The commercial opens with a man sitting at a tropical resort struggling to read a book on his iPad. You can tell he’s having a hard time by the way he tries to minimize the shadow and glare on the screen. A woman sits down next to him and begins reading a book on her Kindle. The two exchange some facts about each device, and the man winds up ordering a Kindle for himself.
That’s a pretty standard formula for a product commercial.
The man then proposes a celebration. The woman says, “My husband is bringing me a drink right now,” to which the man replies, “So is mine.” They look back at the tiki bar to find both husbands with drinks.
The commercial ended and I thought with confusion, “What?” Something seemed so odd to me. Not that the guy was gay, but the way his homosexuality was kind of just shoehorned into the commercial at the last second. What did it have to do with the Kindle? I’d be asking the same question if the guy turned out to be straight and it was actually his wife bringing back drinks.
Many conglomerates and big businesses have realized the world is more accepting of homosexuality, and they want to portray the message that they are too. But sometimes that message comes off in way that doesn’t make too much sense. There’s nothing wrong with gay content in ads, but when homosexual themes are in a commercial for the sake of being in a commercial, the idea of acceptance loses some of its impact.
I don’t think Amazon’s mission is to advocate acceptance of homosexuals, as does the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion.
This year’s Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, Russia, was the epicenter of a sexual orientation dilemma. The Russian government refused to let gay Olympians participate in the games. Many people started boycotting the Winter Olympics in retaliation to the government’s prejudice.
The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion aired a commercial featuring a doubles luge team preparing for a run down the track. As the duo pumped back and forth at the starting line, “Don’t you want me” by ’80s pop group Human League played in the background. The two began their run as the screen faded with the words “The games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way.”
I laughed quite a bit after that 30-second commercial. But I also respected the fact that the message made sense to the commercial and the organization. The commercial motivated me to check out the institute’s website.
A good amount of commercials with gay themes in them also have to make someone’s sexual orientation some big surprise we didn’t see coming. In a 2008 Toyota ad, a woman and her father are waiting on their front steps for the woman’s boyfriend. The father seems uneasy about his daughter’s new love interest. A Toyota pulls up to the house. The father inspects the cars and says, “I like him,” and then walks inside. Turns out it’s not a “him” in that Toyota, though.
So was Toyota looking to trick us or something? It was hardly an M. Night Shyamalan twist if you ask me. Is Toyota trying to sell me a car or make me realize gay people exist?
A good example of how to include homosexual themes into advertising without trying to shock the audience or make it seem unnecessary came from a recent Android commercial.
The ad shows a montage of people dancing and playing games and other fun activities you can share using Android devices. At one point, it comes to a person recording a marriage proposal between two men. It’s not a shock though, granted you don’t see the one man’s face until later, but you can still tell these are two guys agreeing to get married. The commercial goes through more of the montage and finishes with “Be together, not the same.”
This all made sense because the mission of Android is to bring people together through the use of technology. Marriages bring people together. And whether the marriages are gay or straight, people will still record those proposals.
Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with gay content in advertising. I just think it needs to be done in a tactful and meaningful way. We need commercials that make us comfortable and respect one another, not ones that make us say, “I don’t even get why that was in there.”
Email Griffin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.