February 6, 2007

That's not funny! Snickers.

Is this ad offensively homophobic?



The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign complained and got Masterfoods to withdraw it (after it played during the Super Bowl). I wonder if non-activist gay people and gay-friendly non-gay people are offended by that ad. I think it's funny. It makes fun of guys who are afraid of being gay, which isn't endorsing homophobia. It's mocking it. And what do they do when they feel compelled to "do something manly"? They rip hair off their chest. Hair on the chest is a longtime symbol of masculinity. And de-hair-ifying your chest is a metrosexual thing. And the fact is, they showed two men in a big, sweet open-mouthed kiss.

So the complaint is not only humorless, it's obtuse.

ADDED: Americablog is horrified and outraged by the ad. I disagree, but accept the point that idiots could view the ad and learn the reaction of violence. Given that there is anti-gay violence, one ought not to fool around with material like this.

MORE: As you can see at the Americablog link, there were follow-on ads that exacerbated the problem. And as the commenters point out, the original ad, even if funny and not homophobic, is still not a good way to promote a candy bar.

43 comments:

MadisonMan said...

I also thought the ad was funny, and the kids who were watching the Super Bowl in the house did.

Apparently, the less funny ads are the ones on the website, and they also show role-modelish football players recoiling as they watch the ad, as if they think it's gross or something. So I've read. I wonder why football players don't have senses of humor about something like that.

Ann Althouse said...

MM: According to the NYT article I linked: "Complaints about its Super Bowl commercial for Snickers candy — showing two men committing violence against themselves after they accidentally kiss — led the company to decide late yesterday that it would withdraw the spot." That's this ad, not some worse one.

The Emperor said...

It makes fun of guys who are afraid of being gay,

I think their goal was to make fun of two groups, in order to appeal to different viewers.

First, for those who are "gay-friendly," they are making fun of guys who are afraid of being gay (as Ann notes).

But second, for those who think being gay is a bit odd, they are making fun of being gay.

A mildly clever attempt at finessing the issue so everyone is happy. But not nearly as clever as: "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Goesh said...

I don't see anything gay, manly or lack of being manly here, just a couple of guys who don't look too bright (idiots?) being so greedy they would be willing to pull the chewed remnants of a candy bar out of another person's mouth in order to get it all. Clearly, low pay has caused them to engage in such disgusting antics, not their implied sexual orientation. I'm obtuse enough to not be buying a Snickers any time soon - I will be reminded of of those greasy oafs acting rather like two boars hogs at the trough.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Frankly, I don't have any problems with gay people being gay (or gay people expressing affection), but that's not why I watch the Superbowl. I'm annoyed at the idea that any male bonding activity or stereotypically heterosexual activity must be caricatured as secretly gay. I was annoyed that someone would run that ad during the Superbowl for its dissonant value. I don't watch football as conceptual art. And I'm not buying any Snickers, because that stupid ad ticked me off. Snickers should fire whatever idiotic ad company came up with that stupid "creative". It was probably the idea of some blue state ad "maven" who doesn't even watch football.

George said...

But what about the Super Bowl ad in which the men tore off their clothes and rubbed themselves with wild abandon against the sides and hood of a car!

Bissage said...

Goesh makes an excellent point, as usual. Haven’t advertisers spent billions of dollars on celebrity endorsements and good looking/classy spokesmodels grounded on the belief that we all believe in imitative magic?

Why would anyone run out to buy a Snickers Bar after watching that commercial? What, to be like those two mooks? No way, dude.

Pogo said...

Ray Bradbury:
" The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from the book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever."

PatCA said...

It's not really about the ad - it's about controlling the discourse on sexuality. Expressing their outrage accomplishes two things for the activist group: it makes it seem that they are necessary and legitimate, and it firms their control over culture. Academics are always talking about strategies of maintaining cultural hegemony - usually in a pejorative way in discussing white or Western culture - but this is a practical demonstration.

mcg said...

I'm annoyed at the idea that any male bonding activity or stereotypically heterosexual activity must be caricatured as secretly gay.

Huh? Two guys noshing on opposite ends of a Snickers bar until they meet in a liplock, a la Lady and the Tramp, is a "male bonding activity" or "stereotypically heterosexual?"

Damn if I can remember the lasst time I engaged in such an expression of redneck maleness.

mcg said...

Did the same groups have anything to say about the Combos Man-Mom commercial?

Rick Lee said...

I thought the spot was mildly amusing (you might say I "snickered" at it... ouch) but I must say I was confused about why it would be considered manly to yank out your chest hair. More funny than the commercial is the description of this as "committing violence against themselves".

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Hovsep said...

I don't mind the ad, but I think its probably ineffectual because it sends such mixed messages: the reaction to an unintentional gay kiss kinda suggests gay=disgusting, but the characters are portrayed as not very smart or attractive, which kinda suggests homophobia=loser. Seems likely to mildly offend or annoy some people, mildly please others, and confuse many others. But it doesn't leave me with a clear sense of how I should feel about Snickers.

