Saturday, July 26, 2008

5742: Snickering At Progress…?

Let’s close out the week with random thoughts on the story filling too many entries at this blog.

Bob Garfield posted additional notes, engaging directly with visitors at An Open Letter To Omnicom President-CEO John Wren. When one person questioned Garfield’s argument that the scenario was “not about gay or not gay,” the columnist snapped:

Sigh. This is so simple. You don’t have to be gay to be the target of macho aggression. If you are slight, or weak, or meek or odd. If you don’t like football or groove on Liza. If you read books. If you drive a Neon. If for any reason you don’t fulfill the masculinity expectations of the bully, you are therefore a faggot and: ridiculed, berated, laughed at, marginalized, stuffed into a locker, beaten up, murdered. Ass-wiggling speedwalker = faggot. It’s code. Likewise sweater-draped poodle walkers who squeal “oooooooh!” This kind of ad, which normalizes and even incites contempt or worse for the supposed faggots, is therefore homophobic whether the runner is gay or not. QED.
(BTW, sorry about dropping the N. Yours, Bo) —Bob Garfield, Anytown

After expressing such outrage over the offenses presented in the Snickers spot, it’s disconcerting to see Garfield toss around a slur with reckless abandon—although he’ll undoubtedly have some defense for his use of the word. Whatever. When the person being schooled by Garfield complained, “…There really is no need for the patronizing ‘Sigh. This is so simple,’” the columnist shot back:

I reject your characterization. It was NOT patronizing. It was condescending.

Sorry about that; it’s frustrating when the point I feel I made so clearly in the original text doesn’t register with, or make sense to, the entire world.

Alas, I think your Nazi propaganda example -- as I mentioned earlier in this thread -- is not so hyperbolic after all. The business of caricaturing an “other” is a slippery slope whose natural bottom is violence. Hence the Matthew Shepard analogy. Shooting candy bars at a sissy speedwalker is different from bludgeoning an effeminate college student only in degree. —Bob Garfield, Anytown

Well, yeah, the scenarios are different only in degree—first-degree murder. Does Garfield really believe the Omnicom creative team behind the Snickers spot deserves being compared to hate-crime killers? This is indeed a slippery slope, like when people accuse others of resembling Hitler. Garfield sorta did that too.

Garfield confessed to displaying condescension, as well as frustration when his points weren’t making sense to the entire world. Heaven forbid the man might consider the possibility that he’s unclear.

An offline commentator wondered about MultiCultClassics relating Garfield to Jesse Jackson in an earlier post. It’s admittedly a winding stretch, prompted by a recent perspective from syndicated columnist Clarence Page. Responding to Jackson’s infamous gripe that Barack Obama was “talking down” to Blacks, Page disagreed with the statement. He contended Obama and the critical Bill Cosby are successful because “they don’t talk down to their audiences. They enlist their audiences as partners.” Garfield could benefit from trying to do likewise.

While Garfield exchanged online volleys with assorted characters, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation took its case straight to Snickers parent company Mars Inc., and the candy maker decided to pull the commercial. While the outcome is hardly unexpected, it leaves unresolved and peculiar elements too.

For starters, Garfield’s original rant remains unanswered. That is, Omnicom and John Wren appear to walk away scot-free. The company’s worst-case scenario would be losing the Snickers account. Or watching Garfield launch an Omnicom Must Die blog.

Additionally, the stereotypical angry mob that assembled to shoot down Garfield’s basic premise likely still harbors animosity over the entire incident. Do these people represent the industry’s majority? It’s tough to tell. But they certainly provide ammunition for those seeking proof that our industry has a long way to go on the journey toward progress.

Finally, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation revealed that after the homophobic Super Bowl Snickers commercial aired in 2007, “HRC began a constructive dialogue with Mars on workplace inclusion for GLBT employees.” Somebody tell HRC they missed the real target: the advertising industry creating offensive messages and pooh-poohing diversity. It would be interesting to see Madison Avenue face another organization with Human Rights in its title.

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