizon to Sprint. Verizon’s network is the bomb, yo! Sprint’s wholesale endorsement of infidelity and tacit disdain for the institution of marriage is appalling.
This ad truly disgusts me. Verizon doesn’t even offer unlimited data!
UPDATE: Online magazine Asiance – Connecting Asian American Women to the World gives this ad the “OK,” and even though it seems to be due in large part to the fact that the commercial doesn’t overtly perpetuate any worse/more well-known stereotypes, perhaps Sprint gets a pass? Anyways, if anyone needs a White Knight, you know where to find me. On the Internet.