The Super Bowl: the one time of year when most of America gathers around the TV to enjoy the national past-time of football, eats their weight in wings, and marvels at the horrors of some seriously offensive commercials.
For every memorable, sexy (in a good way), inspired, funny, sentimental, and/or effective Super Bowl commercial, there are still some that push all the wrong buttons and makes you wonder, “They paid a million bucks a minute…for this?” While we don’t know whether the ads for the upcoming Super Bowl XLVII will make us long for each commercial break or make us horrified for society as a whole (the spots we’ve seen so far are relatively harmless, even the Jamaican accent Volkswagen spotand the one featuring Kate Upton “washing a car”), here are 10 controversial Super Bowl ads that pushed the boundaries of taste and got people talking. Well, the ones that didn’t eventually get pulled by their sponsors, anyway.
Groupon’s Grotesque Social Commentary: Maybe they were trying to go for satire or spoof with these commercials, but they really just came off as insensitive and downright racist. From Cuba Gooding Jr.‘s spot about whale watching (haha, it’s hilarious because the planet is terrible and they are going extinct) to Elizabeth Hurley‘s turn comparing deforestation to bikini waxes (haha, it’s hilarious because the planet is terrible and we are depleting our source of life) these were just plain wrong. But nothing upset viewers more than when Timothy Hutton suggested that the plight of the Tibeten people is bad and all, but who can be upset when they make such delicious food? You see, because human suffering is no match for your $10 Groupon. The ad quickly drew backlash on Twitter and from human rights supporters. Even two years later, it’s still feels messed up.
SalesGenie.com Grants Blatant Racism: If SalesGenie.com were marketing their products to racists, they probably succeeded with these ads that played up racial stereotypes (in this one, an Indian man needs their service because he has so many children to support) and were downright offensive. See if you can guess who these pandas were meant to represent.
Super Model, Super Sexism: Of course, GoDaddy.com is hardly the only advertiser to be accused of sexism in their Super Bowl ads. In 2012, Teleflora put Victoria’s Secret super model Adriana Lima in lingerie and told male viewers that the secret to Valentine’s Day is simple: “Give and you shall receive.” As Stylelite.com put it, “Dudes, if you buy your lady friend flowers for Valentine’s Day, she’ll basically have no choice but to touch your genitals.”
Bud Light: Press 1 For ‘Ugggggggh’: You pretty much knew you were in for unfunny drivel the minute Carlos Mencia hit the screen, but who knew you’d also get an ice cold serving of offensive stereotypes, too? In the ad Mencia plays a ESL teacher who informs his students, in stereotypes, how to order a Bud Light. The kicker is that when someone asks them for one they say they don’t speak English. If nothing else, this commercial was an equal opportunity annoyer.
Holiday Inn, Tolerance Out: It’s hard to imagine that a commercial that pokes fun at transsexuals would get put on the air today, but it did back in 1997. In the ad, a man is stunned to find his old high school pal Bob is now — gasp! — a woman. It’s as confusing (why would this make anyone want to stay at a Holiday Inn, exactly?) as it is harmful.