Super Bowl Fight Heats Up: Lawsuit Against CBS for Anti-Choice Ad, Rejected Gay Dating Site Cries Foul

Sarah: As you may have heard, CBS is in a bit of hot water over a Focus on the Family sponsored anti-abortion ad they’re planning to air during the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, and furthermore, gay dating site “ManCrunch” is not happy that their little ad did not make the cut for Superbowl Sunday. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Some people called on CBS to reject the $2.5 million dollar, 30-second Focus on the Family ad due to its subject matter. I for one thought it should run. After all, I wouldn’t want the network to censor more liberal speech, so it wouldn’t be fair to censor conservative speech. Well, look how that turned out (again, more on that in a minute).

The Huffington Post has a good discussion of CBS’s motives. Up to this year, they generally denied any commercial covering controversial social issues. In 2004, that meant gay rights. You’d think that would also apply to abortion, but I guess not.

The fight heated up yesterday when famed Women’s Rights Activist and powerhouse attorney Gloria Allred [left] stepped up to slam the ad. Obvs Allred opposes the ads personally for anti-choice reasons, but she has an even more pressing concern, Will CBS still insist on running this anti-choice commercial if it turns out to be misleading advertising”?

See, the ad’s story features the mother of devout Christian football player Tim Tebow, who claims she went against her doctor’s advisement during a difficult pregnancy in the Philippines to carry her pregnancy to term. She birthed Tim, and now we are all able to witness the glory of Tim running around on turf with his football, which is very lovely. I believe the message is that you shouldn’t abort your fetus because what if he turns out to be a football player.

Howevs:

Famed attorney Gloria Allred has questioned the veracity of Mrs. Tebow’s claim that doctors advised her to terminate her pregnancy, since abortion in the Philippines has been illegal since 1930 and is punishable by a six-year prison term for both the doctor and the mother.

I know. Crazy! That a conservative religious right-wing group would twist a story to promote their own agenda! It’s almost too wild to be true!

Allred goes on:

[Gloria Allred] goes on to urge [NBC head Les] Moonves to think carefully on this matter, stating, “This is not just another ad. Women’s lives are at stake. No woman should have to live in a country where abortion is illegal as it once was in the U.S. And was and is in the Philippines.”

Allred states definitively that, “No sugar coated religiously inspired ad which fails to give all of the relevant facts should be permitted to air on CBS or anywhere else.”

GLAAD has made the following statement:

“CBS’s decision to run a Focus on the Family ad during this year’s Super Bowl can’t and shouldn’t be considered in a vacuum. CBS spent years denying a platform to an LGBT-inclusive church that wanted to share a message of inclusion with a national audience. Now, when it happens to be financially inconvenient for CBS to hold to the standard it had previously imposed, the network’s expediency benefits a virulently anti-gay organization whose advocacy on these issues is the antithesis of that of the United Church of Christ.”

So THEN yesterday, CBS rejected an ad for the Superbowl from ManCrunch.com, a gay male dating website. The ad features two dudes kissing. Here, watch it!

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Normally, I’d think that CBS was being weird and maybe homophobic, maybe not. But after this Focus on the Family thing I have a lot of questions.

CBS has offered several reasons for the rejection so far, including low production quality of the video and their difficulty in verifying ManCrunch.com’s finances. Ok, sure, we can all agree that commercial doesn’t look up to the standard of the flashy, polished commercials you usually see. Although, I saw a handful of local commercials that were WAY worse than that during last year’s Superbowl broadcast, so.

ManCrunch spokeswoman Elissa Buchter told TVGuide.com:

“… the company was disappointed by the rejection. Though the debate over the ad has gathered massive attention for the site, she denied it was a publicity stunt.

“We think it’s totally discriminatory that they’re accepting other ads that make social statements, but they’re not allowing ours,” she said.

Am I crazy, or was this a horrible PR move? Whether or not this is actually purposeful discrimination, it still really looks that way. I don’t get how they could see the controversy caused by the Tebow ad and then turn around and do this. Maybe it is all because of the commercial’s quality, but do any of us actually believe that the content had no bearing on this decision?

However, Queerty has another theory:

But the fact that ManCrunch.com, the hookup site hat made one of the rejected gay ads, is now “calling on every same sex advocacy group to petition CBS and let them know this discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated” seems disingenuous. After watching the spot, I’m certain it’s not worth fighting for. And I’m absolutely positive ManCrunch never even expected their ad to air at all. Namely because it sucks so hard.

In response to the peanut gallery’s resplendent outrage, Queerty points out:

But what most of the peanut gallery misses entirely is how patently stupid ManCrunch’s ad is to begin with. For one, it makes hay out of a tired “comic” premise—WHAT?!? These two butch football fans are gay?!! NO WAY!!! That’s crazy! Forget that a Vikings fan and a Packers fan would never kiss on Super Bowl Sunday of all days, or that the blonde guy with the nice ass would never kiss the balding homely guy with the paunch without a lot of vodka.

