Dear Rance Crain: It's Time to Fire Bob Garfield

mr_t_snickers.jpg

Last week, we were sent a funny ad from AMV BBDO in which Mr. T guns down a speedwalker because it's just too goofy for Mr. T's style and, seemingly, for Snickers. Bob Garfield just reviewed it, gave it zero stars and called the thing...huh...homophobic? What a minute. What the fuck? Homophobic?? I'll be the first one to crap on an ad that is overtly homophobic but, seriously, WTF?? This is the furthest thing from homophobic. Homophobia NEVER crossed my mind when I reviewed this.

What did cross my mind was the oddity of speedwalking. I had a high school track coach - who was, by far, the most un-gay person I have ever known - who race walked and we just thought it was funny....because it is! And he knew we knew it was funny and that we laughed at him and he was cool with it. BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY! The ad, which features a speedwalker, is funny because speedwalking is odd. It's not normal in sense that you don't see it every day.

That said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it and no one, including Mr. T, thinks all speedwalkers must be gay and gunned down. It's fucking ad for fuck's sake. Bob, give the public some credit. They are not homophobic, fairy-hating idiots who drive around gunning down homosexuals. I'll say it again. It's an ad. It's poking fun at something. It's not gay-bashing and it's not homophobic.

OK, so maybe AMV BBDO put a slight gay spin on this but COME ON! Can we not laugh at anything anymore? Are we so politically correct, we can't appreciate a little humor? Do we have to continuously walk on eggshells for fear that, OMFG, we might offend some cause group with nothing better to do than over sensitize the world to the point the only commercials acceptable would consist of a white background with the brand's logo...appearing for the entire duration of the commercial? Oh wait. We can't do that. The white background would offend blacks!

WTF! It is so time for Bob to go.

by Steve Hall    Jul-21-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Commercials, Opinion, Worst   

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Comments



Comments

the worst thing about bob garfield's commentary is that some client people actually give it credence. he is wrong about almost everything.

Posted by: john on July 21, 2008 2:18 PM

I guess when you rant a lot, from time to time people will sometimes tell you that you need to shut up and think. So can I please be that person this time.

The Snickers Spot you referred to was very troubling. And it certainly struck me as very irresponsible. Living in Houston, TX it hasn't been too long ago since gay men were too afraid to walk down the streets in certain neighborhoods for fear of getting struck by beer bottles or bats by guys riding by in pickup trucks who didn't think they met their standard of what a male should be. The pain and fear is very real and it is what a lot of gay men, their friends and family will think of after seeing that spot.

But "OMFG" we wouldn't someone like you to have to stop and think about anything outside your narrow and obviously very small life.

Posted by: Chuck Thurmon on July 21, 2008 2:45 PM

Chuck,
The spot's absurd and hilarious. Even if this were actually teasing gay folks (it's not--it's sending-up the milquetoast archetype), aren't we being a bit to sensitive? By handling certain groups with kid gloves, we in effect, marginalize them even further.

With mass acceptance comes the very real possibility that one is open to the same "slings and arrows" as the rest of the population.

Besides, it's perfectly fine for gay men to walk down the street, now. It's just not okay for them (or anyone else for that matter) to speedwalk down the street.

Posted by: M.M.McDermott on July 21, 2008 3:19 PM

Why is the speedwalker inherently gay?
He doesn't display the usual stereotpyed idiosyncracies, like a lisp. He seems, to me, to be inspired by the male character from the Juno movie in both hairstyle and yellow shorts. And I believe the plot of that movie was driven in part by the chatacter's not-gayness.
Is it the wiggle that makes this fellow gay beyond any question of doubt? I thought the wiggle was typical of what was being mocked; speedwalking.

Posted by: aDub on July 21, 2008 3:27 PM

Forget Garfield's comments...but can anyone seriously say that this ad is good advertising?

Not only is it deeply violent, it perpetuates violence on gays. It's wrong on so many levels.

And to deny homophobia is a problem...start with our own industry. Not only in the ads we create, but in the old white staight guy network that still runs our industry.

Try diversity and respect and win valuable prizes!

Posted by: hotandhumid on July 21, 2008 7:30 PM

Forget Garfield's comments...but can anyone seriously say that this ad is good advertising?

