(Updated on January 22, 2017)
Break out the guacamole, it’s time for some Super Bowl sociology!
What does the Super Bowl mean in our society? This is far from just a sporting event or even just the last game of the season.
The Super Bowl is a sociological phenomenon.
It’s a great learning moment using an event that everyone has at least heard of and that many of our students will be watching…or at least a social event where the game is played on TV. Although many of our students will be deeply involved in the event, few have thought about it from a sociological perspective. Below are some interesting sources from sociology and other disciplines that can help shed light on the sociology of the Super Bowl.
First, Doug Hartman of The Society Pages has an excellent overview Contexts since 2003, examining sociologists’ explanations of the role of sport, particularly football, in socializing us into what it means to be ‘masculine’. As Hartman writes, “Sports gave them, as young boys and teenagers, a reason to come together, socialize with other boys (and men), and begin to figure out what separates boys from girls: how to act like men. . Boys mainly play sports because it is where they can interact with other boys. In childhood, it is also an opportunity to spend time with older brothers and fathers. See full article for many more roles that sport plays in maintaining masculinity and a good list of recommended resources.
We come of age quickly and attend Super Bowl viewing parties because it’s where we can interact with others. Imagine how quiet it will be on the dorm floor on a Sunday night. “Where is everyone?” They are watching the Super Bowl with others. The pressure of socialization strongly encourages us to hang out with everyone else watching the game, even if we don’t like, care, or have any idea about the game. Try explaining to someone that you don’t want to attend because “the Super Bowl promotes a violent hegemonic patriarchy and the commercialization of our leisure (see below for more). I promise you’ll at least look weird. One website says that only 5% of viewers watch the game alone, and the average number of people attending a Super Bowl party is 17. This data should be critically analyzed before being taken to heart, but it is interesting. We watch the Super Bowl collectively, socially. Failure to do so may result in social sanctions. We watch so much together that cities with Super Bowl teams see it. increase in influenza deaths due to increased human interaction. Watching the Super Bowl together creates such a sense of social cohesion that à la Durkheim, researchers found that suicide rates on more recent Super Bowl Sundays are lower than on the Sunday before and after the Super Bowl.
Symbolic interaction and event drama (turgy).
There is a socially determined way to watch the Super Bowl and cheer for your team. Watching the Super Bowl is different than watching a Broadway musical. The joy of your team includes active support during the event. We shout: “Go, go, go!” when our team’s defender breaks away from the fight. We may even get so excited that we spill a beer or knock out some chips. We don’t do the same thing in musicals, even if you feel like you wanted to.
Ethnographic Observation of the Superbowl: Watching Us Watch
The Super Bowl is also a great place to observe gender roles. To demonstrate the sanctions associated with gender roles, ask your students to watch what happens when they cheer for the team with the same intensity and aggression as the male students. Do others respond to such aggressive female cheering with, “Damn Jane, calm down.” When women become “too aggressive” or passionate, do they violate the boundaries of what it means to be feminine? Are they subject to subtle or overt verbal sanctions?
Then there are the ads. The next day, when people talk about the Super Bowl, they often talk about their favorite commercials. The media will undoubtedly continue to examine ads as content next week and beyond. The ASA TRAILS training resource (now free to all ASA members) includes an activity posted by Carla D Ilten, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Based on the work of Horkheimer and Adorno, the activities of the Super Bowl commercials are linked to critical theory.
Her summary explains more:
“In this media class, students will learn to view advertising through the lens of Critical Theory. Students will learn how “the whole world passes through the filter of the culture industry” and separate the fun and entertainment of the genre from its cultural messages of inclusion and exclusion. This media activity is intended as a lesson that follows a lecture on Horkheimer and Adorno’s text The Culture Industry. Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ (1944). It uses a list of the “Top 10 Funniest Superbowl Ads” to help students actively identify and understand key critical theory concepts such as the “commodification of culture,” consumerism, totality, and alienation, as well as fun, frolic, entertainment, and more. to suppress the vehicle’s resistance and reduce powerlessness’.
With growing concerns about brain injuries and long-term damage, regulatory shaming sanctions have begun to tarnish the image of All-American football. A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of retired players and the NFL and NCAA. The NFL has agreed to pay up to $5 million to each retired player with a brain injury. The idea that at least some of the players in the upcoming Super Bowl will suffer life-threatening brain injuries will undoubtedly loom large over this year’s game. Unless the rules are changed or technology creates “safer” helmets, the football game, and eventually the Super Bowl, will take on additional social meanings, tarnished by today’s tumultuous celebrations.
“Please pass the chips and we can watch something else?”
Teach well, it’s important.
Leave a Comment