National Commentary

Anything But Straight: I

The super bomb of the Super Bowl was the blatantly homophobic Snickers ad that aired in the first quarter of the game. It began with two homely male mechanics fixing a car while under the hood. One plucks a Snickers out of his pocket and starts to devour it, while his friend longingly watches. Unable to constrain himself, the friend chomps on the other side of the bar until the two meet in the middle of the candy bar and inadvertently kiss.

One of the revolted mechanics acknowledges that a same-sex smooch has occurred, which touches off a histrionic horrorfest. To prevent permanent sissification, the newly feminized men seek an antidote to the pansy poison.

“Quick, do something manly,” exclaims one of the buffoons. Without hesitation, they undo their shirts and rip a large patch of hair off their chests, while screaming in proper repentance for their sins.

This retrograde 30-second clip shows that Mars, Inc. executives are living on another planet and that there are more nuts in their boardroom than in the actual candy bar. The vile ad was a low blow that went for a cheap laugh at the expense of a minority. The candy company should immediately apologize or at least pull the offending ad before it infects more minds with mindless stereotypes.

How in God’s name did the suits at Mars find this crass garbage suitable for public consumption? In front of millions of people, including vulnerable gay youth, the company sent the divisive message that gay people are unmanly. It takes a lot to offend me and I realize laughter helps break down barriers and can lead to real dialogue. The problem here is that people were laughing at us, not with us. In terms of raw obscenity, this was a Janet Jackson moment for the GLBT Community that should provoke shock and outrage. It is not 1978, this is 2007, and such potty-humored portrayals of our love are totally, in football speak, out of bounds. (To see a comprehensive history of gay ads, visit

Last week, Sen. Joseph Biden subverted his long shot presidential bid when he clumsily referred to Sen. Barack Obama as “clean” and “articulate.” On Sunday, an article in The New York Times discussed how African Americans are rightfully annoyed when white people act surprised when they are eloquent speakers and refer to them as “articulate.”

“How many flukes simply constitute reality?” asked Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television.

As a gay man who was formerly a second-team all-city basketball player, I am equally annoyed at blanket portrayals of homosexuality as unmanly. We have seen so many brave gay service members die in America’s wars. We have witnessed examples of tough professional athletes, such as baseball player Billy Bean or NFL lineman Esera Tuaolo. We have honored heroes like Mark Bingham, who helped keep terrorists from slamming hijacked Flight 93 into the nation’s capital. To paraphrase Hudlin, how many flukes will it take before GLBT people are recognized for their extreme bravery and, yes, manliness.

Even braver, of course, are effeminate gay men, masculine lesbians and transgender Americans who have the courage to step each day into a hostile world created by such ads. The problem is, the typecasts portrayed by our culture has made life very difficult for those who do not fit into societal “norms.”

Indeed, people have gone through great extremes to fit in. The ex-gay ministries are the most potent and cartoonish example of conforming to stifling expectations. For example, a news reporter recently told me about his trip to ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen’s office. He asked one of Cohen’s clients if he had made the transition from gay to straight. To prove his nascent masculinity, the client shoved the straight reporter, who was stunned. Without missing a beat, the man ran into Cohen’s arms and excitedly asked if he had passed the test, with the therapist assuring him that progress had been made.

Finally, aren’t straight men tired of having their masculinity tied to moronic behavior? Do they really want to be seen as brawny, brainless, backwoods bumpkins? The message sent by companies who make degrading ads, like Mars, Inc., is that to be tough, one has to be a troglodyte. In one broad brushstroke, Mars, Inc., managed to insult gay people for not being macho, while painting masculinity as a quite undesirable trait.

Mars should go back to producing cavities in teeth, rather than ads that produce brain rot that dehumanizes GLBT people and portrays straight men as a step below chimpanzees. If Snickers really satisfies, as their ads claim, they will take this disgraceful dung off the air and discard it like a used candy wrapper.