February 06, 2007
No snickers for Snickers
Posted by: Chris
Gay rights groups are up in arms about an ad for Snickers that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday, and even more so about three alternative endings for the spot made available on the Mars web site.
All four versions of the ad feature two middle-aged mechanics working closely under the hood of a car. One unwraps a Snickers bar and begins eating it while the other gazes longingly — at the Snickers.
The second mechanic begins eating the other end of the candy bar, leading to the inevitable, "Lady & The Tramp" kiss in the middle. The two men jump back, shocked that they've just kissed, then come the four different endings:
- Chest Hair: In this ending, which actually aired in the Super Bowl, one of the mechanics says, "Uh, I think we just kissed." The other says, "Quick, do something manly," to which the other response by ripping open his shirt and ripping out (with a shriek) a big wad of chest hair. The first responds in kind amid screams.
- Monkey Wrench: In response to "Quick, do something manly," the first mechanic grabs a monkey wrench and clobbers the other over the head. The second mechanic throws the first one under the hood and slams it down. The violence is clearly intended to be comic. In the trailing seconds, the mechanic now slammed under the hood says, "OK, that's good."
- Motor Oil: In response to "Quick, do something manly," one mechanic grabs some motor oil and begins gulping it; the other does the same with windshield washer fluid. Both men scream (in manly fashion) as they do it.
- Love Boat: In this version, both men jump back from the kiss but before either can say anything, a third, long-haired and older mechanic walks up, tosses his hair and says, "Is there room for three in this love boat?"
In addition to encouraging visitors to the web site to vote on the four different endings, Mars posted video reactions from players from the two Super Bowl teams as they watched the commercials. The response from the two Indianpolis Colts — linebacker Cato June and wide receiver Marvin Harrison — were low key and non-descript.
But the three Chicago Bears showed a good deal more enthusiasm. Mushin Muhammad, a wide receiver for Chicago, had an exaggerated facial reaction to the kiss, while tight end Desmond Clark laughed in a "no they didn't" style. Quarterback Rex Grossman covered his face with his hands. Clark, in particular, seemed shocked the two male actors actually had to kiss to make the commercial. When told it took 15 takes, he laughed, "I hope they got paid a lot of money!"
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation "strongly condemned" the ads in a press release issued yesterday, calling on Mars to pull the "Wrench" ad and what the gay groups calls the "offensive" player reactions from its web site.
Judy Shepard goes so far as to claim in the GLAAD statement that the Snickers campaign "encourages the same type of hate that lead [sic] to the death of my son Matthew. It essentially gives 'permission' to our society to verbally and physically harass individuals who are gay, lesbian or bisexual." Shepard reserves particular "dismay" for the players, who she said are "perpetuating such discrimination and prejudice."
The Human Rights Campaign also condemned the ads, calling on Mars to pull the "Chest Hair" version that aired during the big game. HRC's Joe Solmonese says in the release that Mars "should know better. If they have any questions about why the ad isn't funny, we can help put them in touch with any number of GLBT Americans who have suffered hate crimes."
Well I, for one, am a gay American — how, exactly, can one person be G, L, B and T anyway? — who has suffered a hate crime, and I am more disturbed by the gross overreaction of these overly earnest gay rights groups.
The version of the Snickers ad that aired during the game was funny, if not exactly guffaw-inducing. Funny, as in funny ha-ha. Remember that, activists? This isn't Isaiah Washington cursing a gay colleage or Michael Richards unleashing a torrent of angry "N-words."
This was a silly ad for a candy bar in which two unattractive, middle-aged mechanics accidentally kiss and then have a comic overreaction. Do we really believe impressionable youngsters will learn life lessons from these two? They are the butt of the joke, after all, not gay people.
Let's not forget, too, that this same-sex kiss didn't just run in prime time, but on Sunday afternoon in the most-watched television event of the year. Long after the short ad spot is forgotten, a taboo has been broken, the "shock value" of a gay kiss has been lessened, and that's ultimately of more cultural influence than the mechanics' macho morality.
The only version of the ad that troubled me was "Monkey Wrench," since it did show the two men whacking each other in the head to prove they were still "manly." But the "violence" was of the slapstick, comic-book variety, about as real as that inflicted on Wile E. Coyote in his pursuit of the Roadrunner. And let's not forget, each clobbering was invited by its recipient, as we're reminded at the end, when one mutters humorously, "OK, that's good."
Viewers are about as likely to respond the same in real-life situations as they are to use a real rock to bash in their opponent's head the next time they play "rock-paper-scisscors," as portrayed in a hilarious Bud Light ad.
An even bigger head-scratcher was the GLAAD/HRC condemnation of the NFL players' reactions. These poor sobs were videotaped as they saw the commercial for the first time and, truth be told, I had the same facial reaction as Mushin Muhammad when I saw these two unattractive guys lock lips. Does that make me a look-ist? Should I sign up for counseling along with Isaiah Washington?
GLAAD accuses two of the players of "overt expressions of prejudice" — Clark presumably for believing the two actors ought to be paid handsomely, and June for explaining how the two guys reacted to kissing, "Nah this ain't right." (Hello, he was explaining what was in the minds of the two men; not his own personal morality.)
C'mon, GLAAD. Are we this hard up for "overt expressions of prejudice"? I understood, in the Isaiah Washington incident, how his celebrity contributed to pushing "the F-word" off the cultural lexicon. But all this type of hypersensitive overreaction does is push gay lives back into taboo territory, too controversial to touch.
Like it or not, one price of coming out of the closet is that we are fair game for cultural jibes as much as anyone else. We gain nothing by proving we are too sensitive to take a joke.
Unfortunately, lost in the dust of outraged press releases is the "Love Boat" version of the Snickers ad that, by any interpretation, was funny and not homophobic. The Mars web site promised that the version that got the most votes would air during the Daytona 500, and the "Love Boat" version was running second, behind "Motor Oil," after I voted.
But in response to the gay groups' press releases, Mars has how pulled all four versions and the players' reactions from its web site. No doubt the controversy has scared the company away from using any version, including "Love Boat," during the Daytona 500 or anywhere else. Is that really a victory?
Decide for yourself. You can view all four versions of the ad and the player reactions by following the jump:
Here's the "Chest Hair" version, courtesy of YouTube.
Here's the "Motor Oil" version:
Here's "Monkey Wrench":
And, finally, here's "Love Boat":
Here's the reaction from the Bears players, taken from the Mars web site:
And here are the Indianapolis Colts:
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