David Thompson
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June 25, 2008

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Anna

Summerskill: "Young and principled, once upon a time my pals and I protested by going on marches against apartheid. Or by unfolding as many sweaters as we could in Benetton before the security guards threw us out. (Slipping gently into the quietude of late middle age, I can't quite remember what we were protesting about on that occasion.)"

Sounds a bit of a prick.

David

Anna,

Well, if a person can’t remember what it was they were so offended by, it does make me wonder if it’s the “look-at-me-I’m-protesting” bit that matters to them most. And it seems to me that, for many, the self-admiring role-play is a little too seductive. Almost any excuse will do. Which might explain the implausible umbrage involving adverts for mayonnaise.

Dr.Dawg

I found the whole thing weird. First, the advert: the gay sub-theme was just...wrong. Gay men in a SSM don't get called "Mom." If SSM was being hinted at here, the clash of stereotypes, both gay and straight, is simply deafening.

But then to *pull* the ad? Because a handful of fundies complains? Dumb, meet dumber. If gays and lesbians weren't offended by the ad in the first place, they have every right to be ticked off by Heinz's cut-and-run. How many years after Stonewall is this, anyway?

David

Dr Dawg,

“If gays and lesbians weren’t offended by the ad in the first place, they have every right to be ticked off by Heinz’s cut-and-run. How many years after Stonewall is this, anyway?”

Well, it’s all a bit silly, but isn’t that the point? I mean, the burly deli chef even lifts his foot as they kiss – just as Mum would do. (Ahem.) I don’t think one should take it terribly seriously, as some seem determined to do. It is, surely, a bit of fluff? It made me smile, anyway. The idea that gay people should be vehemently offended (by the ad or its withdrawal) is, to me, as bizarre as the original complaints. Though what tickled me most is the fact that the ad wasn’t shown during children’s programming not because of the kiss, but because the product contains lots of sugar and salt.

JuliaM

"I'm constantly offended..."

God, she must get tired...

"Not so much a clash of titans as a weeping contest between two tribes of self-important, whiny bitches."

/applause

JuliaM

"But then to *pull* the ad? Because a handful of fundies complains?"

Hmm, the only mention of 'fundies' comes from Summerskill's blog comment that says the decision was "... an easy way to palm off 200 fundamentalist Christian complainants". The Guardian article on the ASA makes no mention of the complainant's identity that I can see - they don't tend to record who complains anyway, do they?

I don't think the letters and emails necessarily stated 'I am a fundamentalist Christian and I disapprove of this message!'. That's just Summerskill's supposition.

Dr.Dawg

Maybe it was Hellman's fans. : )

JuliaM

Heh. THAT I could understand - Heinz mayo is revolting in comparison...

David

Of the two, Hellmann’s is the superior product.

“God, she must get tired...”

I’m still amused by Williams’ belief that her colleagues and readers don’t complain enough. Does she actually *read* the Guardian – I mean, ever? It’s like a leftwing Daily Mail. The sky is forever falling. I treasure my memories of her fellow columnist George Monbiot grumbling quite passionately about the existence of jet skis and gold-plated saucepans. It spurred such egalitarian passion in him, he was praying for a recession as a form of moral spanking.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/oct/09/comment.economy

Wonder Woman

Does Teresa know about this?

Bear in mind...this is the UK...most of these complaints probably came from offended Muslims, rather than fundamentalist Christians.

And I find it utterly laughable that anyone would claim the left doesn't complain enough! No matter how good life and society gets, they're always bleating about catastrophy and strife, blah...blah...blah

eno

let them hear us! write an email to pressoffice@uk.hjheinz.com with copy to butlerc@amvbbdo.com, Ted.Smyth@us.hjheinz.com, Nigel.Dickie@uk.hjheinz.com and Consumer.Contact@uk.hjheinz.com

subject: Censoring of Heinz Deli Mayo TV ad

dear mr. or mrs. i’m really disappointed, why did you remove the Heinz Deli Mayo TV ad made by BBDO only because a bunch of sick homophobes pressured you to do that? you are endorsing a homophobe agenda and i won’t buy any of your products again until you repair the damage you have done. you have lost one customer, and i’m pretty sure i won’t be the only one. have a nice day xxxxxx

and sign the petition too: http://www.petitiononline.com/heinz/petition.html

we are a lot more than 200 sick homophobes, and they have lost us as customers!

klipper

"self-important, whiny bitches" - who do you mean?

David

Klipper,

Aside from the notables quoted above, this would probably qualify:

“Gaydar Radio presenter Simon Le Vans said the food company’s decision was ‘gutless, to say the least, and extremely homophobic’…”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jun/25/advertising

Well, gutless, perhaps - or maybe just canny marketing - but I don’t see how withdrawing the ad can be described as “extremely homophobic”. And this kind of generic indignation is no less absurd than finding the ad “offensive”. This is what I mean by devaluing the currency of complaint. If a person thinks pulling the ad is “extremely homophobic” they really shouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t taken seriously.

Mat Larson

"Why don't lefties complain more?" - I was unaware that it was even theoretically POSSIBLE for lefties to complain more.

