Shameful branding, amateur animation and awkward players make for a painful viewing experience.
I watched the Carrie Underwood opening for Sunday Night Football for the first time last Sunday and I couldn't believe how bad it was. I felt pain watching it. I actually grimaced, not the grimace that writers write when they don't really mean a physical grimace but they also don't want to write "it hurt" for the third time.
It hurt to watch.
Carrie Underwood's Sunday Night Football Theme Song
Carrie Underwood isn't the problem, not even close. She does what she does and my guess is she's as embarrassed to have been involved in the making the sequence as I was viewing it. It made me wonder if I really wanted to watch the game, after all. More than anything, it made me wonder: who could possibly be the audience for something like that?
Something has to be truly offensive for Carrie Underwood's voice to be incapable of saving it. How can a production team ruin a country-rock theme song for the NFL whose audience, it's easy to think, would be primarily the same audience for a country-rock song?
Ah, the production team—they are the people responsible for the disaster that NBC broadcasts to upwards of 20 million people, on average, every Sunday night. Surely, they have an extensive research team exploring audience demographics and pop culture trends to pinpoint the exact scenes a video should contain to please every possible segment of that audience.
Somehow, the result of that research was:
1. No one will mind if we film Carrie in front of a green screen so that we can superimpose her weird hop-dancing over whatever players agree to do this, whenever we get a chance to film them.
2. No one will notice the players who can't act or the players who usually can act but somehow can't for this sequence or the players whose agents persuaded them after weeks of pestering that, yes, you hate acting and you can't act but this is a good idea. And they won't notice singing Eli, I promise.
3. People aren't film critics, so they won't mind the terrible animations that we paid too much money for.
4. Kids love smartphones, so lets put a giant, fake one over the whole shot, and— Oh, I got it! Lots of people have Verizon phones (and Verizon is rich) and sometimes people like Verizon commercials (and Verizon is going to pay us an actual ton of money for this) and viewers know about product placement anyway so we won't even hide it. In fact, we'll make it as big and obvious as possible so that they applaud our transparency.
5. Carrie's an incredible singer and no one will even notice how the rest of the commercial treats the audience like they're all stupid, oblivious, content-sucking numbers in our research meeting.
Great! This will be great.
They sort of got that last one right but backwards. I was so horrified by what I was watching that, after two views, I still haven't picked up a single lyric of the song that's— well, it's probably great, right? I'm sure it's really good…
The video registers on its own level of cultural embarrassment. It's cheesy beyond Limburger. Watching it causes a legitimate shock to the body.
So there's only one thing to do when the fateful opening notes play before the game tonight: just enjoy it. It's a fantastic opportunity to give it your best Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment with whomever's on the couch next to you.
To see how far we've come, enjoy a few previous NFL opening themes:
Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.