Homosexuality in Advertising By: Deunte Banks

Overview…The theme that I chose to represent was the portrayal of Homosexuality in popular media advertising. This topic particularly caught my attention because of the numerous commercials and ads that choose to reinforce white-heterosexuality as dominant or as the norm in our society. I’ve learned from Dream World’s III and in class discussions that popular culture gives us the means to explore our sexuality, femininity and masculinity. With that said, one is only left to question the boundaries surrounding anyone other than a white, middle-class, heterosexual American. In my analysis, I decided to only use videos to get my point across; primarily because my theme deals with breaking the mythical norms associated with middle class, heterosexuality, in commercial advertising and exploring diversity. The take home message from my critique is that I hope to give you a better understanding of how sexuality alone, isn’t a strong enough force to demand change amongst the people. If we really want change, we have to think on a much broader scale, similar to that of Crenshaw in her “Mapping the Origins piece.” We have to think intersectionally and re-create the ideologies that govern the meaning of what being an American is truly about.

The first thing that I noticed in this ad was that the male and female in chairs were both white and presumably middle class. The idea comes from the notion they are on a beach which seems very elegant and both have items that are associated with individuals who have access to money, hence their “Tablets.” At first glance, I assumed the first male shown was the stereotypical, masculine heterosexual Caucasian male, usually shown in advertising, but I was wrong. As the ad continued to play through, it began to disrupt normative values. It portrayed the man sitting with a common role usually played by the woman in our society, “the reader.” This led me to believe that he was no longer playing a masculine role and was taking on a more feminine role. By the end of the ad, we find out that the man is actually gay, which disrupts the idea that heterosexuality is the only option available. In my opinion this ad works because it ruptures the concept of Symbolic Annihilation, which states you can’t be what you can’t see. It allows homosexuals the chance to see themselves displayed in a positive manner. However, if the producers of this ad were really trying to make a statement by disrupting the normative values and breaking down stereotypes, they could have incorporated more touchy areas. What I mean is that instead of just expressing strong feelings for homosexuality, they could’ve made the ad more diverse incorporating more types of people than just white, presumably affluent Americans.

The first thing that I notice in this ad is two kids playing, but one kid looks happier than the other. It’s noticeable when the kids first begin to climb, that the kid in orange has a huge smile on his face, while the other kid seems to be depressed about something. All of the kids shown in the video are white kids, which fail to properly represent racial equality, allowing other individuals, such as minorities the chance to properly relate to the ad. One can assume that the mother in the ad is a married, middle class heterosexual woman based on the comment she makes, when asking the boy that is not hers, “Where’s your mommy?” Another thing that leads me to this assumption is the ring on her finger. Towards the end of the ad, we are forced to assume that the little boy without a mom has two fathers. The ad then goes on and narrates about how marriage should be about a kid’s needs, rather than an adult’s wants. In my opinion, this ad doesn’t work very well. It portrays gay fathers as cold and heartless and leads one to assume that the best possibility for a child is having a mother and a father. So, that leaves the lingering question, What if the child had two mommies? Would that make for the best possible outcome, since in the ad, a mother is being viewed as the most loving and caring thing that makes a child happy. The moment I realized the ad failed to be diverse, it suddenly reminded me of Hooks argument about the “Oppositional Gaze.” This leaves me questioning, is the audience for the ad supposed to be only aimed at white, heterosexual, middle class American’s or is there some type of other explanation of why no other race or class is being portrayed. Ultimately, this ad is showing that Homosexuality is unacceptable and is trying to use reasoning for the child’s sake, to justify itself.

The first thing that I notice in this ad is that there are three white, men, who seem to be middle class/ working class based on the clothes they are wearing. On the surface, they seem like they are being portrayed as the stereotypical, heterosexual nerds who are having casual drinks after work, in hopes of “getting lucky.” This was a common theme reiterated in Dream Worlds, one that shows guys as primitive creatures all lusting for one thing, sex. They even make the guys seem like teenagers, living out a fantasy, in the depiction of them sort of rooting for or cheering on their buddy to go and get the lady. This ideology of how a straight heterosexual male is supposed to act works well because shortly after, the producers disrupt the normative values. It’s like they built up this climax in a story and then once you got there, it wasn’t as it seemed. This goes hand in hand with Mulvey’s arguments. In the ad, the camera is shown through the eyes of a male. Although it is on the men at the table, it’s okay to assume that what the audience sees is through the eyes of the heterosexual male viewer. An example is when they showed the second woman, this is where we are introduced to Mulvey’s ideas of scopophilia; which state that we get pleasure from looking. The ad also highlights Mulvey by using the male gaze. The camera seductively pans up the girl’s dress slowly, eyeing her and emphasizing how her body is like an object that all men lust for. Then, it happens. The man goes against the social norms and breaks the classic patterns of what is desirable by all men and shows that there is another way. He breaks the oppressive barriers or hegemonic beliefs that try and force us to think that heterosexuality is again, the norm that everyone should follow. I believe this ad works well, but similar to my other ads, it lacks a multifactorial approach. It is only using one standard to disrupt our ideas of normalcy and I think that in order to truly get the point across that the producers should take a more diverse approach, one that allows people of all colors, race, class and sexuality to be able to relate to.