So, here’s Autostraddle’s peanut gallery on what THEY think….


Alex: When I found out CBS rejected a gay ad for the Superbowl I got so excited! CONTROVERSY! LET’S GET EM, #YAYGAY! But this ad is so terrible, so horribly conceived, it doesn’t make any sense for what it’s actually advertising and I am mad because I was ready to choke a CBS bitch about this. I can’t fight for this nonsense. If I mentally switch out the prettier dude for a woman, and imagine they’re selling “HETERO-CRUNCH” instead, I still can’t get my head around this dumb situation where two fans of opposing teams watching the game end up ravaging-ly making out cause they touch hands in the chip bowl and this is somehow an ad for a website. So while I would’ve rejected this ad on the basis of it really sucking and not wanting my gays to be shown in such a unflattering light, CBS probs rejected this ad for its overwhelming gay content. And that’s that. Thank you.


Riese:
I HAVE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF THIS. That’s right. ManCrunch I am f*cking talking to you! As Sia once said on the cover of her album “Some People Have Real Problems,” Some People Have Real Problems!

Firstly, I’d like to contend ManCrunch’s claim that CBS would’ve run the ad if it had been a man and a woman making out. Sure, that’s probably true but gender-swapping that ad would eradicate its point, so that hypothetical gender-swapped ad would never exist and therefore I’m sorry your honor but… relevance?

The context of two men meeting in a chip bowl & making out during a football game is subversive and unexpected; the surprise of two “straight-looking” men in football jerseys necking is the ad’s “hook.” That paradox is the ad’s impetus, the very foundation on which it was constructed, and ManCrunch knows this, ’cause it was their idea.

To then claim a het dating site could launch a fresh, exciting campaign on the familiar concept of a man & a woman meeting and kissing each other is bogus, and they know it. They picked the wrong example, they should’ve said “if two straight-looking girls were making out, you would’ve run it.” I don’t know if that’s true, but at least it makes sense.

This is one of many aspects of the situation that lead me to conclude that ManCrunch knew the ad would never air, and are simply doing this for attention. And it’s working!

Every day another case of alleged homophobia crosses our virtual desks at Autostraddle.com — sometimes from individuals or citizen journalists, sometimes news stories we read on other sites, and we have to choose if we’re going to add to the publicity or stay out of it. We have to choose if we’re going to get up in arms, rally our supporters, and stand behind it.

This “is this homophobia?” stuff happens to us too; we’ve been turned down by affiliate advertisers for “sexual content.” We got a gift to post some free facebook ads that we still haven’t been able to use as all our ads have been deemed “inappropriate,” and we were kicked off our old webhosting company by a bunch of Mormons for being inappropriate. That’s the tip of the iceberg. Generally these things happen and we simmer but we go on. But we have to be careful, guys. We try to be careful in what we choose to present as a Serious Issue so that you’ll still be listening when a lesbian gets stabbed in the eye.

I’m not trying to pander to the haters here, but we’re about 3%-10% of the population right now, and when we have something to say, we need people to listen. When companies like ManCrunch clog the airways with sensationalized cases like this one, it becomes the gays crying wolf, and all of our real issues become so much noise.

Like for example; perhaps it IS a real issue that they’re allowing this Focus on the Family ad to run, considering that it has rejected for many years a United Church of Christ commercial with a message of “inclusiveness,” which featured a gay couple attempting to enter a house of worship but being turned away by a bouncer. The “controversial” tagline of the ad was “Jesus Didn’t Turn People Away. Neither Do We.” Now that’s a fair comparison. That’s an explanation I’d like to hear.

Related:

Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 131 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. when I first read this post I thought “wow cbs their really a bunch of dicks” but immediately afer I watched the ad, I thought okay no the advertising and marketing team at mancrunch are assholes!

    That is probably the most tacky commercial that I’ve ever seen, it would of been horrible for them to air. 2 idiots making out and the one friend on the side shocked, in all honestly it looked like a snl joke, are the people at mancrunch trying to give people more shit to talk about for the lgbt community?

    the whole commercial is just dumb. In all honestly I kind of think if the commercial would have been more classy CBS would of ran it, I’m usually quick to take the lgbt community’s side, being that I’ve faced a lot of discrimination…as a matter of fact just this weekend my girlfriend and I had a problem with a few assholes that were homophobic…but anyway back to what I was saying

    I really want to know who were the assholes that went into a board meeting at mancrunch and thought “OMG this is it, this commercial is everything we have been looking for” because whoever even approved of the commercial, should be evaluated because he’s clearly an ass..

