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    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • February 6, 2013 in Columnists

    The attempted murder of passion: the Go Daddy Superbowl commercial

    “To this day she could make tap water boil just by kissing him.”
    Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

    I remember watching the Go Daddy kiss between the beauty and the nerd.  Bar Rafaeli and a perfectly nice young man named Jesse Heiman (who is twice as old as he looks) exchanged an honest to pete, spit exchanging, tongue-action kiss that was seen by millions.  I hated it.  I hated the way he looked, as if he was the innocent victim of the jocks setting up the ugly boy with a fantasy date, only to humiliate him.  I hated the way Bar Rafaeli looked afterward: like she wanted to vomit.

    The Go Daddy kiss

    The Go Daddy kiss

    This thing was wrong on every level.  First off, it was a cruel insult to both of them. It was an insult to Bar Rafaeli because she was nothing more than an object of lust and also an unreachable object stripped of personhood. Jesse Heiman because he is being held up as the most revolting male they could find, a grotesque, also stripped of personhood.

    As a woman of size and no great beauty, I have been stripped of my own personhood on a routine basis, so I know precisely how it feels.  The assumptions of my inferiority have been legion, from the presumption of my stupidity, to having no personality, to discovering that, for every 10 pounds I lost, my opinions grew less irritating and my conversation more charming.  Even more so, there was the attitude, expressed in front of me as if I was a footstool,  that my passion and my love, and that of anyone like me, were nothing but pathetic emotional deformities to be viewed with pity, disgust and contempt.

    I have also known people of great physical beauty.  After a lifetime of  yearning to look like that, I was stunned to hear that they suffered from many of the same things as I did.  People assumed they were stupid, that they would not like anybody who did not meet their standards of beauty, that they had nothing to give, no heart, that they were vainglorious and cruel.  People wrote them off, were afraid of them, and avoided them.  Some of the great beauties of the age have lamented that they could never get a date because people were terrified of them.  Too many presumed that they were people incapable of ever truly loving, shallow-hearted creatures that they were.

    Psyche revived by the kiss of love

    Psyche revived by the kiss of love

    But wait — there was more to despise about this commercial!  This was a seriously carnal kiss, way too intense for something kids were going to watch (although the majority probably just said “ew!” as most children will when they see grownups kissing like this).  The truly ghastly part of it was that it was an insult to real passion and honest lust.  It was the commercialization of the erotic in a way that was insulting to the passion that can spring up between people – either through enduring love or that breathless moment of discovery never intended to last.  Despite the general Judeo-Christian-Islamic detestation of the physical expression of love, it is truly sacred when it is as it should be – a tremendously vulnerable, deeply trusting act of more than the merely physical between two human beings.

    This commercial took that sacred passion and made a mockery of it.  It parodied the beauty of human connection for money and held her up as a caricature of a human being – an archetypical simulacrum no more capable of connection than a straw doll and him as an animate Quasimodo with no more humanity than a golem.

    Even an ad can have a powerful social impact; in fact, they are designed to.  They can form our ideas of what it is to be male or female, what we consider to be beauty – or not, our attitudes about sexuality and love, and what we value about this world and each other.  If the creators of such ads wish to try to evade the social responsibility they hold by stating that it was just a short, meaningless commercial merely intended to sell a product, then they are wilfully ignoring a history that started when snake oil salesmen were hawking their wares (I say “salesmen” because saleswomen were few and far between when it all began).  Ads are designed to make you believe anything they show as truth, all too often with no regard to consequence.

    Do we really want this to be the truth we embrace?

    • I am sorry this affected you so strongly. I just looked at it like I do most commericials, stupid and passed over by my DVR. The guy was quoted as saying he did it for the exposure and boy did that work. Everyone is talking about it and Go Daddy is now in the public’s mind. All commercials exploit for money and recognition. I agree with your points but just don’t spend much time watching these mindless things or caring about them one way or the other.

        • Maya North

        • February 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm
        • Reply

        Oh, my initial reaction was like most people’s — mostly “what the hell?” mixed with “ew.” It was only after I cogitated on it for a while (and you’ve probably already noticed that I am a great cogitator ( 😉 ) that I began to make the connections. My daughter does this — she can construct an entire universe out of the angels dancing on the head of a pin. I also grew up in Missouri during desegregation and have seen what a single word can expand to create. This is one of the kernels at the heart of a terrible infection that harms our world in ways I am still just learning to count. After all, acorns also start small…

    • I agree with what you’ve written but with 80 percent of the pressure turned off. Good news, judging by everyone I’ve heard (friends and commentators) this commercial has been universally panned.

      • Maya North

      • February 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm
      • Reply

      It’s my firm belief that the greatest consequences can start with the smallest of things. In this case, it was a moment’s illustration of greater ills–the marginalization of people (especially beautiful, especially not–and all sorts of folks in the middle) and using something I consider sacred to do so, that I found so despicable. That it happens constantly in our society doesn’t do a thing to make it better. I’m pretty sure most people panned it because it was also stupid with a major “ew” factor, but I am ever one to find the complexities within the simple…

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