Bud Light’s Butt Fixation

Guy goes into a bar … Boy, do I wish that were the innocent setup for one of the oldest jokes around.

Instead, it’s the start of “Parade,” one of the most polymorphously perverse commercials ever made and just one of two Bud Light Super Bowl spots that brought to light Anheuser-Busch’s weird and mysterious fascination with asses. Is it that, with the sudden prominence of “Catfight,” Miller Lite now owns breasts, so A-B feels it has to bring up the rear?

At this point, with the success of the Coors twins and the popularity of the Miller spot, it’s apparent that those formerly discarded chestnuts of female exploitation and objectification (all the -ations) in beer ads—boobs, bikinis, soft-porn fantasies—are back. But this Bud work is another case entirely. This is beyond the usual clichés of hetero-boasting or frat-boy towel snapping; it’s something scarier, even for beer ads.

Is it possibly so powerfully offputting because it goes back, back before junior high school, even prekindergarten, to explore some unresolved issues of toilet training? Otherwise, why repeatedly introduce the image of a butt into the concept of having a refreshing brew?

OK, so a guy in a clown suit goes into a bar. Obviously, he doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. (By the way, if you didn’t have a fear of clowns before viewing this spot, you’ll definitely develop one now.) Poor guy has to wear the hideous polka-dot suit upside down, so that he appears to be walking on his hands. His tush, with protruding plastic cheeks, is on his forehead, and a clown mask rides somewhere over his privates.

All right, so let’s just say he has the most humiliating job in town, and he’s on his break. He asks for a Bud Light and then sticks the long-necked bottle into some hard-to-identify orifice just below the hills of the plastic butt where his face ostensibly is. (Is this like some prison joke? Or an expression of repressed desires so strong that you want to say to the creatives, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you ought to at least get some help so you don’t have to sublimate the issue like this?”)

At the end of the spot, the clown asks for (you’ve seen this, I’m not making it up) a hot dog, and the bartender has to say, “I don’t think so.” Because while Bud is the king of beers—and, presently, rear-end jokes—the notion of self-sodomy is still too taboo.

Ironically, if the intent of “Parade” was to create water-cooler buzz the next day, it probably backfired. I imagine most men would find it impossible to discuss—and be afraid of where the conversation might lead.

Actually, A-B has gone the weird-ass route before. Last year a commercial featured a guy hiding behind a bar, squatting down plumber-style, with his crack showing. The bartender, who doesn’t know he’s there, shoves a bottle in his direction. (Oh, the high jinks that ensue!)

Given all this , it’s a relief to return to the arena of sheer arrested development and the other major butt commercial of the Bowl, “Guy’s Worst Nightmare.” This was merely vulgar and misogynistic, and boy did it get a laugh. A guy tells his pal that he’s getting so serious with his girlfriend, Sarah, that he invited her mother over to dinner. The friend tells him to check the mother out carefully, as this will be Sarah in 20 years.

When they arrive, he peeks through the keyhole and is relieved to see a young-looking, smiling woman. But when he lets his future family in, he finds that Mom has the mother-in-law of all asses. It’s something out of Shallow Hal—freakishly enormous, the size of a rhinoceros, lumpy and cellulitic, especially in those skin-tight red pleather pants. (And the pants actually make crinkling noises, like a massive couch settling in.) You don’t even need to write a script, as the spot ends with a tight shot of the gluteus maximus, cinema derriere at its finest.

So may we then presume that A-B doesn’t care about alienating many of its female drinkers? Or that it’s suggesting that with enough beer drinking, you too can end up with an ass like this?

Fortunately, A-B aired 11 spots during the game, so the commercials could run the gamut, from ass to zebra. The zebra spot (in which, by the way, the word jackass is mentioned) was tops in most of the ad polls—tasteful, graceful and funny. It goes to show you that a spot doesn’t have to be the grossest thing you can think of to get to the top of the charts.

Compared with this total bottoming out, Louie the Lizard is Einstein, or Plato. What does it say about our culture when the swamp dweller deserves to sit at the very top of the ad food chain?