PETA sought to make Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction look G-rated with its proposed Superbowl commercial. In the end, the spot was rejected.
Although it is acceptable to tip-toe across the line of indecency and political correctness during America’s most watched event, PETA chose to take a great big leap and hope that they landed on solid ground. Its commercial begins with a buildup of loud heavy metal music accompanying vignettes of beautiful women stripping off trench coats and night gowns to show off scantily clad curves. 10 seconds in one wonders: Has Victoria’s Secret launched a bold new campaign featuring women stripping in grottos, bath tubs and ornately decorated palaces? After a few more cuts to close-up shots of breasts and buttocks, the commercial turns from softcore porn to borderline “vegan erotica.”
As the music climaxes, so do our lovely models. Each woman in turn performs some sexual act with a firm, plump, ripe … vegetable. A coquettish cutie seems to contemplate how to hump a pumpkin, while another bikini-clad beauty sprinkles leeks and squash into a sauna before she slithers into it. A hot blonde in see-through lingerie dons a blindfold as she guides a bundle of asparagus towards her nether regions. In between quick cuts of women pleasuring themselves with what most people eat in their salads, the dumbfounded audience is finally enlightened to the message of this X-Rated ad: “STUDIES SHOW” — pause for ass shot of woman fondling pumpkin — “VEGETARIANS HAVE BETTER SEX” — woman gratifies herself with broccoli —“GO VEG. PeTA.org.”
Does PETA really expect us to believe that cutting meat, poultry and fish out of our diets will result in a better sex life? Alas, the evidence PETA cites on its website shows that slimmer and fitter individuals have a more enjoyable time in the sac than their sloth and pudgy counterparts. These astounding and groundbreaking studies conclude that healthier people perform better sexually, and PETA assumes that if you’re not a vegetarian you must be, “fat, sick and boring in bed.” Not exactly a direct cause and effect correlation.
NBC decided that the publicity from such a raunchy and risqué ad was outweighed by the potential fines from the FCC and outrage from angry parents across the country. Here I quote NBC’s official list of complaints (along with the time they appear in the commercial):
:12-:13 - licking pumpkin
:13-:14 - touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli
:19 - pumpkin from behind between legs
:21 - rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin
:22 - screwing herself with broccoli (fuzzy)
:23 - asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina
:26 - licking eggplant
:26 - rubbing asparagus on breast
This commercial was not the first (nor will it be the last) publicity stunt from PETA. Campaigns like “Go Veg” have obvious benefits: they are memorable, they boost website traffic and name recognition, and they receive a ton of free press. Unfortunately for PETA, their shocking, and sometimes desensitizing, campaigns and outreach marginalizes their true message.
In an attempt to fight back against California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” campaign, PETA endeavored to reduce milk consumption by encouraging young people to turn to a more “healthy” alternative than milk with a parodical “Got Beer?” crusade. Needless to say, PETA stopped advertising in college newspapers after widespread criticism that they were encouraging binge and underage drinking.
More recently, in its fight against dairy consumption, PETA’s executive Vice President Tracy Reiman wrote a letter to ice cream moguls and environmentalists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry), asking them to “give cows and their babies a break and our health a boost,” by removing cow’s milk from their products. And PETA’s suggested alternative to cow’s milk is … human breast milk. I kid you not, Reiman ends her letter with a catchy new slogan, “The breast is best!” PETA’s bizarre and outlandish attempts to spread its message have transformed its image from a champion of a worthy cause to a kooky granola-eating cult.
No doubt it is difficult for non-profits and activist groups to convey their messages to the masses. It doesn’t help groups like PETA that animal rights aren’t exactly Americans’ top priority when it comes to fixing our world. But bombarding its audience with cheap stunts and outrageous statements garnishes more negative than positive attention, and creates an atmosphere of apathy and triviality towards its cause.
Young people in our country weren’t energized by (P.) Diddy’s Vote or Die campaign because its message was simplistic and laughable. In contrast, the 2008 election produced record youth turnouts because of the substance and importance of the decision, not because anyone was scared that they would be murdered by a hip-hop mogul for non-participation. Groups like PETA must not buy into the “any publicity is good publicity” mantra if they truly wish to advance their cause. Animal rights activist J.P. Goodwin put it best when he said, “It’s time to say no to pie throwing, manure dumping and naked models, and get back to talking about animals.”