While the footballs at the 2020 Super Bowl were certainly nice, every mindless consumer knows that commercials are where the fun and excitement really lie.
But as nice as it would be to just sit back and enjoy all of the brands paying famous actors millions of dollars to tell us what to buy, as a professional Doctor of Commercial Studies (D.CS), it's important to me to dig deeper into the trends currently permeating the ad space. Why? Because I paid a lot of money for this fake degree, so I might as well put it to good use. More importantly though, there's a storm brewing in the world of mass media advertisements.
Of all the commercial-related dissertations I've written, none have brought me closer to the maw of insanity than "The Assh*le Inspection Hellscape of the Charmin Bears Commercials." A deep dive into the history of Procter & Gamble's Charmin toilet paper commercials revealed a humanoid bear-populated dystopian America wherein the entire system and culture––social, political, and sexual––revolved around inspecting assh*les for little chunks of toilet paper. Ultimately, I posited that through their attempts to normalize the nonexistent concept of "assh*le inspection," the psychopaths at Charmin were attempting to turn their sick fantasy into a reality, most likely in order to sell more Charmin brand toilet paper. Now I fear that the 2020 Super Bowl commercials have proven the truth to be worse than I could even have imagined. One might even call it...the Ad-pocalypse.
Before we can discuss the looming Ad-pocalypse though, we must first travel back to May 25, 1988, the air date of the final episode of the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere. An otherwise standard medical drama throughout its six season run, the series finale baffled viewers with the reveal that all of the show's events took place within the mind of a young autistic boy named Tommy Westphall. Such an out-of-left-field reveal would be disturbing on its own, but St. Elsewhere did not exist in a bubble.
Rather, a number of characters on St. Elsewhere had made guest appearances on other TV shows whose characters, in turn, had appeared on even more TV shows. Thus spawned the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis. First proposed by comic book/TV writer Dwayne McDuffy, the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis suggests that if St. Elsewhere existed solely in the mind of an autistic boy and the St. Elsewhere characters had appeared on other TV shows, then that would imply that all of these TV shows exist in a single connected universe made up by the same autistic boy. When fully worked out, this connected universe encompassed roughly 90% of all TV shows at the time.
This establishes precedent. If we accept the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis, then we also accept that when two characters appear within a canonical crossover, those characters must exist within the same universe––henceforth known as the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis Theorem. Which brings us back to the 2020 Super Bowl commercials.
Brand crossovers seemed to be the name of the game for commercial marketers this year. A bizarre commercial for Sabra hummus featured WWE superstar Ric Flair, drag queens Kim Chi and Miz Cracker, Megan Thee Stallion, a bevy of TikTok stars, and most importantly, Chester Cheetah from the Cheetos commercial. Considering the fact that Ric Flair seemed to be appearing as his wrestling persona, this means that Chester Cheetah exists within the same universe as the WWE.
Similarly, the Walmart spot featured aliens and space-farers from fun franchises including Star Wars, Men and Black, Toy Story, The Lego Movie, and also Arrival––a movie about linguistics and coming to terms with the loss of a child. It stands to reason, then, that the Walmart commercial most likely does not fall within any sort of official canon, and therefore the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis Theorem does not apply. The same cannot be said for the horrors that follow.
Procter & Gamble
In "Planters: Baby Nut," a commercial spot for Planters peanuts, the ongoing narrative of Planters mascot Mr Peanut's death is continued at his funeral, thereby establishing canon. Mourned by Mr. Clean and the Kool-Aid Man, this ad sees Mr. Peanut revived as Baby Nut through the powers of Kool-Aid Man's tears; but more importantly, it establishes the fact that Mr. Clean, Kool-Aid Man, and Mr. Peanut exist within the same canonical universe.
But Mr. Clean appeared in another 2020 Super Bowl commercial, too––a spot titled "P&G Presents: When We Come Together, an Interactive Super Bowl Party, America's Choice."
The ad, intended as an interactive endorsement of Procter & Gamble cleaning products, plays out as follows:
Actress Sophia Vergara is hosting a Super Bowl party that is nearly ruined by a guest disastrously covering the entire house in spilled chili. Luckily, Procter & Gamble mascots are there to help. Mr. Clean is there with his trusty mop. Bounty Man, a buff superhero who shoots rolls of Bounty paper towels from his crotch and looks alarmingly like character actor Rob Riggle, swoops in. Football player Troy Palomalu makes an appearance in his capacity as the former Head & Shoulders shampoo spokesman. Even the Old Spice guy, Isaiah Mustafa, is there on his horse. And then Bounty Man enters the bathroom to find...
Procter & Gamble
Actress Busy Philipps witnessing the young Charmin bear mid-asshole inspection. As the bear bares his assh*le, dancing and singing about his Charmin clean heinie, we come to the terrifying realization that all of these characters must exist within the same assh*le inspection hellscape as the Charmin Bears. In fact, the lack of surprise with which Busy Phillips, a presumably real person, approaches Junior's assh*le inspection suggests that for her, assh*le inspection is also boilerplate.
Moreover, thanks to the prior connection amongst Mr. Clean, Kool-Aid Man, and Mr. Peanut, we can assume that these mascots are subject to constant assh*le inspection, too. Remember, in order to travel in the Charmin Bear America, TSA must first inspect your assh*le. This likely doesn't present a huge issue for Mr. Clean, but Mr. Peanut and Kool-Aid Man might be in trouble. Peanut tends to complicate stool, and Kool-Aid Man's entire body is prone to leakage, so it's exceedingly likely that neither of them have particularly clean assh*les. Unfortunately, both mascots are likely subject to hatred and disenfranchisement within the assh*le inspection dystopia of Procter & Gamble's ideal America.
Procter & Gamble
Scarier, the inclusion of Sophia Vergara and Busy Philipps brings all of this dangerously close to home. If real human actresses Sophia Vergara and Busy Philipps have analogues in the Charmin Bears' universe, this means that actual humans are being subjected to assh*le inspection by what is almost certainly a fascist regime of cartoon bears. And if Troy Palomalu exists within this world, that might also mean that there's an NFL. Are the players forced to go through assh*le inspection before every game?
The alternative reading is that the Sophia Vergara and Busy Philipps in the Charmin Bears' universe are not analogues, but rather the real Sophia Vergara and Busy Philipps. This reading might even hold more weight, considering the fact that Sophia Vergara's son, Manolo, makes an appearance in the commercial, too. This further muddles the line between fiction and reality, as the Sophia Vergara in Charmin world can no longer be viewed as just a celebrity face, but rather as a full human with a rich inner life. In the worst case scenario, Procter & Gamble might be attempting to establish a real world canon, meaning that, per the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis Theorem, their sick Charmin Bear assh*le inspection hellscape would actually be our reality. Which would mean: The Charmin Bears are out there, waiting, plotting to inspect your assh*le.
I pray I am wrong. I pray this is not the case. But I fear that the Ad-pocalypse is already upon us. I said we needed to stop the Charmin Bears. I begged the consumers to listen. They did not. Now it might be too late. So when the Charmin Bears come to inspect your assh*le, please remember: As consumers, this is our fault.