Like millions of viewers around the world, I’ve spent my last few weekends glued to the TV, basking in the glow of riveting World Cup 2014 matches. I was one of many who called out sick from life between June 12 and July 13—sick with World Cup fever. For hardcore soccer fans, scheduling meals and errands around game times has taken months, if not years, of preparation.
Unfortunately, no one told me that watching the World Cup also meant alternating between supermodel Adriana Lima oozing sex to sell Kias and B-roll footage sexualizing Brazilian women in between games. After the first weekend, the World Cup’s message to female viewers became loud and clear: There’s room on the World Cup bandwagon only if you’re a sex kitten.
In the months leading up to the World Cup, Sao Paulo ran the risk of being the next Sochi: construction delays, stadium safety concerns and political unrest. But aside from crowds chanting to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff the Portuguese equivalent of “Hey Dilma, go fuck yourself!” in the opening game between Brazil and Croatia, things have progressed rather smoothly. The cameras have been rolling nonstop since last Thursday, capturing diehard fans in the stands painted from head to toe in their team’s colors, Brazilian kids playing soccer on the beach and ecstatic hordes of people gearing up for games at bars and big screen TVs. But there’s little time to air all of the sports-related B-roll when so much airtime goes to the countless women in bikinis doing absolutely nothing pertaining to the World Cup.
In ESPN’s pre-match show leading up to the Uruguay vs. Costa Rica game, a camera zoomed in on one unknowing woman’s sandy backside. Viewers watched her stand up from her beach chair, struggle to adjust her yellow bikini bottom and dust the sand off from her butt and the back of her thighs before cutting to commercial. This was just one of many bikini close-ups in the network’s pre-game coverage and from the looks of it, the only way for women to make it on camera outside of the stadium. But a sports network sexualizing female fans isn’t a new form of exploitation by any means. The appalling reality at sporting events is that sexy women are more likely to catch the camera’s attention and make it on to the big screen than run-of-the-mill women sports fans. Based on what’s aired so far, ESPN isn’t even trying to film fully clothed Brazilian women. If the network is attempting to capture the true spirit of the World Cup and a nation coming together for the love of soccer, it’s failing miserably.
If stockpiling footage of women only if they’re wearing bikinis isn’t enough to offend, Kia’s new ads starring Adriana Lima and airing at seemingly every commercial break will surely do it. The campaign is intent on promoting American interest in the World Cup, and according to Kia, it takes a Brazilian Victoria’s Secret model in a little black dress and stilettos to do that. The ads are variations of the same concept: Adriana Lima catwalks into a room full of speechless men with gaping mouths and introduces them to soccer. “For one month, let’s all be futbol fans,” the tagline reads at the end of each commercial.
Yes, Kia, if only.
If you’re a U.S. team fan, good news: The team will move on to the Round of 16, where it will face either Belgium or Algeria, depending on those team’s upcoming results.
Photo of poster from Wikimedia Commons
Lydia Siriprakorn is a freelance writer serving up pop and geek culture news with a side of sass. Follow her on Twitter @chaiandsass.