Super Bowl Ad-pocalypse: Return to the Charmin Bears' Assh*le Inspection Hellscape

Actual humans are being subjected to assh*le inspection by what is almost certainly a fascist regime of cartoon bears.

Procter & Gamble

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.

Tommy Westphall NBC

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.

Mr clean and kool aid man 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...

charmin bear busy philipps 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.

Mr Clean 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.

Late stage capitalism is a scourge that commodifies everything, including the self.

Most major companies range from questionably amoral to downright evil (we're looking at you, Walmart). Commercials are designed to manipulate us into connecting human emotions, humor, and our favorite stars with non-human entities that just want our money. As such, on the Super Bowl—the biggest day for advertising of the year—there is no shortage of blatantly emotionally manipulative and hypocritical ad spots. From the NFL creating an ad that protests police brutality (despite refusing to support Colin Kaepernick for doing that very thing) to Google making us cry despite historically using loop holes to pay taxes that could help millions of people, here is the ranking of the most manipulative, hypocritical ads from Super Bowl 2020.

5.New York Life Insurance—Love Takes Action

New York Life, an insurance company specializing in life insurance, sponsored an ad that explored four different Greek words for love: Philia, Storge, Eros, and Agape. It describes the latter as "love as an action," and then, over moving shots of families in various moments of struggle, happiness, and companionship, equates this kind of love to a life insurance policy. Emotionally manipulative, sure, but it's not a baseless claim to say that leaving behind a life insurance policy for your loved ones is an act of love.

Unfortunately, once you begin to read reviews of New York Life, it becomes clear why the company worked so hard to create an ad that presented them as caring stewards of money. Customer complaints on the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs alike outline a company that is intentionally opaque about their policies, offer little customer service, and avoid actually paying out policies by almost any means necessary. While it's impossible to know for sure to what degree these claims are true, it's certainly not a great sign that they worked so hard to create an ad spot that uses such strong pathos to erase a reputation of immorality and money grubbing.

4.Microsoft—Be The One/Katie Sowers

It's a fantastic (if overdue) step towards equality that Super Bowl 2020 included the first female and LGBTQ coach to ever appear at the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers is undoubtedly a talented and hard working individual, and it's excellent that her story is getting more exposure. But considering that Microsoft has a history of suppressing claims of sexual harassment and discrimination from female employees, the ad comes off as a disingenuous face-saving measure. Real change does not come from ads that do lip service to equality; it comes from actively working to solve issues of inequality, something Microsoft has repeatedly failed to do.

3.NFL—Inspire Change 

This one came off as so deeply hypocritical that many living rooms across America let out a collective groan when it became clear the NFL sponsored the ad. The spot is a decidedly moving look at the murder of Corey Jones, cousin of NFL player Anquan Boldin, by a plain clothes police officer. It features Corey's parents lamenting his death and a voice over from Boldin explaining the foundation he set up in Corey's honor.

All of this is moving and poignant, except for the fact that in 2018 the NFL did just about everything in its power to suppress the efforts of former player Colin Kaepernick, who famously kneeled during the National Anthem before a game to protest police brutality against black and brown bodies. As the Washington Post puts it, "The league can always be trusted to pounce on a sincere effort to raise awareness of an issue, then fine-tune and focus-group it until the corporate-friendly result barely resembles its original form."


This is an admittedly heart wrenching commercial. It features a voice over of an elderly man asking his Google Home to remind him of things about his wife who has apparently passed. As old pictures and footage of the couple plays across the screen, the Google Home reminds the man of moving details like, "Loretta had beautiful handwriting." It intentionally plays on our heart strings and seeks to humanize the massive company; it's an ad that positions Google as a force that wants to help people.

In reality, Google has proven over and over again how little they care for people, including their own employees. They lied to employees about the amount they would make from a contract with the Pentagon that would help create technology designed to kill enemies in war; they placed an individual with "vocally anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant" views on their AI advisory council; they secretly created a heavily censored search engine for use in China that would block all access to things the government deemed "unfavorable"; and they pushed Andy Rubin (a high level executive) out of the company in 2014 due to a inappropriate romantic relationship, but not before giving him $90 million. If that's not enough, Google has also been under heavy investigation for violations of antitrust laws, constantly use tax loopholes to get out of paying into the communities in which they operate, and have even been repeatedly accused of manipulating search results to spread inaccurate and biased information.

1.Walmart—United Towns

This Walmart ad is such blatant propaganda that it's frankly insulting to any well-informed American. The commercial paints Walmart as a kind of missionary initiative, saying they "see America from the ground" and implying that the presence of Walmarts in small towns across America is some kind of unifying force for good. But Walmart is anything but a force for good in small town America; it has been firmly proven that Walmart's business model is to go into small towns, offer such low prices that they ultimately run all of the small, independent businesses in the town out of business, and then to jack up prices once people have no alternative but to shop at Walmart. In fact, Iowa State University professor Dr. Kenneth E. Stone found that some small towns lose up to 47% of their retail trade after ten years of living with a Walmart store nearby. If that's not enough, Walmart might choose to relocate its store to another location, but the impact of its initial arrival continues to last well afterward, leaving the citizens of a small town with almost no options for groceries, pharmacies, and other necessities.