David said...

First we have "Brokeback Mountain" and now we have "Humpback,Sado-masochistic Garage!"

The only thing containing "nuts" in this commercial is the automobile and candy bar which, by the way, I plan on eliminating entirely from my diet.

Maybe it was a commericial for a wax system of hair removal?

Todd said...

MM is right. Ann and, it seems, the NYT are not in on the full story.

There were four versions of the ad. The one Ann features on her blog and three others.

In one, after the kiss, Man 1 hits Man 2 in the head with a wrench (the spot was named "Wrench"), and then promptly gets his head slammed in the hood by Man 2. Classic gay panic: violence is an entirely reasonable response to discovering (a) one's own same-sex desire, (b) that one is the object of same-sex desire, or (c) both.

The website asked viewers to vote on their favorite ending; the winning ad (presumably including "Wrench", if it won) would then be featured during the Daytona 500.

The website also showed members of the Colts and Bears wincing in disgust at the two men's kiss, proudly displaying their own belief that homosexuality is repulsive.

I agree that the ad shown during the Super Bowl was not necessarily homophobic (though it drew on the classic homophobic opposition between male homosexuality and masculinity). The web content, now removed, was clearly and frighteningly homophobic and encouraged violence against gay men in particular.

HRC's and GLAAD's press releases, it bears noting, primarily discussed the web content.

johnstodder said...

Snickers gets credit for being PC by pulling the ad. I'm sure the fact is, that kind of ad is only funny once, when you don't know what's going to happen and don't have time to think about it; and immediately thereafter it becomes gross, disgusting and harmful to the brand.

More than anything, it reminded me of the swimming pool scene in "Caddyshack." Candy bars are ugly food. It's rare to see a candy ad that shows the naked product in full. Usually, you see just a little bit of it peeking out of the aesthetically pleasing wrapper.

Even my insula was sort of grossed out by that ad.

johnstodder said...

Classic gay panic: violence is an entirely reasonable response to discovering (a) one's own same-sex desire, (b) that one is the object of same-sex desire, or (c) both.

Or (d), depicting it can win you an Oscar and the plaudits of all sophisticated people.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Damn if I can remember the lasst time I engaged in such an expression of redneck maleness.

No, ye blind to context: THE ACT OF SITTING DOWN TO WATCH THE SUPERBOWL AND THE EXPECTATION OF SEEING NOTHING GAY. Not to be too eggheady, but the ad was mocking the heterosexist discourse of Superbowl-watching. Ha-ha: look at what we're showing you during the SuperBowl! You expected normal straight-guy stuff and look what you got! Aren't you grossed out? Isn't your concept of masculinity challenged? No, but I'm annoyed that you think trying to ruin my Superbowl experience with cheap provocation that insults the dignity of gays is clever and relevant. The ad has no power outside of the context of the Superbowl. That was part of its entire point.

bearbee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bearbee said...

Any word if the Garage Workers Alliance Against Defamation lodge its complaint?

Any action against YouTube?

vbspurs said...

I mentioned this advert in the Super Bowl thread!

It was the only one that I recalled, because I knew, I just knew, it would offend someone.

The ad is not homophobic. The reactions of the pro-athletes, as mentioned by Americablog, are.

BTW, the ad is stupid on second viewing. First viewing brings titters.

Cheers,
Victoria

The Drill SGT said...

I don't care for the ad period, but I resent being told that it is homo-phobic.

geeze.

It's like that saw about:

Feminist Humor? That's not funny :(

This candy ad isn't amusing more than once, but folks need to read less into these situations, like the NYT's anaysis of the ads yesterday.

XWL said...

Clearly, low pay has caused them to engage in such disgusting antics, not their implied sexual orientation

Where is it that mechanics are low payed?

Certainly not around here (Southern California).

Zeb Quinn said...

It makes fun of guys who are afraid of being gay, which isn't endorsing homophobia. It's mocking it.

I agree. To the extent that the ad makes fun of anyone, it's homophobes.

I think the ad would've been more fun and would've worked better for Snickers if they had made the characters heterosexual women who end up kissing.

mcg said...

Mortimer: ah, I understand.

And now that I've learned more about the Web content, I agree that the entire campaign was very inappropriate, and it was good to pull it. I think that the one they chose to air was pretty funny, considered separately.

mcg said...

And I'd still like to hear (read) thoughts about the whole Man-Mon campaign. This is another case where the on-air commercial is surpassed, for better or worse, by the web content.

mcg said...

Oops, I meant Man-Mom there, sorry.

Bissage said...

You know, this first course of candy bars, mook smooching and hair pulling has me wishing for a palate cleanser for the mind.

Ah, here it is, just the thing.

peter hoh said...

