Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Brokeback Garage

Remember when the word "gay" meant "happy and light-hearted"? Remember when homosexuals had a reputation for wit, humor and a keen sense of irony. Remember the time of Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote and Liberace?

What happened? When did gays become obsessive, humorless scolds?

Both GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign got their panties in a twist over the Snickers ad that played during the Super Bowl — the former denouncing a version of the ad (more on that anon) as "promoting anti-gay prejudice and violence" and the latter screeching about a "VIOLENT AND HOMOPHOBIC MARKETING CAMPAIGN." And, knuckling under predictably (paging Karl Marx .... aren't businesses supposed to be conservative and reactionary forces?), Mars grabs its ankles and pulls the ad. Sniffs Joe Solmonese of HRC:
The makers of Snickers and its parent company at Mars should know better. If they have any questions about why the ad isn’t funny, we can help put them in touch with any number of GLBT Americans who have suffered hate crimes.
I know explaining a joke always kills the frog of humor, but gay groups have got such a case of cranio-rectal inversion that they need to have it spelled out for them. If these groups would actually pay attention to the ad, they'd see it's the ultimate joke about what these selfsame activists and complaint groups call "gay panic." It showed two men accidentally kissing while pursuing the far greater good of eating a candy bar. Absorbed in the heavenly deliciousness of a Snickers, their lips touched. And then they realized what they were doing and began acting as butch as possible. Which is why it is funny. They were not gay; they kissed; they acted as hyper-stereotypically manly as possible to reassure themselves. Even to the point of hurting themselves by ripping off their chest hair (and not coincidentally, showing off how much they had). That's funny.

But not to Judy Calhoun, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado, who insists she is
... disappointed that the ending of the commercial is in a sense, normalizing a negative reaction.
Normalizing? What the colorful? It's making fun of the reaction, unless you think ripping one's chest hair off is a "normal" reaction. This is why the ad is what is called a "joke." And the reaction of the two men is what those in the biz call "the punch line."

The other versions of the commercial, available until recently on the Mars Web site, also got the gay groups' goat. One had the two mechanics fighting with each other. That's funny for the same reason -- hypermasculine brutishness as a defensive reaction to gay panic. How can the people who invented "gay panic" not see it when it hits them right in the face? Another had a bunch of Bears and Colts players watch the ad and they had a variety of reactions, including some negative -- "that ain't right." That reaction is simply totalitarian, and from people who endlessly cheer "diversity," no less. If the point is to display a range of reactions, it is hardly "endorsing" something to show it. In fact, if Mars hadn't included at least one player reacting negatively, the gay-complaint groups could have just as persuasively had a hissy over that too. Gay Group Playbook 34-Trap-Right claims that dealing with homosexual content without showing homophobia is to deny that said homophobia exists, which further perpetuates it.

I saw the ad myself in a roomful of other men with homosexual attractions — our Courage chapter's Super Bowl party. According to my memory (correction invited), the general reaction was that the Snickers ad was really funny, though there was some "ugh" and a more broadly shared "why do they think that will make you want to eat a Snickers?" bafflement. The instant I saw the candy bar hanging out of the mouth of the mechanic on the left, I called "Lady & The Tramp" for reasons obvious at the left. And then what we knew would happen happened and everybody laughed.

Another of the most famous scenes in the movies, from "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," has more or less the same premise as the Snickers ad. Steve Martin wakes up with his arm around the "soft fluffy pillow," realizes it's John Candy and the two jump to the other side of the bed and make macho talk about what they thought of (ironically) the Bears game and how they were gonna win the Super Bowl. Roger Ebert put it this way:
This is not homophobia but the natural reaction of two men raised to be shy and distant around other men — to fear misunderstood intimacy.
Ironically, one of the many ways I think that pro-gay groups are damaging society is precisely by misunderstanding intimacy by reducing all forms of love to varyingly sublimated forms of sex. Go to any Gay Studies Department, and every male friendship in the Western Canon from the Book of Samuel (David and Jonathan) to the Lethal Weapon movies (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) has been quite thoroughly "queered."

One other thing. Let's assume the same ad. Now imagine the protests had come, not from GLAAD, HRC, et al, but from the Family Research Council, the Catholic League, the American Family Association and Concerned Women for America (as I write this, FRC has said nothing; CWFA gets some hits but not related to this; CL and AFA come up dry also). That they noted that this put a gay kiss into people's homes. It would have been Jerry Falwell and "Tinky-Winky" all over again -- the Mainstream Media would have reported from the template "nutty religious right groups complain about gays." The complaints would have been laughed at. And Mars would have ignored them and emphasized its commitment to diversity, etc. But the gay groups? No ... they and their complaints are taken seriously, by both Big Media and Big Corporations. That's media bias in a self-reinforcing nutshell. Some people's narratives are taken seriously; others not.


Dad29 said...

So tell me again..what does common sense have to do with it?

My own take: the ad was silly--not really worth showing.

But hey! LIGHTEN UP!!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think people aren't happy unless there is something to comolain about. There was nothing wrong with this comercial. I was funny and well thought. In no way did they degrade anyone. They only people that should have been insulted by this comercial are thoughs whom are not comfortable with there own sexuality.