Unlike most of my friends, I’m not a car guy. When they tell me about the newest hottest BMW, or whatever, my eyes glaze over. I can’t tell a Mercedes from a Mazda.
And that’s why I like Chrysler. I can recognize them on the street; they have unique styling and stand out from the generic boxes driving by them. When the LA Car Show comes, I head to the Chrysler section first.
Then the other day I saw a commercial for the DaimlerChrysler’s new Dodge Caliber. In the ad there’s a little fairy flying around turning everything “cute”. But when the fairy tries her magic on the Caliber the fairy dust bounces off because the Caliber is “too tough”. A large tough-looking guy walks buy with a big dog and says “Silly little fairy”. The fairy responds by turning him into an effeminately dressed man in white shorts with four little Pomeranians on pink leashes.
I live in Los Angeles and I’m not exposed to much open homophobia. And it has been a long time since corporate America – or the networks – displayed mocking imagery of gays. So the coupling of the image of an effeminate man and the term “silly little fairy” came as a shock.
Some gay groups have expressed concern about this ad and brought it to Chrysler’s attention. Chrysler makes no apology for the imagery and says, “We’re kind of surprised that people are making a conclusion about someone’s sexual orientation based on the clothes they’re wearing”.
They’re surprised? That’s odd.
Whether or not the character is gay is irrelevant. Chrysler has decided that effeminate men deserve ridicule. And this bothers me.
Any school administrator can tell you that whether or not they are gay, effeminate boys get beaten up, picked on, and bullied. Sometimes to the point where they kill themselves to get away from a life of daily misery.
Chrysler’s hoping their ad gets a lot of attention. And if some “silly little fairy” goes home from school and finds his mother’s sleeping pills, well they have no legal liability.
I wrote to Chrysler expressing my concern and got the vaguest canned response making it clear that though they “appreciate your insightful feedback” and my opinion is “very important and provides valuable input”, they have no intention of apologizing or pulling the ad. I believe in their appreciation of my opinion about as much as I believe in their surprise.
Although conservative Christian groups claim to show love and discourage mocking and derision, none have condemned the message in the ad. PFOX, who claims that stereotyping adds to a negative environment and pretends to oppose bullying, has said nothing. Exodus, with their parade of effeminate ex-gays has not said a word. Surely they realize that imagery of this sort impacts effeminate ex-gays as much as it does effeminate gays.
I don’t think there’s any point of boycotting or organizing a protest. But Chrysler’s message is clear: effeminate men should not buy Chryslers.
I don’t think I will either.