I had an ex-mother-in-law with whom I often sowed family discord by challenging on her ideas about relationships. She claimed to be gay-friendly and supportive of her son (my ex), but I knew it wasn’t in her heart. One time, when the ex and I met her and her husband for lunch in Orlando, Fla., she noted that they had been at Disney World earlier, on what happened to be Gay Day. (That was the reason my ex and I were there; you’d think she’d have known that.) She clucked her tongue that, while “I have no problem with gay people,” she thought it was “inappropriate” how gays at the park “throw their sexuality in your face. I don’t like public displays of affection in any context!” she whined.
“Oh?” I said. “You’re holding your husband’s hand as we speak. And when we saw you in the parking lot, you gave your son a big hug and kiss. Clearly, you don’t mind public displays of affection; you just don’t like seeing the kinds that offend you. That makes you a hypocrite.”
It was a pretty quiet lunch after that.
What infuriates me about that kind of casual bigotry is how it presumes gay people should stay in the closet; that heterosexuality can be public, but not homosexuality; that it is something to be embarrassed by. “Do you believe his son brought his boyfriend to the funeral and they held hands during the service!?” I heard a woman say once after a funeral. It never occurred to this bigot that the son needed his boyfriend’s support, that he had lost his father and needed comfort; it also never occurred to the person that the entire family might actually be supportive of the gay son and like the boyfriend. The speaker was offended on behalf of the family, never thinking that — perhaps — not everyone was as virulent a homophobe as she was.
This is what the right is really contending with now: Not that openness will lead to recruitment, but that it will make it more difficult to demonize people who are different. If your kids know gay people who are cool, and seem well adjusted, it makes teaching them bigotry all that more difficult.
But a new TV spot from Kohl’s department store — it’s below — does exactly what my ex-mother-in-law, and the woman at the funeral, couldn’t do: Imagine gay people (of different races, even!) as part of a happy, comfortable family dynamic.
The imagery is subtle. A matriarch is beginning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner as the family members start to arrive — daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids; maybe a divorced daughter; then a strapping young man in the company of an African-America man; eventually, an older black couple shows up. Everyone’s helping out — cooking, cleaning, setting the table. There’s laughter and hugs … including an apparently affectionate toast with the gay couple, both sets of parents looking on, smiling.
Just a typical American family.
And that’s what the right, and bigots, can’t stand. The idea that real America families are diverse is anathema to them. They operate in a universe where everyone conforms to a fake ideal. And that fake ideal was largely spread to them through the osmosis of advertising, which seeks to recreate a world that consumers can see themselves as a part of. That used to be a segregated world; I remember how McDonald’s commercials would often have black people, or white people … but almost always in separate spots. The black ads even had a more “urban” version of the jingle. Everyone likes McDonald’s!” the message was … just so long as they stick to their own. Now, though, advertisers want more eyes, more dollars, more inclusiveness. Hence the Kohl’s ad.
This is becoming the new normal. It’s especially heartening that it arrives around the holidays, when family, togetherness and love are at the top of people’s minds. (The spot is even called “Celebrate Togetherness.”) Of course, it’s something the gay media has tried (successfully, I think) to illustrate for decades. We appreciate everyone catching up. Now go out and buy shit.
CUEVAS-CUSIMANO | Tony Cuevas and Leo Cusimano celebrated their 30th anniversary on Monday, Sept. 12. Cuevas works for Southern Methodist University. Cusimano is advertising director for Dallas Voice. The couple live in Oak Cliff with their two sons, Elijah and JJ.
Budweiser has released a new military-themed ad that some folks are saying is also a “pro-gays-in-the-military” ad.
The ad starts off with a soldier calling another guy and saying, “Hey man. I’m coming home.” Then in a split-screen, continues with scenes of the soldier making his way home while the other guy goes about planning and organizing a welcome home party, and then being the first one to step forward and hug the soldier when he gets home.
If it is a “gay” ad, it isn’t, well, flamboyantly gay. And that’s perfectly fine, since there are many, many, many LGBT people out there — including many of our men and women in uniform — who are definitely not flamboyantly gay themselves. We deserve to have our diverse community portrayed (and honored and celebrated) realistically in all our diversity.
Is this a gay ad? Did Budweiser mean for it to be a gay ad? Huffington Post has a poll up, and readers there are pretty evenly split, with 33 percent saying it is totally gay, 25 percent saying no way it’s gay, and 41 percent saying probably not but I can see why some folks think it is.
And AfterElton.com points out that “if you substituted a woman for [the guy the soldier calls first], it would read pretty much exactly like a heterosexual relationship.”
Only Budweiser knows for sure, of course. But — again, as AfterElton notes — this is a mega-big company with some pretty experienced advertising folks working for them, and do you really think they would let something so very obviously possibly gay slip through inadvertently?
Watch the ad yourself (below) and see what you think. All I know for sure is that I don’t drink beer of any kind, but if I did drink beer, I think I’d probably drink Bud.
OK, so I was just watching “Shortbus” on video the other day, John Cameron Mitchell’s sexually explicit but not pornographic art film about gay people that includes actual sex acts. It was shocking when it came out, and it still is, though not the kind of movie you hear much about anymore.
But what timing: The advertising equivalent of that movie is just out. And it’s gonna shock you. Maybe in a good way, but shock you.
The company is called Sir Vaughn. They make sunglasses. I have never heard of them, but then, I am not much of one to buy designer sunglasses anyway. But I know of them now and I suspect a lot more people will.
In the print ad, which you can see after the jump (NSFW), one man is performing oral sex on another man (and while the image is blurred out, it’s clearly what it is). The one performing fellatio is wearing a pair of Rockstar Warrior sunglasses.
According to the press release, “The idea being the campaign is to remind the viewer that they and their partner may look attractive to one another naked, and during sex, they’d look much better with Sir Vaughn sunglasses on.” The name of the campaign: Gay Sex Sells.
This is certainly not the first time a company has used sex — or even nudity — to sell a product. But even including a Tom Ford ad for YSL that appeared in Europe (also after the jump and NSFW), it is definitely the most explicit.
So I guess my question is, what gives? Do you like it?
P.S. — The company also says it will release a hetero version later this summer.