By Chris Crain
Under pressure from gay groups, the candy maker Mars pulled a TV ad for Snickers that aired during last week’s Super Bowl showing two tough mechanics freak out after they accidentally kissed.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign hailed Mars’ decision, but is it a victory for gay rights or for short-sighted political correctness?
If you missed the ad or the ensuing brouhaha, it featured two unattractive, middle-aged mechanics working closely under the hood of a car. One unwraps a Snickers and begins eating it while the other gazes longingly — at the candy bar.
The second mechanic starts uninvited eating the other end of the Snickers, leading to a “Lady & The Tramp” kiss in the middle. The two men jump back, shocked that they’ve just smooched, and, in the ending that aired in the Super Bowl, one mechanic says, “Uh, I think we just kissed.”
“Quick, do something manly,” the other responds, and they rip open their shirts and tear out big wads of chest hair.
The Human Rights Campaign was quick to condemn the ads, although they ought to be busy protecting our interests on Pennsylvania Avenue, not Madison Avenue.
HRC chief Joe Solmonese was characteristically patronizing, chasitising Mars for not “knowing better.”
“If they have any questions about why the ad isn’t funny,” finger-wags Solmonese, “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 who suffered a broken nose and two black eyes for holding my boyfriend’s hand in the street. If that somehow qualifies me to speak, then let me say I am much less disturbed by Snickers’ goofy ad than by the gross overreaction of our overly earnest activists.
The Snickers spot was funny; almost every queer I know laughed when they saw it. This wasn’t Isaiah (“Dr. McBigotty”) Washington cursing a gay colleague or Michael (“K.K.Kramer”) 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 have a comic overreaction. Do we really believe impressionable youngsters will learn violently homophobic life lessons from these two? The mechanics were 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 TV event of the year. Long after the Snickers spot is forgotten, another taboo will still have been broken, the “shock value” of a gay kiss will have been lessened, and that’s ultimately of more cultural influence than the make-believe mechanics’ twisted macho morality.
HRC and GLAAD were also upset about alternative endings for the Snickers ad that Mars posted on its website, along with reactions from players on the two Super Bowl teams.
In the only troubling version, one mechanic responds to the suggestion to “do something manly” by grabbing a large wrench and whacking the other in the stomach. The second mechanic throws the first under the hood and slams it down on top of him.
GLAAD “strongly condemned” the “Wrench” version and quoted Judy Shepard saying the Snickers campaign “encourages the same type of hate that led to the death of my son Matthew.”
Her reaction is understandable, given her personal tragedy, but shame on GLAAD for taking the bait. Yes, the ad is violent, but like dozens that aired this Super Bowl, it was slapstick, comic-book violence. In the trailing seconds, the mechanic trapped under the hood murmurs, “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-scissors” to see who gets the last beer, as portrayed in another hilarious Super Bowl ad.
Lost in the P.C. shuffle is another version of the Snickers ad that both HRC and GLAAD ignore in their condemnatory press releases. In “Love Boat,” both men jump back from the kiss and before either says anything, a third, long-haired mechanic walks up, tosses his hair and says, “Is there room for three in this love boat?”
It’s gay friendly and it’s funny, and it was running a close second among visitors to Mars’ website to air during the Daytona 500 when Mars caved in to our activists and scuttled the whole campaign.
Are we really this hyper-sensitive? Like it or not, one price of removing the cultural taboo around homosexuality is that we are fair game for cultural jibes as much as anyone else. No one wants to see a commercial with two well-adjusted guppies — or yuppies — smooching with their Snickers bar.
We gain nothing by proving we can’t take a joke, and we risk pushing Madison Avenue and Hollywood into treating homosexuality as the love you dare not speak of lest you piss off the activists.