‘Angry black woman’ Super Bowl ad promotes stereotypes

Forget the game. Super Bowl ads usually generate just as much conversation and emotion and this year temperatures might be rising a tad as the assault on the black woman continued. Courtesy of Pepsi Max, we got a black woman physically abusing her husband as she caught him cheating on his diet. Now, of course, the black woman has dark skin. After all, light-skinned women are just incapable of any sort of aggression, according to popular culture. Somehow such demanding behavior just typifies women with a darker complexion. It must be something in the melanin.

What makes the “Love Hurts” Pepsi Max spot, as it’s known, most disturbing is that both the husband and the wife are quite slender. Because there is no visible weight issue, the woman comes across as being mean for the sake of, well, just being mean. It’s as if she just can’t ever be satisfied. As a result, her husband can’t enjoy one moment of peace. Even when there is the slightest hint of one, it is easily cut short when the husband destroys the moment by glancing over at a blonde white woman. Of course, she becomes a victim of the wife’s anger at the husband and the couple must flee.

There’s so much in this commercial spot that it’s hard to know where to begin. Of course the “angry black woman” stereotype is nothing new. Sapphire has been with us for a long time. She’s become particularly popular over the last couple of years perhaps as one of the many explanations as to why the black woman is the least likely woman of any race to be married in the United States. If you missed it, it’s a matter of national concern, with not just Steve Harvey inappropriately weighing in.

[youtubevid http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZVQrH0aHGAc]

Then there’s the perpetuation of the age-old stereotype that the white woman is more delicate, i.e. more feminine, than the black woman. When they are all in a park, for example, on what appears to be a nice day, the angry black woman is noticeably overdressed. While her husband looks comfortable and relaxed, she’s in a mid-sleeve trench coat of sorts with long slacks. In contrast, the white woman is dressed in shorts and a tank, taking a break from her jog. She’s all smiles as the black woman is all frowns.

Not surprising, the spot has appeared on several top five and top ten lists. Yes, it is indeed possible that such a spot would have played out favorably if a white woman had been cast and, given that there are so few Super Bowl commercials featuring a black woman at all, some might advise that keeping quiet on the matter would make Fortune 500 companies like Pepsi more comfortable in using black women as pitch-women outside of the uber successful Pine Sol ads. But we have a problem and the black woman is in desperate need of image rehabilitation when it comes to the mainstream. Showing the angry black wife dominating her husband is dangerous. Because the husband is a slight man, there’s a subliminal message that marriage is for weak men because stronger men cannot be dominated. Considering that it is the Super Bowl, why wouldn’t a more burly man have won the job?

[NBCVIDEO source=”UNIWIDGET” video=”http://widgets.nbcuni.com/singleclip/singleclip_v1.swf?CXNID=1000004.08052NXC&WID=4a784acd2b1a7e80&clipID=1286942″ w=”400″ h=”400″]

Last year’s “black” Super Bowl ad also featured a dark-skin woman but she was a soft and sweet single mother. The Doritos spot won some fans playing off of the son being the man of the house and setting the ground rules for his mother’s newest paramour. No one asked key questions like if she’s going out on a date and her child is noticeably in elementary school, who is babysitting the son while she goes out? Yes, it’s a commercial but there’s still a story and it should be logical.

Even with a question as great as that one, last year’s “black” Super Bowl ad isn’t half as disturbing or irresponsible as this one. With “Black Marriage Negotiations” viral video sensations and articles on top of articles about the black woman’s attitude problem, not to mention the ever tired message that all black men really want white women anyway, we should be very concerned. Given the fact that black women only seem to score one appearance in an ad each Super Bowl anyway, that appearance takes on even greater significance. Unlike the black man, she doesn’t get a lot of face time during this monumental event. If it weren’t for sportscaster Pam Oliver, black women would be completely invisible during most of the NFL season.

Yes we want to see more black women in Super Bowl ads and don’t want this misstep to make companies shy away. All we’re asking is for a more balanced portrayal and to be upgraded to more than just one appearance a season. At the end of the day, that’s what really hurts.