In the ad, the two men are watching the Big Game.
They are scruffy, wearing football jerseys, and appear to be straight.
A roar rises from the TV. The men cheer and both reach for the chips. Their hands touch. Their eyes lock. And then, with a singer crooning, “I really want to kiss this guy” in the background, one jumps onto the lap of the other, and they share an exaggerated, hokey – almost jokey – kiss. We never see their lips touch, but we know what’s going on.
The camera pans to the left, where their stunned friend watches. His face says, “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”
Clearly, he didn’t know his friends were into each other.
There is nothing romantic about this ManCrunch ad. There is nothing sexual or sexy. If anything, it is less explicit than the controversial 2007 Snickers Super Bowl ad where two men accidentally share a kiss and then rip out their chest hair to show they are still “manly.”
Yet CBS rejected the ad from down-low dating site ManCrunch, saying, “It is not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday.”
For CBS, it seems, a kiss is not just a kiss.
Clearly, it is time CBS revised its standards.
It’s not a surprise that CBS rejected the ad. After all, it accepted, for the first time, an advocacy ad – one that supports the anti-abortion movement, from the anti-gay conservative religious organization Focus on the Family. This comes after rejecting the beautiful “Bouncer” ad a few years ago from the United Church of Christ, which said, “No matter who you are, you’re welcome here” and included an image of a happy lesbian couple.
That on its own shows the network likely has a slightly conservative bias.
And the Super Bowl, of course, is a conservative show, peppered with ads that are filled with outdated images of women as objects to fantasize about, instead of people to get to know.
CBS says that it rejected the ManCrunch ad after looking at the company’s financials. It said the ManCrunch ad is a stunt, that the site could never afford to pay. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
But stunt or not, the fact is that CBS said in a letter that the ad “is not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday” and that “our Standards and Practices Department would be open to working with you on acceptable creative” if the credit issue were resolved.
If the decision was only based on creditworthiness, then why would the subject of inappropriate creative even come up?
No, the fact is that CBS is a broadcasting network as conservative as the Super Bowl – but not as popular. That designation goes to ABC, due, in no small part, to scripted shows such as “Modern Family,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “Grey’s Anatomy” (and, of course, to “Ugly Betty,” though low ratings has made this the final season).
These ABC shows are popular because they reflect the new reality of American life. We are bilingual. We have people of different colors in our workplaces and gays and lesbians in our families. Our lives are messy and complicated and good TV shows – and good networks – reflect that.
CBS is betting, I suppose, on winning over the conservative Fox audience. But the younger the audience gets the more gay-friendly it becomes. If CBS, which has an average viewer age of 53, wants to keep broadcasting to the next generation, it is going to have to revise its views on gays and lesbians.
CBS is going to have to acknowledge that, even between men, a kiss is just a kiss. And an ad showing that kiss should be accepted without comment.