Not only is it deeply violent, it perpetuates violence on gays. It's wrong on so many levels.

And to deny homophobia is a problem...start with our own industry. Not only in the ads we create, but in the old white staight guy network that still runs our industry.

Try diversity and respect and win valuable prizes!

Posted by: hotandhumid on July 21, 2008 7:30 PM

M.M. McDermott,

“It’s sending-up of the milquetoast archetype”? Dude, are you one of those useless planners that writes irrelevant, incomprehensible insights and briefs? Even Steve Hall admitted BBDO put a gay spin on the character. Look at the physical reaction to being shot by the candy bars.

While I’m usually the first to call for Garfield’s resignation, he’s actually correct about the anti-gay undertone in this case.

Your comment—“With mass acceptance comes the very real possibility that one is open to the same ‘slings and arrows’ as the rest of the population.”—shows the very real possibility that you are among the culturally clueless in our industry. Take a peek at the cover story of this week’s Newsweek. It’s the tale of a young man who was killed because of intolerance for gays. Sorry, but most people are not receiving the same “slings and arrows” as gays and lesbians in our society. Mass acceptance is not yet happening for this community. So please refrain from declaring we’ve reached cultural nirvana. It makes you look like a pompous bigot. Sorry.

You need to consider your perspective, friend. You shouldn’t question others’ sensitivity. Time to consider your own insensitivity.

aDub, you need to get a clue too.

Posted by: GLBTalker on July 21, 2008 7:49 PM

GLB,
You said: "Even Steve Hall admitted BBDO put a gay spin on the character. Look at the physical reaction to being shot by the candy bars." So what you're saying is that the speedwalker acting like a wimp indicates that he's gay? That sure sounds pretty close-minded to me. I know plenty of gay folks who are nothing like that; I wouldn't want to go toe-to-toe with them. The spot is making fun of weaklings, not gays.

And I never once said we've reached cultural nirvana, friend. I know there's still a lot of intolerance out there. But to turn everything into a bigot witch hunt is an astounding waste of time. Anything can be construed any way you wish it to be. That's the beauty and bane of perception. So you may continue thinking this is some kind of underhanded advertising scheme aimed at gays; I will continue thinking that Mr. T shooting a Snicker's Bar machine gun is cool as shit.

Posted by: M.M.McDermott on July 22, 2008 9:07 AM

I guess I need to get the times; all wimps are gay.

Thanks for the clarification.

Posted by: aDub on July 22, 2008 10:01 AM

Well, I think you guys are misreading things. The spot in the campaign with Mr. T and the soccer player shows a wimp. The speedwalker is displaying effeminate characteristics and behavior that are more in keeping with gay male stereotypes. Simply compare the two spots. Garfield, while over the top in his reaction, was not the first to take note. Ken Wheaton via the Adages blog beat him to the punch, citing complaints from gays. I’m not turning anything into a bigot witch hunt. The bigots are coming out of the proverbial closet all on their own.

Cheers.

Posted by: GLBTalker on July 22, 2008 11:25 AM

M.M. and aDub,

Just reread M.M.’s reaction, and I must say you’re quite the master of paranoia and spin. As you admit—although don’t seem to grasp yourself—perception is subjective. But our perceptions are also based on our personal histories and perspectives. Perhaps you don’t realize your insensitivity. It’s no sin or fault. Unless you demand that others are wrong to have differing perspectives. Why don’t you ask the “plenty of gay folks” you know and see how they feel?

I never said this was “some kind of underhanded scheme aimed at gays.” I don’t believe the people in our business are that evil or cunning. Rather, I think there’s a great deal of cluelessness. Which leads to a great deal of insensitivity. Now, if you’re the typical types I suspect you are, you’ll probably argue that we’re all too PC and every idea is bound to offend someone. But Snickers actually has a history of doing outstanding work that did not incorporate stereotypes and insensitive imagery. So there’s proof that such depictions are not only wrong, they’re also unnecessary to doing great, award-winning work.

You two might think you’re clever and righteous in your responses. But honestly, you’re only fueling the perceptions about our business as being staffed by clueless, irrelevant morons. Sorry. But the truth is, I know the industry is comprised of people more enlightened than you. I would also hope that you will progress too.

Cheers.