AntiCitizenOne

New Regulation to solve problem

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/arts-%26-entertainment/television-to-be-controlled-by-200-latent-homosexuals-200806241046/

David

Heh. “There really is no need for this sort of thing.”

Craig Mc

¨Why don’t lefties complain more?¨

Because they eventually have to breathe in - until they learn circular breathing of course.

Rob

""Why don't lefties complain more?" - I was unaware that it was even theoretically POSSIBLE for lefties to complain more."

They could forego sleep.

Dom

"As a man who kisses another man quite often ..." You're not coming out to me, are you?

David

To you personally? Not really. But I felt Julia should know our marriage is a sham.

Horace Dunn

From the Widow Twanky to Tootsie, the subversion of gender roles to provide comedy and insight has been a staple of stage and screen since caveman Ug first felled a tree to fashion a rudimentary stage while Mrs Ug sewed together some skins to make a curtain. Or perhaps Mrs Ug chopped down the tree and Ug made the curtain. It is rather baffling that this ad (which I thought was rather sweet) should have caused upset.

But, David, to make another point, you say:

'If a person thinks pulling the ad is “extremely homophobic” they really shouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t taken seriously'.

Well, perhaps, but surely the fact that the ad was pulled should be of some concern to those who feel that homosexuality should not be viewed as malign or distasteful. I realise that your remarks are directed more at the self-regarding tone (the Guardian's house-tone) of the protests rather than at the substance of those protests. Yet, you say:

"The idea that gay people should be vehemently offended (by the ad or its withdrawal) is, to me, as bizarre as the original complaints."

Why? Every morning in the UK there are many thousands of same-sex couples who kiss eachother goodbye before leaving for work. The message sent by the withdrawal of this advert is that their doing this is in some way distasteful (or at least that a proportion of society finds it distasteful and that their opinion holds sway). I agree with you that having a hissy fit and losing sleep would be an overreaction, but I can understand why people would feel (mildly) offended by it, and think it important to make some sort of stand (that is if they can find a gap in their busy complaining schedules).

David

Horace,

Well, people are free to take whatever legal stands they wish and advertisers will generally do whatever’s expedient and effective. I suspect Heinz’ ad agency will actually be quite pleased by the fuss and subsequent attention. Perhaps that was the intention all along. And I maintain that if a person claims that the withdrawal of the ad constitutes “extreme homophobia” then that person really shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously. It’s a vacuous assertion, and one that is, conveniently, unsubstantiated. It also leaves me wondering how that person would describe a real, inexcusable act of bigotry, one that actually does injure someone badly and for no good reason.

My basic point is that the currency of complaint is devalued by casual, reflexive or recreational use. And I think this matters. Opinions may vary as to whether that describes the examples above, but it seems to me that adding to the chorus of indignation is, at best, a mixed blessing. Is the world made better if *everyone* starts whinging about how offended they are by adverts, or by the withdrawal of adverts, in an escalating chorus of sorrow? (In Ms Williams’ case: “Ooh, but that mouthwash advert has a glimpse of female thigh in it. It’s objectifying women! I’m being oppressed! Feel my pain!”)

JuliaM

"To you personally? Not really. But I felt Julia should know our marriage is a sham."

Lol!

"Every morning in the UK there are many thousands of same-sex couples who kiss eachother goodbye before leaving for work."

If the advert HAD actually been a normal gay couple, they may have had a point. But since it isn't (being more of a visual pun, with a man replacing the real wife), they don't.

Far better to save the outrage for when it's really needed...

David

“Far better to save the outrage for when it’s really needed...”

Exactly. There’s a lot to be said for not crying wolf. The current climate of passive-aggressive whinging is bad enough, and dishonest enough. Escalating the level of complaint, which is in effect what Williams is proposing, will make things shriller and more censorious. And more dishonest, as people exaggerate their grievances in order to be heard over everyone else’s grievances.

From Williams’ article:

“On feminist grounds, I object to the Corsodyl advert; a camera travels pervily over the body of a young woman, lingering on her thighs, arse and breasts, before coming to a stop at her mouth, where she’s missing a tooth because of her poor oral hygiene… ‘Ah! The shock! Her breasts were so promising, and yet she has a mouth like a graveyard. While we’ve got your horrified attention, ladies, might we suggest this mouthwash?’ What a nauseating comic backwater. Who would want to explain to their daughter why this kind of thing would never happen to a boy?”

Actually, I’ve seen several ads that use very similar devices with male figures. In fact, adverts increasingly employ the same kind of approach with men. Seems fair enough to me. (I bought some sporty shoes a while ago and was confronted with a strikingly homoerotic life-size image of Cristiano Ronaldo. Has Ms Williams somehow failed to notice this trend?) And, in terms of selling mouthwash, the Corsodyl ad, which I saw yesterday, is quite effective. As various anti-smoking campaigns have demonstrated, vanity can sway the public where an interest in health doesn’t. Again, Williams’ indignation, supposedly on feminist grounds, is overwrought and very nearly comical. And if someone identifies so intensely and ideologically with advertising and with the showing or not showing of a given ad and what it supposedly represents, then, frankly, that person is a sucker.

AntiCitizenOne

Re Corsodyl:

I highly recommend this product, as does my dental hygienist. Throw out your Listerine.

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