I wish I could say that my commentary would be more substantive today. But sometimes you have those days when the stories just make you…uh…snicker.
Apparently, the Mars company saw fit to pull a recent Snickers ad airing in the UK because of homophobic claims by gay rights activists. The commercial starts off with a man speed-walking down the street. Suddenly 80s icon Mr. T emerges in a pickup truck with a mounted machine gun in typical B.A. Baracus style. Mr. T starts firing candy bars at the man while urging him to run; calling him a “disgrace to the man race.” The ad ends with the tagline “get some nuts.”
After receiving complaints from gay rights activists – including the the Human Rights Campaign Foundation – the Mars Company decided to drop the ad.
Mr. T recently went on the O’Reilly Factor to defend himself and the ad. Frankly, this was just as laughable as the commercial itself (especially the part where he reads a letter to his fans):
Very funny. Thanks for the laugh, dawg.
All of that notwithstanding, I have to wonder what Mars was thinking when they decided to air this commerical. This isn’t the first time they’ve pulled a Snickers ad because of accusations of homophobia. A Superbowl XLI commercial which featured two men accidentally kissing over a Snickers bar was pulled shortly after generating similar protests. Mars either (A) didn’t learned their lesson the first time around or (B) assumed that Europe would be far more tolerant of this kind of humor than Americans tend to be. In either case, they were wrong.
Still, I don’t entirely think this commerical is destructive for the purposes stated.
For one, I should point out that like most stereotypical things, one could argue that there is some element of truth involved. I’m not defending Mars outright; I’m simply pointing out that there are many homosexual men who flamboyantly conduct themselves in feminine ways (or lesbian women who often come across as hypermasculine…or as “Butches”). Oppositely, I personally know gay men who are far more athletic than Mr. T and could probably run circles around him. Gay people are as diverse as any of us are.
Perhaps more interestingly though, I don’t think this commercial should be seen as an attack on homosexuals. Rather, I see it more as a false assignment of gender roles. It suggests that doing any activity outside of physically barrelling over people by doing windsprints is unmanly. It says that manhood is only validated by engaging in certain aggressive activities. Considering that I’m the type of man who knows how to cook and takes pride in having a clean environment (except for my pig sty of an office), I’m often on the receiving end of the ‘not man enough’ insults too. That – to me – is the real message depicted in this commercial.
But for the sake of this post, I’ll assume that homophobia was the source of the ad. Over the years, I’ve discovered that one of the unfortunate consequences of being in a marginalized group is the possibility (and, indeed, the liklihood) of being [mis]represented by the antics of a few people in that group. That said, my advice to the gay community is simple: if you hate the stereotypical depictions society places on you, I completely understand. But, I also challenge you to address the characters in your group who perpetuate those stereotypes. Similar to how it frustrates me to see certain black folks essentially ruin it for the rest of us, perhaps its time for the gay community to be more critical of the blantantly gay members who provide fodder for stereotypes. I’m sorry, but cats who prance around with pink boas, platform shoes, tight leather, and lip gloss make it bad for otherwise normal gay people who want to live a simple life. I’m not letting bigots and homophobes off the hook. But I am passing some of the blame on to the gay community as well; those who engage in stereotypical behavior and those who sit back idly and allow it.