Jan 292003
Authors: Paul Franco

Excellent, spell-binding, superb, tear-jerking are all adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe the spectacle that was the Super Bowl. Forget the actual game; the game isn’t what matters on Super Bowl Sunday. What matters is the entertainment found when there is no play on the field. That’s right: what everyone really cares about are the commercials.

During timeouts, we were blessed with beer commercials, movie trailers and more beer commercials. We saw the much anticipated trailer to Terminator 3 (“She’ll be back!); we saw football-playing horses standing around waiting for a zebra referee to review a play (“He’s not a jackass, he’s a zebra!”); we saw the trailers for the sequel to the Matrix (Kick, pow, punch, bam!) and The Hulk (“Don’t make me angry!”); and of course the Coors Light twins (“And….twins!”)

But it was when the marketing agencies took time out to be serious that they most grabbed my attention. The Super Bowl may be time of levity; a time when people want to get drunk and forget the worries of the world while watching grown men deliver body-crushing blows, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a time out from the beer-guzzling and face-stuffing to learn important life lessons.

Usually the deepest thought I have during the Super Bowl is “Who’s going to get me another beer?” But one ad in particular brought me out of my general stupor and apathy towards the world and had me thinking. In order to do justice to the ad and its message I must describe it shot by shot.

It begins with a middle-aged woman staring at a pregnancy test. Okay, I thought, it’s a commercial for pregnancy tests. This seemed kind of odd in the testosterone-fueled environment that is the Super Bowl, yet because I thought this, my attention was instantly grabbed.

Next we see a close-up of the pregnancy test applicator. We can’t tell if it’s positive or not or if the woman wants it to be positive. In walks the husband who watches attentively with his wife. Have these two been trying to have children, but they can’t? Or are they worried about providing for a new addition to the family? Either way, it makes for intriguing television.

Words that say something to the effect of, “Having a child can greatly affect your life,” flashes on the screen for a second. We are transported back to the couple eyeing the pregnancy test, it’s positive. They look distraught, but we have yet to see why. Words begin to slowly appear on the screen as if they are being typed: “They are about to be the youngest….grandparents on the block.”

The camera returns to the parents and pans over to reveal their daughter crying and a voiceover begins. I expected the great disembodied voice to tell me to use condoms. Or, if the voice was a conservative I thought I’d be told to wait until marriage. Either would make a ton of sense. But, here is where the viewer is thrown for a loop, the greatest loop in commercial history. The voice informs us: “Marijuana can impair your judgment.”

And that was the end of the commercial, the end of a roller coaster ride of emotions. First we feel happy, “Ahhh, they’re having a baby!” Then apprehension sets in, “Why do they look so nervous?” And after that we are shocked, “It’s not the woman that’s pregnant, it’s their teenager.” Finally, a cloud of confusion falls over our minds “The pregnancy was caused by her having smoked weed?”

As I thought about it more, the puzzlement began to disperse. It wasn’t the weed that knocked her up. The smoking of the weed impaired her judgment such that she went out and had sex, thus leading to the unplanned pregnancy. Marijuana isn’t the father of the baby, but it might as well be. Hell, her judgment was so impaired by the weed that she doesn’t even know who the father is. Life lesson learned: don’t smoke marijuana, you’ll lose your mind and get pregnant if you do.

Not only does the commercial give us a life-changing message, it also leaves room for an advertising dynasty. It seems that it is already part two of a series. Remember the girl who takes a hit from the bong and falls back into the clutches of a lecherous teenager in that “Harmless?” ad. I think that is the same girl in the Super Bowl ad.

I can see part three now: A young woman paces in front of a nursery. We see a three-week old baby that is hooked up to a breathing machine. Words appear on the screen or a voiceover begins: “Marijuana impaired her judgment. She got pregnant. Now her baby was born premature.” The baby’s heart monitor beeps and spells out the slogan: “Harmless?”

I’m not sure about the statistical link between smoking marijuana and pregnancy rates, but this ad scared me into learning the appropriate course of action concerning weed. I won’t smoke because I don’t want to get pregnant. Pay no attention to the fact that I can’t get pregnant because who knows what will happen if you smoke pot? The ends justify the means: Harmless?

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