In this ad, I notice a young white male, who is eating dinner presumably with his parents. It’s easy to infer that the characters in the ad are most likely middle class, due to the classical soundtrack in the background and fancy wine glass at the dinner table. The moment the boy says “I have to tell you something,” that leads us, the audience, to assume that he is about to tell his white heterosexual parents that he is gay. When the boy says, “I’m straight” and the camera shows us that his parents are in fact a gay married couple, this then disrupts normative values. I think this ad works well because it uses a role reversal to get its point across. It also coincides with Lorde’s argument on oppression and undermines the social concepts of the mythical norm or the belief that there is a neutral identity that presides over everything and if you are not part of or agree with that identity then you are considered the other and then is viewed as different. Lorde says that there is three ways to respond to oppression, we can ignore it, give in to it or we can destroy it. In my opinion, this ad completely destroys the stereotypical, white heterosexual family in America. However, it does not touch on any other aspects that could potentially help make the overall message more meaningful. I don’t see any diversity, so again it would be hard for minorities to get a sense of reality from the ad itself.

The first thing I notice in this particular ad is a white, presumably middle class father and daughter sitting on the stairs discussing relationships. Based solely on their discussion alone, we are left to assume that the dad is a heterosexual male, who seems to be portrayed as this tough conservative man of values. The daughter in the ad is using concealment, a form of deception in which a person answers questions but omits certain details because they are hiding a secret. The idea behind this ad and why it is successful is because when the dad is questioning his daughter about her relationship, he uses blind stereotypical assumptions about what an American relationship is supposed to look like. This relates to Lull’s argument about how starting at an ideology eventually leads to the inequality of a certain group. In this case, that group is homosexual couples. The ideology of heterosexuality is present from the start of their initial discussion. This leads to hegemonic beliefs or the status quo of relationships. Once there is an assumed belief that one group is better than another, this then leads to oppression. Oppression essentially restricts movement and therefore leaves individuals believing that they can’t move forward. Once this occurs, a group then views itself as inferior, causing binaries to define relationships of power and dominance. In the ad, the dad never even thinks that there is a possibility that the person driving the Toyota could be anything other than a man. So, when the girl gets into the car and it turns out that she’s with a woman, this disrupts not only her father’s, but the audience’s normative values. Similar to all of my other ads, this add too, lacks the multidimensional aspect that Crenshaw stressed so heavily on. It’s true that this ad does work, but there are other characteristics and traits out there that can make the purpose of the ad much more meaningful.

Analysis

My playlist is composed of popular advertising ads that deal with homosexuality. A recurring theme throughout is hegemony in white, middle class, heterosexual Americans. Despite the fact that each ad has its own motives for reaching audiences, essentially they all said the same thing; that oppressing a group is bad. Out of all five of my ads, I specifically chose to include one that goes against gay marriage and dismisses homosexuality altogether; just so I can emphasize what we learned in class about how intent is less important than interpretation and effect. In my second ad, “Where’s your mommy” the intent of the ad was to portray gay married couples as bad, but instead its message backfired and allowed me to view it oppositionally. I saw how ridiculous the stereotypes we choose to accept can actually seem. I realized that the way we perceive things can be interpreted differently, depending on the individual’s experience. I think collectively, my playlist is playing a role of its own. In my opinion, these five ads together are acting like a giant culture jammer. What I mean by this is that like an ad buster, my ads are subliminally using different strategies to enlighten people about the real problems that underlie our social institutions. These institutions range from marriage, all the way down to kids playing at the park. They address there is a problem and propose that in order to solve the big puzzle, we have to start with smaller pieces. In my critiques I made it clear that my ads are working but a one man army can only do so much. My ads broke through one barrier just to get caught up in another. Intersectionality states that fighting for a particular right works, but fails to recognize differences in groups. This relates to a term used by Crenshaw called “Intersectional Subordination; which states that by using a one track approach, this leads to consequences of conflict with pre-existing vulnerabilities. This creates yet another dimension of disempowerment. My playlist does just that. It successfully addresses the problem of homosexuality in advertising, but fails to address other problems with interconnected goals. For instance, problems like racism, sexism, and even elitism. These things together would be a force but separately, they are just snap shots of the bigger picture.  The message that I wanted to give was one that supports LGBT, in the eyes of Hooks. This approach focused on transforming our modes of spectatorship, and fighting for equality all across the boards; not just for white, middle class homosexuality. Also I wanted my playlist to give people the chance to question their ideals, values and belief systems, while simultaneously, learning to think objectively and intersectionally.

Works Cited

Buller, David and Judee Burgoon. “Interpersonal Deception Theory.” A First Look at Communication Theory. Ed. Dr. Chip Eveland. 18th ed. Pg 97-109.

Crenshaw, Kimberle’ Williams. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity, Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Reading Women’s Lives. Ed. Amanda Rossie. New York: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. Pg 55-65.

Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. Dir. Sut Jhally. 2007. Online.

Hooks, Bell. “The Oppositional Gaze.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2010. Pg 107-118.

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” Reading Women’s Lives. Ed. Amanda Rossie. New York: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. Pg 17-27.

Lull, James. “Hegemony.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Cultural Studies Approach. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage, 2011. Pg 61-65.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. 2nd ed.New York: Routledge, 2010. Pg 57-65.

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