Posted by: GLBTalker on July 22, 2008 11:42 AM

You want it both ways, GLB (no pun intended); you rail against advertising's perceived anti-gay messaging and, in the same breath, trot out tired gay stereotypes that perpetuate the mindset you assail.

I don't think I'm righteous at all. In fact, I'm plenty wrongteous at times and will readily admit it. But if my adding a little levity, common sense, and level-headedness to the conversation contributes to the cultural cluelessness of the industry, then I suppose I'm guilty as charged.

We obviously don't agree, and probably never will. But I don't think your ad hominem rejoinders and generalizations about me personally will do much to close that gap. You want to preach tolerance? Try it first.

Posted by: M.M.McDermott on July 22, 2008 12:57 PM

Again, M.M., your paranoia and defensiveness are typical. Try reading my comments more carefully versus extracting only the elements you want to debate. There are no dual directions in my perspective. I’m not trotting out gay stereotypes. Snickers is. Remember, I’m not even the first to notice it. Take a look at the thread at Adage.com for Garfield’s column. The comments indicate there are plenty of people who see the stereotypes and insensitivity. My question continues to be, why don’t you notice it? Can you honestly say that you would come up with ideas like the speedwalker spot and feel good about it? I hope not. Sadly, I’m also pretty convinced I can’t change your mind on anything. But for someone who has directed terms like “close-minded” at me, well, look in the mirror, friend. I’m not preaching tolerance. But I will admit I’m trying to point out insensitivity and intolerance. In the end, you can do as you wish with your introspective discoveries.

On a side note, I would also ask you to consider the professional nature of such work. Are we, as advertising folks, not responsible for creating messages that don’t place our clients in a negative light? What purpose is served by creating such unnecessary controversy? Granted, I fully believe the Snickers spot was not intended to be malicious. But guess what? It is. We shouldn’t try to defend a mistake by disregarding the offended as overly sensitive. Why not try to understand their point of view and react appropriately?

Cheers.

Posted by: GLBTalker on July 22, 2008 1:21 PM

I think we need to write an open letter to AdAge President asking to get rid of Bob Garfield.

Posted by: ian on July 22, 2008 5:03 PM

Why must white people bring black people into everything....... how did you leave your story and jump on black people?

Posted by: Charlie on July 22, 2008 6:56 PM

Um, Charlie, what are you typing about? Mr. T is the only Black person mentioned here. Unless you meant Hall's last comment, which was only expounding on the overall issue of offending people.

Posted by: Mr. T on July 22, 2008 8:01 PM

GLBTalker,

I'm sorry if I seemed righteous or clever; I honestly intended to be neither. And I certainly I hope that I progress as well. Having inflexible opinions for the next fifty years would be irresponsible and dull.


But for now, as much as I may think it is more offensive to assume this is undoubtably a homosexual slight than not, trying to convince you of so won't change a thing. You have been offended by this spot and even a better explanation than I can offer of how this spot shouldn't be offensive cannot undo the fact that you have, in fact, been offended.

The agency balanced the numbers of people they thought would be on each side of the argument. I would assume they judged that the people offended were potentially far fewer than those that may enjoy it as an inoffensive advertisement.

I think that judgement was accurate. You don't. Well, the ad is out there now. Public reaction will determine if it was in bad taste. It's not really the type of thing that can be determined by argument, no matter how scholarly or snippy.

Posted by: aDub on July 22, 2008 11:49 PM

aDub,

I would assume nothing on the agency side. My guess is that they didn’t really give it much thought. I do not believe anyone intentionally sought to demean anyone. But I do believe the ad business does a lousy job of depicting any group that isn’t an 18-35 year old White male. And we often struggle with that group too. Even the comments on this small thread indicate others have been offended. And of course, Garfield appears mighty offended. It doesn’t help that this is a “second strike” in the insensitive gay depiction area for Snickers. But it should be interesting to see if it escalates to a response from the advertiser or agency.

Posted by: GLBTalker on July 23, 2008 10:00 AM

I have to say, this is very interesting. I am gay, and I would disagree with this being anti-gay. It was seriously just humor, and didn't really even imply anything about homosexuality in my opinion. However I suppose someone has to pay for the injustice of the Heinz ad pull.

Posted by: Jon on July 26, 2008 3:11 PM





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