Although television commercials are extremely abundant in today’s society, they may often be ignored by their viewers. Many people believe that commercials are simply time wasted in between their favorite shows or even just used to make these shows shorter. However, there are some commercials that stand out among others. These ads are recognized by viewers and may even be discussed among friends later on. Some commercials even make news, and bring more attention to the topic of the ad. What could be the underlying reason why a commercial would be newsworthy? I have found that commercials often make the news when the topic or content of the ad is discovered to be controversial.
One commercial that made the news in 2007 was a Snickers candy bar commercial that was set to air during the Super Bowl in February. The advertisement depicted two men working on a car together in a garage. One man takes out a Snickers bar and puts half of the bar in his mouth while the other man notices what is going on. The other man grabs the other end of the Snickers bar with his mouth and the two men accidentally kiss. After their kiss takes place the two men seem upset by what has occurred and attempt to rip out some of their chest hair to appear more “manly.” According to msnbc.com there was an alternate ending of the two men fighting after their kiss as well. (MSNBC)
The act of kissing by the two men puts gender and sexuality at the main focus of this advertisement. Because the men are both mechanics, they are portrayed as the stereotypical man which causes their kissing to be somewhat unexpected. The men ripping out their chest hair and fighting seems to convey the idea of what the male gender represents as well as what constitutes being “manly.” The commercial also implies the homosexuality is not a ‘manly” trait and therefore the men must prove their masculinity by acting in this way.
The major reason for the controversy of this commercial is the homophobia presented in the ad. The gesture of the two men ripping out chest hair or fighting to appear more “manly” seems to reflect the homophobia the two men experience after they accidentally kiss. These ideas presented in the commercial can be closely linked to a statement made by author Terry A. Kupers in his article “Homophobia in Straight Men.” Kupers wrote in reference to the straight male, “We stiffen our bodies when approached by other men who want to touch or hug and we keep men at a certain distance- where we can watch them and be certain that closeness and dependency will not make us too vulnerable.” (Kupers, 501) This quote reflects the commercial because the two men immediately distance themselves from one another after kissing and want to avoid appearing vulnerable, thereby less “manly.” They also feel they must prove their “manliness” by fighting and showing their chest hair.
MSNBC news also stated in their article that the Snickers web site contained video of professional male athletes reacting to the kiss. The Human Rights Campaign and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) were both angry with the commercial because of the messages of homophobia that were presented. Through the reaction of the two mechanics, the ad seems to make a joke of the two men kissing and homosexuality. The reaction of the professional athletes seems to add to the teasing of homosexuality as well. Joe Solomonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign commented, “This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of the two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian school children on playgrounds all across the country.” (MSNBC) Because of the controversy created by this commercial, the ad was removed from airing on television and on the web site.
The representation of gender and sexuality in the Snickers commercial, as well as the underlying theme of homophobia were the main features of the ad that caused it to make the news. Controversy and the eventual removal of the ad also resulted in greater attention by the news media.
"Snickers Ad Pulled After Complaints From Gays." MSNBC 7 Feb. 2007. 2 Apr. 2007
Kupers, Terry A. “Homophobia in Straight Men.” Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy and Power. (1992): 499-501.
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