Wednesday, June 16, 2010

McDonald’s Is Not As Into Gay Advertising As You May Think

Earlier this month, McDonald's in France created a stir when they released the following advertisement:
The inclusion of an LGBT teen McDonald’s French advertising was certainly a positive; however, there were certainly problems with the commercial itself, which I noted in an earlier post. The Operations Chief Don Thompson recently sat down with the Chicago tribune to discuss McDonalds corporate operating plans, and when the subject of the now internet famous French ad came up, Thompson confirmed my belief that the so-called tolerance towards the LGBT was very limited.
Tribune: A French TV ad featuring a gay teen and his father has stirred some controversy — not there, but here. Can you talk about that?
Thompson: It is an example that markets, cultures are very different around the world. (For instance), I've never shied away from the fact that I'm a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don't impose those on anybody else. I've been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don't believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it's not that I'm to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald's, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We're going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we're going to learn from. But, you're right, that commercial won't show in the United States.

Tribune: How has it done in France?
Thompson: Interestingly enough, there have been no negatives coming out of France. The brand is a local brand and different things will occur in different parts of the world. We just have to make sure that we understand the impact one action may make on another part of the world.
So by his reasoning France has a gay culture that the U.S. does not have, and that therefore makes it acceptable to erase the presence of the BLGT community in their advertising. If McDonalds “core values” do not mean respecting all of their customers wherever they may be, it  seems that those golden arches stand for exclusion.  Even though there has been no backlash in the France, and much of the commentary regarding the advertisement has been positive in the North America, failing to extend the campaign signifies that McDonalds is only willing to do the bare minimum to address the needs of the TLBG community and their allies.  They can openly declare their plan to oppress because erasure is not seen by many as the damaging soul crushing thing that it is.  Some will be satisfied simply be the avoidance of ads that are not overtly homophobic or transphobic.
An absence of direct hate is in no way a victory.  It is disgusting that McDonalds expects patrons to buy their Frankenstein fries and heart attack burgers, while never once addressing the basic humanity of a percentage of their customers, because it is attempting to appeal to some socially constructed ideal of what constitutes family friendly.  McDonalds like any other business has the right to decide what kind of marketing that it will pursue, and we as individuals have the right to decide not to support their purposeful erasure by refusing to consume their products.

What really confuses me, is the fact that McDonalds is a business and like any other it has felt the economic downturn.  It simply does not make sense to ignore an entire market.  This is placing bigotry above profits and proves that the idea that the market will correct societal imbalances to be incorrect.  When we give businesses the opportunity to operate free of restriction they will invariably seek to protect their privilege over and above their corporate interest -- because in the long run, oppression pays big dividends to dominant bodies in both social and financial capitol.  Corporate culture is not about radical change or what is best for society; it is about exploitation from start to finish and that is specifically why this model of exchange must be forced into a position of including marginalized bodies.
Large multi-nationals like McDonalds must be brought to heel because of what they represent socially, environmentally and economically.  We continue to over estimate the well paying jobs that they provide to justify the damage that they do.  Imagine the positive messages that a so-called family company like McDonalds could do by having the BLGT community represented in their advertisement.  Even when these multi-nationals can benefit society they often choose not to, and if they are really not providing a service, other than a product that is not essential to life, why are we still supporting their existence?  This all just reads like another reason to avoid their artery clogging food.