I loved the ad as it ran. Didn't see anything wrong with it, and I would chastise anyone who took offense as needing to recalibrate their offense-taking meter.

However, the web content was over the line.

Word verification: bjneg

I kid you not.

MadisonMan said...

Man-Mom would be better if it starred John Goodman.

I'm not sure what the point is, though. Males make poorer diet choices? Moms are big old meanies?

yetanotherjohn said...

I can't help juxtapose this debate with this news.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/06/ap/national/mainD8N49D700.shtml

yetanotherjohn said...

The link didn't come through, so I'll try again.

Anthony said...

It's actually ALL ABOUT IRAQ.

vbspurs said...

Bissage wrote:

"Ah, here it is, just the thing.

Aww. No matter how many times one sees it, it's still cute in a high school prom kind of way.

But do you guys remember a film called Last Days of Disco?

One of the characters is dissecting the Disney classic to his preppy friends.

Josh Neff: There is something depressing about it and it's not really about dogs. Except for some superficial bow-wow stuff at the start, the dogs all represent human types which is where it gets into real trouble.

Lady, the ostensible protagonist, is a fluffy blond cocker spaniel with absolutely nothing on the brain. She's great looking but, let's be honest, incredibly insipid. Tramp, the love interest is a smarmy braggart of the most obnoxious kind, an oily jail bird out for a piece of tail or whatever he can get.

[...] He's a self confessed chicken thief; an all around sleaze ball. What's the function of a film of this kind? Essentially it's a primer about love and marriage directed at very young people, imprinting on their little psyches that smooth talking delinquents recently escaped from the local pound are a good match for nice girls in sheltered homes.

When in ten years the icky human version of Tramp shows up around the house their hormones will be racing and no one will understand why. Films like this program women to.


I love Whit Stillman.

Cheers,
Victoria

The Drill SGT said...

yetanotherjohn said...
I can't help juxtapose this debate with this news.


yea, right :)

Larry said...

I don't see what the big deal is.

The commercial that aired was innocuous. Funny if you think gay people are icky, which most people do, so they're just appealing to their audience.

Seeing the website, it's obvious it was designed by homophobes who think it's perfectly acceptable to be violent against gay people. But again - yawn - we already know this. Heck - the President of the United States adamantly opposes laws that will cut down on violence against gay people (he's against anti-bullying law, he favors hate crime laws for every category imaginable EXCEPT gays and lesbians).

What's the big deal. It's just capitalism. How is using homophobia to sell snickers bars any worse than using homophobia to win elections?

Cat said...

I didn't watch the Superbowl at all, but I heard about the so called controversy on the radio and one of those quoted made the leap from this commercial to Matthew Shepherd. Long leap, really ridiculous. Get a sense of humor.

It's funny because, let's face it, many if not most heterosexual men would be horrified if someone thought/misunderstood they were gay (especially the younger they are) - not that there's anything wrong with that! And yes, many men get disgusted at the thought of kissing another man the way, I suspect, many gay men may feel about doing that with a woman.

It pokes fun at the idiocy of many men who feel the need to prove their manhood or who think that being gay means being effeminate although there are many who fit the stereotype - not that there's anything wrong with that!

Bleepless said...

If this ad is supposed to be banned because some loony somewhere might get negative ideas, then there goes the First Amendment.

Brendan said...

What about the motel room scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"? Where were the hypersensitive gay activists then? On a coffee break?

Joseph Hovsep said...

Cat: many if not most heterosexual men would be horrified if someone thought/misunderstood they were gay (especially the younger they are)... And yes, many men get disgusted at the thought of kissing another man the way, I suspect, many gay men may feel about doing that with a woman.

I don't think the ad that was aired was a big deal (although the alternatives available on the web are more problematic), but I don't agree at all with this statement. First, the younger they are, the more horrified they'd be? Quite the opposite is true unless your idea of young is 13. Second, I don't think many gay men feel violent disgust at the idea of kissing a woman. Most gay men probably have in fact kissed a woman romantically and enjoyed it for what it was.

mcg said...

If this ad is supposed to be banned because some loony somewhere might get negative ideas, then there goes the First Amendment.

Don't be silly. Nobody is advocating government censorship here. This is an entirely market-driven effort which doesn't even come close to running afoul of the First Amendment.

vbspurs said...

What about the motel room scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"? Where were the hypersensitive gay activists then? On a coffee break?

Good one!

And Steve Martin/John Candy's reactions were genuinely funny. They said (which would've been such a perfect tie-in to the Super Bowl):

"How about dem Bears huh!?"

The problem here in this video, for the gay activists, seems to hinge on the violence shown by the two guys, and a third man, not shown in the Super Bowl spot (but available in 3 endings online).

Plus, another big deal, were the touchy reactions by the football players, like Grossman and Harrison.

Goes to show, it's okay when Hollywood does it, but when it's ballplayers, no can do.

Cheers,
Victoria