Phys ed was the class I dreaded most in high school, not so much because I was lousy at sports (I really was lousy at sports), but because of all the jocks. For some reason, athletic, macho guys took great delight in making life hell for uncoordinated, unmanly guys like me. Even in today’s more enlightened times, if you put a couple of stereotypical teenaged jocks together with a stereotypical gay teen, a spirited round of bullying is likely to ensue.
But of course, all these youthful hijinks are left behind in adulthood, right? It gets better, after all. The nightmare of adolescence eventually ends when we emerge as mature, evolved beings who enthusiastically embrace each other’s sexual identities. While that utopia may be approximated in some TV shows, it hasn’t so much blossomed in sports. Full-grown jocks with ripped muscles, washboard abs and thighs of steel still tend to enjoy making fun of anyone they judge to be less masculine than themselves.
On the upside, today’s adult jocks don’t seem as likely to engage in physical bullying as their teen counterparts. Instead, they favour psychological bullying in front of a television audience of millions. That’s right, we’re just a few days away from Super Bowl Sunday.
Rather than calling Richard Simmons a faggot and giving him a good bashing, today’s jocks create Super Bowl commercials for the enjoyment of other jocks. A Bridgestone ad broadcast during the 2008 game, for example, shows a male driver swerving to miss a deer, then swerving again to avoid Alice Cooper. But when the driver spots Richard Simmons in his headlights, he floors it, swerving away only at the last nanosecond, scaring the crap out of Simmons. The message reinforced in the minds of the millions of teenaged football fans: effeminate guys deserve to be punished.
One of the highly publicized finalists in the contest to create the 2011 Doritos Super Bowl commercial shows a guy licking his lips over his neighbours’ Doritos. He doesn’t seem to care that his neighbours are a pair of cute, scantily clad, effeminate men. But when his wife suspects he’s drooling over the gay neighbours, the guy is mortified. The commercial ends with the gay dudes happily confident that their suspicions about the guy next door are confirmed. The message: gay men wear slutty clothes, act effeminately and have a predatory interest in straight men.
Other examples from Super Bowls past include the 2007 Snickers ad of two male auto mechanics doing something outrageously manly to make up for accidently kissing each other.
And to illustrate that jocks are equal-opportunity bullies, there’s the 2011 LivingSocial ad that shows a burly, bearded guy so motivated to save money that he turns to cupcakes, yoga, facials and ultimately, wearing women’s clothing.
But while TV networks approved such gay-hostile ads, a gay dating commercial was banned from the 2010 Super Bowl broadcast. It shows two stereotypical adult jocks watching the game on TV. When their hands accidentally touch in a chip bowl, they suddenly embrace and kiss passionately. I guess the network felt compelled to protect football fans from this commercial. What jock wants to live in a world where you can’t tell the gays from the straights, and there’s the ever-present danger that one of your straight buddies may suddenly get amorous, and worse, you might reciprocate?
Thanks to Super Bowl ads, a new generation of teenaged jocks is fully trained in all the reasons why lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people deserve to be bullied. But there is hope that, one day soon, a major football, hockey or basketball star will come out publicly, and everything will begin to change.