Time To Stuff My Snickers Bar In Nike's Face? genre: Gaylingual & Video-Philes

While I think it's fair to frown upon scapegoating and stereotyping in commercial advertising campaigns, I'm not all that incensed by such depictions. However, when they are apt to promote already existent anger and animosity...and/or endorse or encourage more inappropriate outbursts and behavior, I think it warrants commentary.

To that end, Snickers and Nike have released new campaigns that may do just that. Snickers' first foray into this practice took place during the Super Bowl when two men inadvertently found themselves locked lip to lip...which was followed by outward signs of repulsion...including the wielding of a tire iron in one version of the ad. In the new Snickers ad (see video below), Mr. T., perched in the back of a muscle truck with a Gatling gun, is annoyed by a man "wogging" down the sidewalk (insinuating he's a sissy), and he commences to pummel him with Snickers shells.

The problem with the ad is that it is a tacit endorsement of violence against gays. Yes, I acknowledge that it's virtually impossible to craft an ad that doesn't serve as a trigger for some sort of bad behavior in a certain segment of society. At the same time, I would venture to say that very few people are unaware of gay bashing...which means that the ad agency can't feign surprise when it is accused of fostering that mind set.

As to Nike, the image found in its latest offering (see below), of two men playing basketball, suggests when one man's face inadvertently ends up in another man's crotch, it is wrong and humiliating. Again, the problem with this ad rests in the already evident homophobia that has been demonstrated by numerous sports figures. Hence the ad is seemingly an endorsement of these hateful outbursts and a stealth message to children that sports and homosexuality are mutually exclusive. Frankly, many of these abrasive sports figures already believe they are beyond reproach. I simply don't see any merit in Nike's reinforcement of that notion. Here's the take from one of ESPN's senior writers.

And when it comes to using basketball to humilate your opponent, there is a certain scale. Shooting a jumper over someone is maybe a one. Beating someone to the hoop for a layup might be a two. Dribbling through your legs as you do so could make that worth three, dribbling through their legs as you do might get you up to six. Sevens are garden variety dunks and blocks, while there is a special carve out somewhere around eight or nine for using your crossover to make the defender actually fall over.

But up at the top of the humiliation hierarchy, right there with doing many of the above things with the game on the line, is an explosively humiliating move whose handy shorthand might not belong on this family-friendly website.

We can call it the I'm-jumping-so-high-as-I-dunk-over-you-that-my-crotch-is-in-your-face move.

Man, I have a whole jumble of thoughts. For instance:

Homophobia is real, it is common, and it is damaging. All that is true in general in society, but especially around sports. There's a reason no current NBA player has ever come out of the closet. People should be aware of that and act accordingly. It's not funny.

These are kick-ass ads, that have meaning and make basketball sense without injecting any homophobia into the conversation. Getting humiliated like that is "just wrong," in a basketball sense, without the male on male interpretation. Pretend the genders were scrambled in that ad -- a woman defender, or a woman dunker, or both. The same headline can work without the implication that the man on man contact is the gross part.

Knowing that there is a lot of homophobia out there, is advertising that might stoke those fires in poor taste?

I can't wait to live in a world where this ad would not be commonly interpreted as homophobic, but I'm not sure I do live there now. And in that setting, I guess this counts as ethically sloppy in my book. Or maybe intended to stoke some fires to draw some attention to itself. If I ran Wieden + Kennedy, or Nike, I wouldn't have green-lighted that headline with that image. But I'm not at all surprised that others did, and maybe the conversation that ensues makes us all a little more aware.

Generally speaking, I appreciate ESPN's treatment of the issue...with one glaring exception. The writer, Henry Abbott, fails to see that the implied humiliation, while meaningful to those who play the game and those who watch it, is simply a manifestation of a society that attaches the very same meaning to it. They're inseparable, which is the fundamental problem. It also makes Abbott's wish an absurdity. Were we in a world where this ad "would not be commonly interpreted as homophobic", the ad would have never been made.

You see, the reason no one is making an ad where a man's face inadvertently ends up in a woman's crotch...designed to appeal to the gay community...and its judgmental heterophobia...is because we don't feel humiliated by it...due to the fact that we don't judge it negatively and we willingly acknowledge that it's acceptable behavior (ergo, societally supported heterophobia doesn't exist to enable the humiliation or the ad).

With that said, my primary beef with this type of advertising has more to do with the absence of advertising that is either neutral towards gays or provides a favorable depiction. In fact, when such ads are released, the uproar from religious ideologues often results in the cancellation of the campaign. That's simply an unacceptable double standard and it does little more than foster prejudice. The most recent instance involved an ad in the UK for Heinz Deli Mayo, in which two men share a harmless peck on the lips. In short order, the loons were up in arms and the ad was immediately canned.

I find myself wanting to stuff my Snickers bar in Nikes face. Unfortunately, they'd likely take a bite without giving a second thought to the double entendre. Perhaps that sheds some light on the problem, eh?

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Tagged as: Advertising, Basketball, Hate Crimes, Heinz Deli Mayo, Homophobia, LGBT, Mr. T., NBA, Nike, Snickers

Daniel DiRito | July 22, 2008 | 6:26 PM
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» Time To Stuff My Snickers Bar In Nike's Face? from www.buzzflash.net
The line between political correctness and tasteful humor can be a complicated equation for ad agencies. New ads by Snickers and Nike that infer homosexuality demonstrate this dilemma. The fact that ads favorable to gays meet swift resistance is an unf... [Read More]

Tracked on July 22, 2008 10:26 PM

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