There’s a New York Times article today covering the controversy over the Snickers ad that aired during the Super Bowl. The ad featured two men sharing a snickers bar a la Lady and the Tramp who accidentally end up locking lips and, disgusted, immediately begin doing “manly” things, such as pulling out their chest hair, in order to atone for their transgression. Snickers was also running a Web site for the ad featuring several alternate endings in the same vein (including one where they beat each other with wrenches), along with football players from this year’s Super Bowl exclaiming disgustedly about the disgusting digustingness of a male-male kiss. Various organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign, complained to Masterfoods, the company behind Mars candy and Snickers, about the ad and the Web site, and yesterday the company decided to withdraw the television spot and take down the site.
From the Times article:
The Snickers commercial offers a cautionary tale about the echo chamber Super Bowl advertising has become. Years ago, Super Bowl spots pretty much disappeared after the one or two times they were shown during the broadcast. Today, they have afterlives because they are being made available on dozens of Web sites, written about on blogs, forwarded to friends as video clips and even scrutinized for the brain-wave patterns they generate in viewers.
The upside to all this being, obviously, that the Internet contributes to advertising and media accountability, by helping facilitate the spread of offensive material and thereby boslter activists’ cases against such material. These days, you see a crappy, offensive commercial, you find it on YouTube or on the company’s own Web site, you post it on your blog or send a link via email to your friends, etc., etc., and people can join in your outrage, people who may have never had a chance to actually see the ad (or sitcom clip, or snippet of a talk-show, or whatever) aired on television.
I thought this was interesting in light of a recent article I read about the early 1980s controversy over a TV mini-series called Beulah Land. Set on a plantation in the Civil War era, the mini-series provoked a lot of outrage because of its stereotypical portrayal of black slaves as dumb, deviant, etc. Serveral groups formed to opopse the studio erring the mini-series. In order to gain support before the series release, they wanted to distribute a copy of the script to various members of the entertainment community, other activist groups, and members of the Black Congressional Caucus. Since the script was 300-something pages long, however, they decided to pick offensive excerpts and give their analysis of why they were offensive in a 20-something page position paper. Even distributing this 20-something paper, though, produced hesitation from the groups, because it was a big undertaking to get it to a lot of people, they said, in an era before the Internet and before fax machines and even before inexpensive copy machines, and they just ended up being lucky that people ended up passing the position paper out amongst friends and colleagues. I know this is one of those silly, modern-age relevatory moments, like when you realize how newspapers used to be laid out, or the origins of the cut and paste buttons on the computer, but man! To think about how much work it used to take just to distribute a 20-page document, so much so that even this act would deter activists from deciding whether to proceed … it’s just funny how spoiled we really are by technology.
Anyway, I’d been reading all about the ad this morning, before ever seeing it, and from what I’d read, it did, in fact, seem pretty awful and homophobic and offensive. But I saw the original ad this afternoon and … eh. I mean, yeah, there’s blatant homophobia going on, but the ad kind of makes fun of that, really. The characters in the ad are complete … dufuses. The pull out their own chest hair as a reaction to the “accidental kiss!” Not that I think Snickers was aiming to make any sort of grand statement, but, if anything, the ad comes across as a sort of indictment of this kind of silly homophobic manly-men mentality.