  2. Thanks Sarah for looking at this from more than one angle. In many respects it’s apples and oranges in a mixed fruit salad. The supposed anti-choice ad by Focus,while not my choice, should not be censored. (and maybe she could have gone to the US for the abortion, so Allred’s argument has holes, too) And the ManCrunch ad, while definitely not my choice, should not be censored, either. (although I would cringe very time it aired, it’s just that bad) We will never make convincing arguments if we cry foul where none has clearly occurred.

  3. They weren’t even kissing! Unless, rubbing necks is the new style? I mean, I have been out of the kissing scene for a year or so…maybe I forgot how those kids do it these days?

    More seriously though- the commercial seems homophobic for NOT having them kiss for real and i am glad to not have another asinine representation of non-heteros.

  4. The commercial is stupid, horribly shot and an old cliche but the issue still stands that CBS is taking a side on a social issue by airing the Focus on the Family ad. As a television station it is not their place to take one social issue ad over another if the gay one isn’t good then scrap the FOTF one as well. They should have known this would cause such a stir and therefore should have steered clear of it. The problem now lies in the fact that FOTF is getting attention and we all know how badly they want the attention. I just think the whole thing is a big cluster f_ck. I’m so tired of Right Wing religious nuts getting air time as if no one realizes they are insane and certifiable in their beliefs. You wouldn’t let a psychiatric patient make a commercial and start a foundation would you, so why allow an irrational fact fixing group air their lies and propaganda on our airwaves. At least if you are a religious fundamental group and want a commercial on television tell the truth otherwise your freedom of speech should be taken away. Sorry but I hate them, now I’ve vented. 🙂

    • But there’s no proof that CBS didn’t pick up the ad because it was gay. They claim it was just low production value and didn’t meet their standards. That’s where the problem lies in making the comparison between the two. I think the more accurate comparison is comparing the Focus on the Family pickup to CBS’s refusal to pick up the gay church ad last year.

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  6. i’m going to say it’s safe to assume here that cbs rejects a motherfuckton of ads, right? superbowl commercial space is the most coveted advertising time that i’m aware of. do we know what kind of criteria go into their selection for these slots? i’m going to guess money and also money.

    i’m glad the ad won’t run. on top of being tacky and terribly cheap looking, i can’t imagine the absolute tidal wave of backlash at its poorly executed and awkward make out stunt. i think most things about it are beyond counter-productive for our community as a whole, not that everything queer must be politically charged, per se, but mancrunch’s obviously contrived/strategic seizure of the ad’s rejection as an opportunity for martyrdom opens them up to this kind of ideological criticism, anyway, i feel like.

    it’s a sticky issue, though i am occasionally in favor of the lgbt community self-censoring in order to make our message more palatable to the masses. which is super fucking lame and unfortunate, of course. and you know, of course i’d rather be militantly fire-bombing the houses of known prop-8 financial backers, but i’ve spent enough time in the trenches of O’ Reilly Factor middle america to know that people are just dying for another excuse to write us off as godless, sex-crazed, child-molesting heathen aliens, so i’d rather not play into their hands.

    also i can’t use words yet because it’s the morning.

    • Yeah I totes agree with you, Taylor. This would’ve been pretty bad for the gays had it aired. I just wish that companies able to make a high-quality commercial would make a pro-gay ad, instead of things like that bullshit homophobic Snickers commercial a few years ago. Or that homophobic, yuppie Budweiser commercial. So many examples!

      I also wish this ad was better so we could have a national discussion about it on proper terms. Instead, it just looks like we’re whining, as Riese said.

  7. that mancrunch ad reminds me of the final scene in bruno. a low budget stupid gag meant to cause a ton of “OMG!!!” and “WTF!!!!” agree w/ taylor about the lgbt community having to censor the more outrageous elements – sucks but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. anyway, mancrunch is crying wolf to generate publicity for their site. ignore.

    [although a little part of me wants the ad to air and be a fly on the wall on various super bowl parties in the bible belt. tee hee.]

  8. As always Sarah, fantastic article.

    And agreed: the ad is awful and I’d even bet some chips that ManCrunch did this on purpose. Riese is right: They knew the controversy would be even better publicity than the ad actually airing.

    But CBS has a history (as discussed previously) of being a conservative media outlet. The UCC rejection, the flipping out over Janet and her pasties that one Super Bowl, and now this OBVIOUS bias with the Focus on the Family ad being allowed to run. It doesn’t help their case that they run this ad the same year they deny a gay dating site (no matter how tasteless it is). And who could forget Touched by an Angel? They’re just so obvious about it.

    • I totally agree. It’s not so much that they denied a craptastic ad and more that they are allowing an INCREDIBLY politically charged ad about abortion to air. Trust me, in the (straight) South, the only thing that is worse than two men kissing is abortion. While I realize that this is the primary demographic, the Super Bowl is no more the place for discussing politics than a root canal.

      This is much more an issue of what they’ve denied in the past than why they turned down this ad.

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