Midweek Media: Coming Home

So for those of you not in the US, the US military has handled LGB service people with an OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD what do I dooooo? kind of approach. This was popularly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or DADT. Here‘s a brief timeline of this policy. This policy was a key issue during Obama’s run for presidency, and a sticking point during his first two years in office. The sacrifices of activists like Dan Choi helped keep this issue in the limelight, and now that DADT has been repealed, its gradual implementation has gone into effect. However, this does not mean that homophobic counter-legislation is not in the works.

Now that we’re on the same page…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFccEZXmBOs

[Transcript by Jenn]

Image of two white guys as talking heads, split screen, against dark backgrounds.

Not Military Guy: (answers phone) Hello?

Military Guy: Hey, man. It’s me. I’m comin’ home.

NMG: When?!

Image of MG in fatigues getting into military vehicle, split screened with NMG getting into sedan outside his garage. Image of MG looking thoughtful split with an older, balding white man looking excited as he talks on the phone in a kitchen. A white woman stands behind him, listening. Image of MG on plane split with a man (face unseen) opening a barn door and looking in. Image of MG washing hands in public bathroom split with guys unloading Budweiser crates from a truck and sweeping out the barn. MG wipes his eyes, which may have been crying. Further images of MG coming home while the guys back home set up a party in the barn. MG gets home and no one’s waiting, but there’s a light on in the barn and he goes to investigate.  It’s a surprise welcome home party. Various people come up and hug him, starting with NMG. The phrase “Proudly serving those who serve” appears on a red background, followed by the Bud logo.

[Now back to Maria...]

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I know there’s a tacit appeal to patriotism, the conflation of military families with universal families, and a very conscious homonormativity.  At the same time… gosh darn it, this is so awesome! I’m digging the queer milspouse subtext. <3

Thoughts? This is the first post-DADT commercial I’ve seen featuring a potential LGB military couple from a brand that’s gone out of its way in the past to court pink dollars. I’m also struck by how many commentators are refusing to allow the possibility of a gay subtext. I mean, to me it’s pretty obvious — normally in commercials like this, the emphasis with soldiers is on parents or partners, not brothers or besties (the explanation I’ve seen offered for the soldier calling a guy first).

Comments

  1. says

    AdWeek questions that subtext, but ultimately concludes that the very lack of bikini babes and other more traditional beer=macho man elements open the commercial up very deliberately to such an interpretation. http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/budweiser-ad-gay-131042

    In addition to their reasoning and yours, I would add that Bud’s done some very savvy ads in the past. They had to know how this would come across. Those who assume heteronormativity will think, “Aww, besties/brothers”, but those who don’t will see a gay relationship. I also think the use of the word “proudly” in the slogan invokes the very important concept of gay pride, which encompasses the idea that gays should be as welcome as anyone to express themselves and their love proudly and publicly.

    I think Bud’s done a very smart job of having it both ways with this ad… but I do think the subtext is intended. They’ve not been oblivious to subtle nuances in the past.

  2. sbg says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I actually did view this with my heteronormative goggles on – I see besties or brothers upon first glance. However, I also definitely get the subtext. I think Bud did a great job of making the whole thing open to however anyone wants to see it, without overtly picking one “side” over another.

  3. Maria says

    sbg,

    If the person getting phoned was a woman, would it still be a bestie commercial? Because I thought the first 10 seconds were pretty intimate for friends…

  4. Sarah says

    I think they were trying to have it both ways. MG and NMG have the big hug with significant eye contact but the next person to hug him is a girl. So those who want to think NMG is bestie would probably posit her as girlfriend. However she doesn’t stay next to MG. As they walk away from the camera, NMG is the one with his arm around MG while the girl gives a playful sort of touch at NMG’s side and another guy comes up to put his arm around the girl (he’s also the one standing with her when the barn door opens and they turn to each other after MG’s initial reaction). So personally I’d say she was with that 3rd guy, if anyone. But I think the ambiguity is probably on purpose. However the commercial is definitely squee worthy for the gay reading of it.

  5. Casey says

    I clicked on that Tumblr link to the definition of homonormativity and found my way to this response:

    “The existence of this word is reason number one of why I hate political radicals. It makes the assumption of an ideal queer life being overtly political; moreso overtly leftist, with an obsession with distribution of power and privilege.

    This idea of queer people assimilating into mainstream culture is a very complicated process filled with very human desires to be treated with respect, to be accepted by our communities. Nothing too horrible, right?

    This word assumes that assimilation is blanket-bad if it doesn’t take a leftist critique of power with it. Where do queer people who reject this idealogical framing of the world fit in? They are the evil ones, letting society get away with it’s racist, homophobic, sexist and classist “institutions.”

    Just because we would prefer living an assimilated lifestyle? Do queer people have to be anti capitalism (consumption) to be legitimate. Do queer people have to be leftists to be legitiamte?

    I just think words like this do more harm than good. I think it’s smug and and makes tons and tons of queer lives unethical unnecessarily.”

    I’m not really advanced enough in LGBTQ theory to comment on any of this besides “my head hurts”. >_>V

  6. says

    Casey,

    Well, this is just one queer woman’s perspective, but I see hetero/homonormativity as more focused on gender roles and family roles than sexuality. Sexuality obviously plays into both of those things but it’s an indirect issue here.

    So I guess I agree with paragraphs 2 and 4, which say “it’s okay to want the same things as the mainstream” but not 1, 3 and 5 which say “challenging the mainstream ideals is a personal attack on the queer community.”

    I think it’s possible to challenge mainstream assumptions without condemning those who want it or those who don’t. I mean, I want the white picket fence* but I still challenge the assumption that everyone should want this or that it’s the only way to do it. I want to have chosen that lifestyle because it was the best fit for me, not because it was the only option I was offered.

    *I pick and choose. I want a 1950′s middle class lifestyle with monogamy, home ownership and children, but without all the sexism and racism and other *isms.

  7. Sally says

    Casey,

    It’s actually quite a naïve and defeatist stance, even if entirely understandable.

    The respondent is expressing the desire for acceptance (which we all have), but wishing that they didn’t have to be constantly conscious of being gay, or rather wishing that they could be gay without having to have a ‘theory’ to explain why they were in constant danger of being beaten up, murdered etc.

    This is rather like being Jewish in Nazi Germany without a theory of anti-Semitism. It reminds me very much of the Jewish veterans of the Imperial German Army who exclaimed, “Hey, *we* fought for the Fatherland too!” and were then most insulted when Nazi clubs began descending on their heads. Or, (in American terms), it’s like watching ‘The Cosby Show’ and then wondering why in 2006 African-American students at Louisiana State University could still be hung in effigy.

    “Do queer people have to be leftist to be legitimate?” the respondent asks. No, not if they’re members of the British aristocracy (and even then there will be those who despise them for being queer).

    “Can an ordinary girl from Chicago become Secretary of State?” Yes, if she is Hillary Clinton.

  8. says

    I would actually hesitate to applaud Budweiser for this commercial- the military guy does hug a young woman in the video, which may be their attempts to appeal to the fundies. I know she could be his sister, but I’m just saying…

  9. sbg says

    Maria,

    To be honest, it always takes me a long time to suss out romantic subtext of any kind. I am hopeless at reading those signals, IRL and in fiction. They have to be uber blatant for me to pick up on them.

    • Maria says

      @SBG TBH the only time I notice romantic subtext is when it’s in a same sex relationship, I think because sexual tension is supposedly such a given in different sex relationships.

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