Saturday Night Live was onto something with this year’s version of its annual mock Super Bowl ad for Totino’s Pizza Rolls. In it, Vanessa Bayer’s traditional wife worries about feeding “my hungry guys” for the “big game” … until she meets Ted’s sexy sister Sabine, played by Kristen Stewart.
Not only was it by far the funniest take they’ve ever done on the Totino’s ads, but it also anticipated the overarching cultural theme of the next day’s Super Bowl: Gender roles out, equality in.
For several years, the drill was this: Super Bowl happens, a bunch of disgustingly sexist ads run during it, there is a brief outcry, then everyone goes back to their lives. But this year, we had Audi musing about equal pay in an affecting—if still a bit patriarchal—ad in which a father hopes for future equality for his young daughter.
Hulu ran an ad for its upcoming adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s feminist-themed dystopian novel. Lady Gaga gave us what was likely the campiest halftime show ever and, despite truncating several of her hits to fit the time slot, included the entire “Born This Way” spoken breakdown full of call-outs to acceptance of all genders, sexualities, races, and nationalities: “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen …” Even GoDaddy, once known for its ads objectifying women, dialed it down and included a subtle nod to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
It was easy to get distracted by the two gorgeous ads that saluted immigrants, um, coincidentally at the exact time our president is trying to keep some out. (Check out the 84 Lumber and Budweiser spots if you haven’t.) But at a time when women’s issues are under attack in Washington, this year’s mainstreamiest celebration of capitalism and macho brute force said, “We’re with her, and her, and her, and her.” As the Totino’s (very clever) Twitter account said after the SNL bit: “Hey, it’s like we always say: pizza rolls, not gender roles.”