Culture Clips: How ‘Bout the Super Bowl (Ads)?

The New England Patriots are world champions. Again.

Do I sound bitter? I don’t mean to. The 111.3 million people who watched the game were treated to a pretty epic come-from-behind victory, after all. But maybe a few of us are just getting a little tired of Tom Brady constantly hoisting the Lombardi Trophy above his head. At least that’s what the ratings suggest. The game fell short of the all-time record of 114.4 million viewers in 2015 (oh, look! Brady was holding the Lombardi Trophy that year, too!), and about 600,000 fewer than last year’s Super Bowl 50.

But who am I to quibble over a few hundred thousand viewers? The numbers are still astronomically huge. As The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson points out, more than twice as many people watched the Super Bowl than bought tickets to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Which helps explain why companies were willing to dole out $5 million for a 30-second spot—plus, according to The New York Times, another cool mil to market it. That’s right, companies are now advertising their ads. Ironically, these businesses pay that kind of coin even though studies prove that Super Bowl ads generally don’t work that well.

But still, we all talk about those ads the day after. And what ads made the most favorable impression this year? According to USA Today’s annual Ad Meter, Kia—with its “Hero’s Journey” ad featuring Melissa McCarthy—became the evening’s biggest winner (at least in terms of the commercials). Indeed, several car companies had big nights, with Honda’s “Yearbooks” ad tallying the Ad Meter’s second-highest score, and Audi’s “Daughter” coming in third. Budweiser’s immigrant-tinged story of co-founder Adolphus Busch, “Born the Hard Way,” crept into fourth place (despite its lack of those iconic Clydesdales).

Seems there was a halftime show of some sort, too—this one featuring Lady Gaga repelling from the tip-top of Houston’s NRG Stadium, dancing up a storm and, for some, offering an unexpected message of national unity (even as others said it was filled with hidden messages.) But inclusive and healing or not, it seems loads of viewers were more focused on Gaga’s exposed tummy, saying the “Born This Way” singer could stand to lose a few pounds. Gaga’s supporters responded quickly, accusing critics of body shaming. But frankly, all Gaga likely cares about is that the show is adding heft to her bank accounts: Sales of her albums surged more than 1,000% following her performance.

But fear not, Falcons fans. The Super Bowl isn’t the only thing going on in pop culture these days. There are many other happenings to get despondent over.

The Atlantic, for instance, posted a fascinating story on, artificial intelligence and Christianity. Specifically, if robots develop consciousness, does that mean they have souls? Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine and who identifies as Christian, told The Atlantic, “If humans were to create free-willed beings, absolutely every single aspect of traditional theology would be challenged and have to be reinterpreted in some capacity.”

But some might question whether, given our reliance on technology and our attachment to our screens, we’re fully conscious ourselves. A study suggests that social media, ironically, may be making us antisocial. The New York Times suggests that our social media habits are exhausting us—particularly the news onslaught we’re being exposed to in this politically fraught season. One daycare center posted a message on its door telling parents, “You are picking up your child! GET OFF YOUR PHONE!!!! Your child is happy to see you! Are you not happy to see your child??” A picture of the sign subsequently went viral.

Still, without those screens, we wouldn’t necessarily have known that Beyoncé is pregnant again—announcing the fact not in the traditional way, but through her Instagram account. (The lingerie-clad image—which we’re not linking to—has since become Instagram’s biggest, garnering more than 7.2 million likes in less than 24 hours.) And singles wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a new hate-based dating app. (It matches couples based on everything they collectively detest.) Oh, and now orangutans and bonobos are getting into the social media dating world, too. Researchers at the Apenheul primate park are showing the apes pictures of prospective mates online to see if there’s a certain attraction.

Well, that’s about it. But before we leave you, let’s return to the world of football—specifically James Brown, who heads CBS’s NFL pregame coverage and also happens to be an ordained minister. “My call as a minister, my belief in Jesus Christ, is the foundational stone,” he told Christianity Today. “Everything else emanates from that.” That’s good for us to remember, too.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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