By now, you’ve probably heard about and watched the Super Bowl commercial for frozen dinners that mocks porn addiction. Just in case you haven’t, here are links to the 30-second ad that aired nationally, and to the “uncensored” 60-second spot that Devour Foods (owned by Kraft Heinz) produced and distributed online, including on PornHub.
When we first saw the 60-second version, which was released about a week before the big game, we took issue with it on Twitter. We didn’t object to how it poked fun, necessarily, but rather, to its choice of mockery as a medium. We want to expand on that here.
As a rule, we rarely take issue with laughing in the face of addiction. Humor has real power in recovery as a means of reminding us of the absurd and painful decisions we made in the throes of acting out. (A recent podcast episode from This American Life illustrates the complex relationship between humor and tragedy in addiction better than we ever could. Give it a listen.)
But, it’s one thing to laugh at addiction as a tactic for undermining its power, and quite another to mock the pain of someone struggling with addiction and its destructive effects. Imagine if Devour and its ad agency DAVID had created a commercial in which the “girlfriend” character complains through tears and a black eye that her boyfriend becomes a violent “foodaholic” when he eats too many mediocre frozen dinners. Or one in which an impoverished girlfriend bemoans how her boyfriend drained their joint savings to “gamble” on whether the next TV dinner he buys will actually taste good. Or one in which the boyfriend becomes semi-conscious from the euphoria of eating Devour frozen meals until one day the girlfriend finds him on the bathroom floor, dead.
We could go on, but you get the point. Would any of these spots be considered clever or funny? Probably not. Is there a meaningful difference between these and one in which a girlfriend bemoans the pain of an obsession that makes her boyfriend withdraw from life and leads to her feeling coerced into producing “amateur food porn” with him against her will? We sure don’t think so.
On Super Bowl Sunday, we watched the Devour commercial again and it made us shift uncomfortably in our seats. It wasn’t just that the ad recalled the ruinous toll our porn addictions once took on relationships we cared about. We also felt the pain of the innumerable men and women across America who winced at how the spot reflected their current reality. We’d bet our bottom dollar Devour’s ad started its share of bitter arguments. It likely also pushed people who are struggling with compulsive sexual behavior deeper into isolation, making them less likely to find help because, hey, popular culture says what they’re going through is one big joke.
This week, Dr. Gail Dines and Culture Reframed issued a statement condemning the Devour ad. Dr. Dines called on Kraft Heinz to provide resources for people who struggle with very real, very painful, very destructive disorders involving compulsive porn use. We wholeheartedly support that call.
Longer-form writing from the PornHelp team on current topics relating to problem porn use and recovery.