Ellen DeGeneres may be dancing her way through an American Express ad, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Thom Felicia may have recently been named spokesperson for Pier 1 Imports, but according to a recent report released by the Commercial Closet Association, more “negative” portrayals of gay and lesbian themes appeared in mainstream ads last year than the year prior. According to the study, nearly half of the ads, 40 out of 87, rated on commercialcloset.org were deemed “negative” (45.9 percent) as compared to 21 out of 110 ads in 2003 (19 percent). Why the sharp increase? Blame it on the election year and all the Bushies campaigning against same-sex marriages, if you want.
Homophobic themes popped up in all sorts of advertising last year, from ads for candy to cars. (The rating system ranges from “Positive” to “Stereotype.”) The site defines “Negative” as ads that use same-sex attraction, accompanied by “horrific reaction by someone straight,” as their source of humor. Among last year’s ads deemed “Negative:” Burger King’s “Wake Up with the King” ad, a spot featuring a man waking up with a man in an oversized mask and king costume; a Chevy spot in which friends sitting in the back seat of the car move away from the guy singing “Man, I feel like a woman.” And an M&M/Shrek 2 spot in which Red gives Yellow a disgusted look when he makes a kissing face at him and he responds,“That’s not gonna happen.” (Most, if not all, of the ads can be viewed here.)
Despite the 90 percent increase of “negative” ads, there were some gay advertising milestones last year, according to founder Michael Wilke, including American Express’ Ellen DeGeneres ad, T-Mobile’s inclusion of a male couple in its “Couples Talk Free” campaign, and Felicia’s Pier 1 campaign.
It’s too early to tell if 2005 will fare any better. But as the Super Bowl approaches, we have a feeling the ratio isn’t going to get any better any time soon. The advertising on the big game isn’t exactly known for its sensitive side.
—Posted by Eleftheria Parpis