Monday, July 28, 2008

Score Another For Political Correctness And Kneejerk Liberalism

Joe is reporting - celebrating, perhaps - that Nike has pulled its allegedly homophobic ads, the gay reaction to which caused me to have an aneurysm here. While I think the entire thing was stupid from the start, I understand why Nike's doing this: even stupid controversy is potentially (and even then, only potentially) bad for business. But what have we - the gays, those of us supposedly harmed by such an advertisement - really won in the deal?

I think flipping out over advertisements in general is rather self-defeating, or at least counter-productive, simply based on the nature of media. Drawing attention to an allegedly offensive ad only gains it even wider exposure - for free, no less. Will that wider exposure carry some negative consequences for the company or product being advertised? Sure. But it'll also get the hype out about the product to plenty of people who don't find the ad offensive, are interested in the product, and may not have heard about it otherwise. So it's a double-edged sword, at best, to protest an ad campaign, particularly one like this, which was only questionably offensive in the first place.

This isn't to say that I think it's always a bad idea to protest an ad, but rather that we need to develop thicker skins (by which I really mean better critical thinking skills) when it comes to stuff like this. If you're a cocksucker, it's easy to look at the Nike ad above and see a negative judgment of your behavior. But I think these days, our society - not just minorities, but everyone in America - is constantly on the lookout for offensive things. This isn't a bad thing in theory, but in practice, I think we've developed a hair-trigger approach to this stuff. The reaction to these Nike ads is a prime example of that. And I shall say no more on the subject.


Ross said...

I'm inclined to agree, but at the same time, my own reaction to the ad is negative: "Oh look; macho, homo-paranoia from the professional sports world. How refreshing..." I think it's a rather "cheap shot"--no pun intended-- as opposed to the infamous Rugby make-out session ad which really IS a brilliant and subversive take on the homoerotic nature of sports and far too audacious to be tolerated by an American audience. As apparently, the Nike ad is as as well.

But I also think the Nike is sort of funny...and probably harmless and certainly not worth getting into a tizzy about.

justin said...

I absolutely agree that this kind of critique/boycotting zeal becomes very tunnel-visioned and reductive. However, I think that it's dangerous to dismiss engagement with pop culture in a critical way. I don't really agree with the 'no big deal' approach, just as I don't agree with the unidirectional model that fascist culture poisons minds and is decoded in a singular, terrible manner. There's lots of possible readings for anything from that ad to Injun mascots. But the critical reading- that they contribute to normative oppression- is a valid one.

Not to mention the fact that the people bitching about racism, sexism, and homonegativity are continually marginalized in lots of facets of culture, economics, and politics. I think normative pop culture has a lot to do with how we development our ideas about social norms. If Foucault took time out of his busy pants-dropping schedule, I think he'd acknowledge that ads like this reinforce heteronormativity.