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The Pop Culture Winners and Losers of the Super Bowl

The movie trailers were good, the movie spoofs were less good, and skinny, bald Jason Momoa was the least good

Ringer illustration

Let’s be honest: If we’re going to choose a Super Bowl winner (aside from the, uh, Kansas City Chiefs), it has to be the team of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez for putting on the best halftime show in years and making Jeb Bush clap. Unfortunately, this year’s Super Bowl commercials didn’t hit with the same success rate as the closely contested game or kinetic halftime festivities. For every tasty tease of Marvel footage, there were three Baby Nut nightmares (am I even allowed to type that?). Below, we hand out some winners and losers from what was, for better or worse, a memorable night in pop culture.

Winner: Top Gun: Maverick

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Top Gun: Maverick spot for some high-production Navy propaganda. Well, it still kind of is, but Maverick is also asserting itself as this summer’s must-see blockbuster. Tom Cruise keeps finding increasingly creative ways to endanger himself for our entertainment: The film’s aerial footage looks spectacular—the result of the actors actually being inside airborne fighter jets. It’s a criminal offense that none of the Maverick footage thus far has been scored to Kenny Loggins’s “Danger Zone,” but nevertheless, I feel the need for speed and beach volleyball in jeans.

Loser: My Retinas

File these cursed 60 seconds for my next therapy appointment. Things begin innocently enough, with Jason Momoa going home to unwind after a hard day of—who knows?—walking out of the ocean to Pitbull’s Toto’s “Africa.” But then, stressing that Rocket Mortgage knows “home is where I can be myself,” he starts peeling off his musculature like a deranged serpent. Have you ever wanted to see a balding Khal Drogo with the body of Skinny Pete? Sorry, the question was rhetorical; now you have to share my nightmares:

I can’t believe I’m saying this but, Jason Momoa, please go back to your blind-dystopia Apple TV+ show.

Winner: Marvel

It feels like we’ve all forgotten about Disney+ since The Mandalorian wrapped its first season in December. (Except for me; I will never forget the horrors of the Disney vault.) But after Netflix’s latest competitor showed off what it could do in a galaxy far, far away, it’s time to see what it can do on Earth-199999. The next step in Disney’s path to streaming supremacy is extending the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the small screen, beginning in the fall with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. That series, along with WandaVision and Loki, leads the brand’s Super Bowl spot—and while it’s hard to glean anything substantial from 30 seconds of spliced-together footage for three different shows, WandaVision has definitely piqued my curiosity; it looks like a trippy twist on I Love Lucy. Loki, meanwhile, appears to be imprisoned somewhere, which is certainly an improvement from getting choked to death by Thanos. Who cares about continuity, anyway?

On the whole, these shows admittedly look fun. You know what you’re gonna get from Marvel these days, but it’s a testament to the MCU’s fine-tuned, crowd-pleasing staying power that it can still conjure up tons of excitement for new releases after a decade of dominance. Which is to say: I’m not sure where I stand on the great, tiresome “Is the MCU cinema?” divide, but I’ll shut up and let them take my money in exchange for WandaVision. (Yes, I know, I’m part of the problem.)

Loser: Boston Accents

I get it, Hyundai is trying to make a playful commercial about its new smart park feature—sorry, “smaht pahk”—with some Boston accents. (To go full Car Talk for a second, smart park might be the thing to save the world from my terrible parallel parking jobs.) It’s like the Saturday Night Live Dunkin’ Donuts skit but for cars. Hyundai even enlisted three native Bostonians in Chris Evans, Rachel Dratch, and John Krasinski (along with Red Sox legend David Ortiz). But in a year when we finally didn’t have to watch Tom Brady and Bill Belichick compete for a Super Bowl, their ad unintentionally felt like Boston trying to be the center of attention.

As a nation, we could use a year (perhaps a decade?) off from Boston-related Super Bowl festivities. And if we’re gonna nitpick, how the hell does a company make a Boston-themed commercial and not include one of the Wahlbergs?

Winner: Sam Elliott’s Sentient “Old Town Road” Mustache

No one ’stache should have all that power.

Mixed: Movie Spoof Commercials

Bill Murray re-lived Groundhog Day for Jeep, which would make for a delightful commercial in any context but was even more fitting since the Super Bowl actually fell on Groundhog Day this year. It was, per USA Today, the most well-liked commercial from Sunday. Hard to argue with that.

On the other end of the movie spoof spectrum was Bryan Cranston going full Jack Torrance for Mountain Dew. I think we need to impose a five-year ban on Shining spoofs. Green soda pouring out of the film’s iconic elevators was one thing; Cranston’s face on the body of the twins is the only thing from last night that rivaled the terrifying sight of spindly Jason Momoa.

This is what awaits in the seventh circle of hell.

Loser: Post Malone’s Bodily Functions

I didn’t know Inside Out syndrome was a real thing. But to give Post Malone some credit, since his music sounds like the noises made by a sentient garbage disposal, his dopey delivery of “Got any pretzels?” made me laugh harder than anything else did last night. (Side note: Budweiser can try all it wants to get into the spiked seltzer market, but Claw is the law.)

Loser: Baby Nut

No.

NOOOOOO.

Winner: Fast 9

In an abbreviated version of Friday’s nearly four-minute (!) trailer, Fast 9 exploded onto the scene on Super Bowl Sunday for anyone who hadn’t been blessed with the knowledge that HAN IS FUCKING ALIVE. There was also the glorious sight of Dominic Toretto maybe catching a car with his bare hands (???) and using a rope to slingshot his car onto a plane that used a giant magnet to snatch another car out of the sky. (If you even try to explain how the physics don’t make sense, you will get a lifetime ban from drinking Coronas.)

The Fast & Furious franchise jumped the shark, like, four movies ago, so I’m not even sure what to call these latest developments. The only words that come to mind are perfection, cocaine, justice, and, of course, family. See you in May, Dom.

Loser: That Friend Who Always Says They’re Five Minutes Away but Hasn’t Left Their House Yet

Don’t be that guy. Really don’t be that guy when you’re standing up MARTIN SCORSESE.