Two men kiss in an advert… cue outrage… June 25, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Society, Uncategorized.
Got to agree with Zoe Williams in the Guardian today. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it story since the advert for Heinz mayonnaise was pulled by the UK Advertising Standards Authority after 200 people complained about it.
The advert which you can see in a separate piece on the Guardian website here advertising goes as follows:
Heinz’s ad features a family on a normal morning routine with a boy and girl getting ready for school and their father preparing for the office.
Sandwiches are being prepared by a man with a New York accent, dressed in a deli serving outfit. The boy and girl refer to him as “mum”, and the father shares a kiss with him.
Now you or I might think that the twist, such as it is, isn’t about them being two gay men, but instead that Heinz mayonnaise spread on a sandwich is equivalent to being married to a New York deli worker. And the humorous dissonance in that twist is that it’s a man. So really, it isn’t about gay men, or gay lifestyles, but about the joke of having a deli worker (who happens to be male) in your kitchen, but so what if it were?
What’s astounding is that there are 200 people, or let’s be honest, probably 30 people spreading the calls around, who are exercised enough simply by a jokey television advert to ring in and complain.
As Williams notes:
[the] complaints about the Heinz mayonnaise ad, which – assuming a higher final tally – should make it one of the five most offensive this year.
Isn’t that great? One of the five most ‘offensive’. If this is offensive, what of Seinfeld, or the Office or Friends, all of which have depicted male/male clinches. And all of which are shown pre-watershed, at least on my television. Or is it that in some sort of voodoo-like fashion it is believed that these adverts have a more persuasive legitimating power than the programmes they intersperse?
But, again from Williams…
Complaints have centred on the fact that one man kissing another could be construed as homosexuality, and oblige parents to explain to children what that is.
Well, yes, but considering the prevalence of the word ‘gay’ as a term amongst children perhaps only those who live the most sheltered lives would be unaware of what ‘homosexuality’ is.
And further, there are some basic problems with that argument…
…never mind that mayonnaise can’t be advertised between kids’ programmes because the fat and salt content is too high. So it doesn’t matter that the product is so injurious to health that the mere mention of it is thought too toxic for pre-watershed telly; and it doesn’t matter that both the stated and tacit messages of the advert are nothing to do with sexuality of any sort, it’s a straight “mayonnaise is nice” underpinned by the British-ad fascination with men dressed as women revealed as men (think Bounty – wipe not bar).
Still I think Williams makes an even better point that given the number of advertisements which are arguably offensive it is a telling reflection on our laziness – or tolerance – that we aren’t picking up the telephone a bit more often to complain.
When an ad featuring men kissing is one of the most complained about, that matters: not as a reflection on the nation’s scattered homophobes breathing their last gasp, but as a sign that the rest of us don’t complain anything like enough.
And if it only takes 200 or so complaints to pitch an advert into the top five, well then perhaps we should be hitting the phones a bit more often.
Any contenders for most genuinely offensive?
Of course, it also strikes me that for some as bad as the homophobia – at least in the context of our media infused society – is the simple fact that when it comes down to it those making the complaints simply don’t get it…
Addendum: Ooops. Harpymarx got there faster and better than me on this topic. Mind you some of the comments are revealing…