Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Merci! Are they kidding?

The sanctimonious guardians of family values almost lunged out of their jackboots when McDonald’s ran a French commercial suggesting the young male star was more interested in other dudes than he was in girls.

Now the blogosphere is sloshing with indignation because the chain ran the spot only in France. The self-righteous NPR set is blasting the company as a lap dog to the ultra right because it has confirmed publicly that the ad isn’t scheduled for a U.S. airing.

The latest flashpoint was the interview that McDonald’s president Don Thompson gave on Sunday to the chain’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune. “You're right, that commercial won't show in the United States,” Thompson blasphemed.

Thompson, the sort of guy you’d love to have at a family barbecue where the big game is on, made that utterance more than a week after the U.S. National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce alerted McDonald’s that it would have nothing more to do with it. No longer would the burger chain be welcome to sponsor any Chamber functions, or even to be a member. A pro-inclusion group by its very definition was excluding a party from all interactions because of its “blatant geographic pandering.”

McDonald’s just can’t win. It has the McNuggets to run an ad that depicts what’s likely a touchstone experience for millions of gays and lesbians, something 90% of big consumer brands would never dare to try on this planet. The spot wasn’t preachy or showy, an on-air equivalent of professing that some of its best friends are gay. It was just another slice-of-life-type spot—McDonald’s advertising stock in trade—that happened to have a gay protagonist this time around.

Yet the company is blasted for not running the spot in the U.S., a market where ads for erectile dysfunction aids have been attacked for promoting recreational sex.

[Full disclosure: I’m a strong advocate of recreational sex. Especially with a partner.]
Commercials dealing with menstruation have to lapse into safe-speak, like having Mother Nature delivering a “monthly present.”

The damned-if-you-do-or-don’t situation is especially ironic because McDonald’s had the courage several years ago to put an executive on the Chamber’s board. That unambiguous hurrah for inclusion drew considerable heat from Bible thumpers and conspiracy theorists, who accused the chain of pursuing a homosexual agenda.

I remember how one irate group ran a picture of Ronald McDonald interacting with a boy dressed as a pirate and a girl outfitted as a princess. The artwork was clearly intended to suggest that Ronald might’ve considered becoming a priest at some point.

Parties that blast McDonald’s for not being louder in championing inclusion should keep that lapse from reality in mind. Their real opponent isn’t the chain, it’s the extremists who think they can deny the diversity of mankind by assailing any party that so much as suggests there’s no mold for good, right-being folk.

McDonald’s is trying to put some cracks in that thinking. Don’t slam it for foregoing a sledgehammer.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Well said, Peter. I'll file this under "no good deed goes unpunished."