This is not the first homophobic commercial created by snickers. They seem intent to push the idea that if you identify as GLBT somehow you are less than. This new commercial endorses violence against homosexuals, and this is very dangerous in a society that believes that their lives are without value. How many GLBT people have to pay with their lives before we decide that homophobia is wrong?
In a post I wrote for Feminocracy, I discuss the ways in which gender essentialism is harmful. This commercial further proves the point that traits that we assign based in gender have a tendency to other large groups of people. Sexuality has nothing to do with gender identification, and when we relate the two, we further support a gender binary as an acceptable way to understand and order our world . A gay male is just as masculine as a hetero male. The problem is that we have assigned specific behaviour patterns to masculinity without acknowledging that what we view as masculine has morphed over the centuries, thus what we have normalized today is simply the result of the continual social disciplining of gender performativity.
Notice that the male garments are just as adorned as the female clothing, yet these men would not have been considered effeminate in the least. Men wore wigs, powders and elaborate fabrics. It is only recently that we have decided that such a visible display is ostentatious. If we can see from this example the fluidity of the masculine identity, it is then possible to understand that the rigid displays of masculinity today were not always considered "normal". All of the clothing hold basically the same elements in terms of visibility and beautification. The similarity in clothing is an indicator that though one is specifically male and the other specifically female there is in a sense gender shifting, that was not only considered appropriate, but desirable.
I could now continue on with a list of gay males throughout the century for whom homosexuality did not conflict with their masculine roles, but instead I would like to focus on ancient Greece. "Homosexuality," Plato wrote, "is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce." The highest form of love was between a man and a boy. A relationship with a woman was for the creation of political alliances, and reproduction. The issue for the ancient Greeks was not homosexuality, but rather the power differentials in a relationship between a younger man and an older man. Men often wrote elaborate love letters to their male paramours as well as actively engaged in competition for their attentions. The idea that homosexuality is deviant or the result of sin has specifically to do with the rise of Christianity and the medical establishment. These two social institutions worked together to create the homosexual identity as a spoiled identity.
When we look at commercials like this what we must not loose site of is its underlying goals of not only creating homosexuality as deviant, but to discipline the body into performing heterosexuality. By placing Mr.T (the hetero male) in a position to be the one initiating violence it assigns power, and social validity based strictly in sexual preference. This is extremely important to note as patriarchy has a vested interested in maintaining power differentials throughout society. If we apply a race/gender lens to this particular commercial, we can see that the male in question is being punished not only for being homosexual, but for being white and homosexual. White males as we know constitute the most privileged class globally, and when one male chooses to deviate from the social construction that created this power vacuum, they are threatened physically in an effort to maintain social order. It is no accident that a black male is the one doing the discipline. Black males are constructed as hyper masculine through their constant association with violence, and furthermore having the power to discipline a white male in this way is meant to add an extra layer of humiliation the victim.
An entire paper could be written dedicated the problematic images of masculinity that this commercials presents. When we engage with social institutions like the media, it is necessary for us to critically engage so that we do not end up internalizing images and ideas that are necessarily limiting. I could have done a rant about how much I hate this ad, or entreat you to boycott snickers, but instead I am choosing to ask you to think critically. What purpose does this commercial serve, and what messages is it trying to support? Our social institutions are examples of discourse that is hegemonic in our society, is this truly the world we wish to inhabit?