Smashing the "M*A*S*H" series-finale record of 106 million viewers, Sunday's superb Super Bowl was watched by 106.5 million, making it the biggest TV event in U.S. history.
Transcending a traditional sporting event, the Super Bowl has become America's biggest undeclared secular holiday, with families and friends gathering in living rooms or barrooms to watch together. And aggregating this many Americans can't be done with an energized base of male sports fans alone. Of all adults watching, 54 percent were men, 46 percent were women. Those are numbers rarely seen in prime-time programming, which usually skews significantly more female.
Given those demographics, many viewers may have been surprised by the theme running through several highly hyped Super Bowl commercials. No, not the sex-sells spots with Megan Fox for Motorola, or Danica Patrick, this year's "GoDaddy girl." They've always been there. What stood out were blatantly sexist spots featuring henpecked husbands, boyfriends or lovers being implored to take back a more traditional relationship role.
"Calling all men: it's time to wear the pants," said Dockers. "Man's last stand, " exclaimed an ad for Dodge Charger. "Change out of that skirt, Jason," scolded Jim Nantz in Flo TV's "Injury report" ad, which reports that Jason's "girlfriend has removed his spine, rendering him incapable of watching the game." Of course, most of it was in good fun, and many of the ads ranked high in influential "ad-meters." But maybe men -- who are now outnumbered in the workforce and on college campuses -- responded well in focus groups for the ads. If so, it's a trend to watch for in pop culture, which invariably influences politics as well.
One thing's for sure: Women not only aren't keeping men from watching the big game(s), they're often getting the guys together in the first place. Next up, the Winter Olympics, which in past years has been more popular with women than men.