Monday, June 7, 2010

McDonalds runs a Gay TV Commercial in France... But is it "Good For The Gays?"

Okay, the teen actor is cute, and plays it well.

But what exactly is going on here? Is McDonalds' trying to say, hey, come as you are - we'll feed you our food even if you're closeted?

Or is it more like, wow, what a journey life is... and you can eat our food every awkward step of that journey.

I'm not sure about this ad. It's nice to be included (I'm so happy to see a gay teen in a commercial), but... I'd be SO much happier if it hadn't been a "celebration of the closet." Or perhaps I should say, un fete de faux heterosexualite... my best translation of "a party of false heterosexuality."

According to the Huffington Post, Maxime Donzel of the French website interviewed Nathalie Legarlantezec, the brand director of McDonald's France, and got this explanation:
"We wanted to take a look at how French society is today. We're very comfortable with the topic of homosexuality, there is obviously no problem with homosexuality in France today". While the statement sounds a bit naive in a country where same sex couples cannot legally marry nor adopt, the idea was to give a positive image of the brand: "The point was not to show someone who is troubled, especially a teenager. We know it can be difficult for some people, but we wouldn't have dared show someone who is struggling".
Um, if they're so "comfortable" with homosexuality, why is the Teen not out to his Dad? Sure, it seems he's comfortable with himself and his secret love, but the whole point of the love still being secret tells me that there IS some issue with homosexuality in France.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Or not harsh enough?

Is it "Good for the Gays?"

Oui or Non?


fairyhedgehog said...

I reckon it probably reflects what life is really like for some young gay teens.

It's reminds me of the ad when a man goes to a Skoda factory, sees the wonderful cars they're now making, and says, "I hear they used to make those funny little Skoda cars here". The joke rests on his misunderstanding. In the same way, the older generation maybe haven't all caught up with the realisation that some boys have boyfriends, not girlfriends.

But I'm not gay so I could be so wrong!

Hayden said...

I blogged about that ad, too, and continue to be torn over it. In the end, though, I find that it's a good thing to show how such a scene is really unfair to kids and that it shouldn't be that way. In a perfect world, the father would be teasing his son about girls and maybe comparing his (the dad's) lady killer-ness to his (the son's) qualities as a real heartbreaker to other boys.

Unknown said...

I like that it negatively depicts heterosexism. The father blindly assumes romance is impossible at a boys school and the implication is that he's out of line. That's not a position we see often on mainstream media.

It is unfortunate that the son just smirks at his dad, as if the son is thinking "ha ha the jokes on you dad". The viewer is left with the impression that hiding his sexuality/relationship hasn't been painful or difficult at all.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's good! It's depicting a real situation. (Cute gay boy not yet out to his old fashioned dad). The dad isn't a homophobic jerk, just clueless. If we had more than 30 seconds to see the rest of the story, like another five or six years, the boy would be out and proud.

Here in America, we would NEVER see an ad like this from Mickey D's. Too many right-wing exremists. Let's not get mad at France for daring to broach the subject. Let's see it as a step forward. Remember, homosexuals can't marry or adopt in Florida, either.

Daniel Teeter said...

As long as we're inhabiting the idealized world of commercials here, why couldn't the outed young man be having a happy lunch w/ his accepting father? I suppose that since the father is bragging to his son about his own youthful conquests that he's probably of the conservative and not-ready-for-gay persuasion. But then, again, why does it have to be this way?

I agree with you, Lee. If this is an outreach to a gay audience, and modern culture, it's insufficient. It's a tribute to a world that we should all be trying to break away from. Thanks but no thanks.

(Just for the record, if it turns out that my two daughters are homosexual, I'd want them to let me know as soon as possible. I don't want them ever to believe that my love for them is a pretense based on a misconception.)

Anonymous said...

The rest of the interview in english, and some info from the creatives behind the ad, is here:


Anonymous said...

I think its because of comments like these that we don't see more casual portrayls of gays in our society. What company wants to risk it when they know we'll probably attack them for the slightest thing? Lets not hold up the few that do present gays to higher standards, or we wont be seeing an increase in them.

ivanova said...

I'm just looking at this from a narrative point of view. It seems to me the boy could come out to his dad five seconds later. Maybe it's just not caught in the scope of the commercial. It's a commercial so it has one gag or twist (that the kid is gay.) It's not going to be "War and Peace." McDonald's just wants to sell more unhealthy burgers, not promote acceptance. I like that the gag is not homophobic even though it's about being gay.

I would rather have this commercial that tacitly endorses staying in the closet than a commercial with no gay teens. I wish in the US we had commercials that were entertaining and had gay characters. I do hope we are getting closer to a world where staying in the closet is not necessary for teens, but I'm a cynical vegetarian so I don't think we can count on McDonald's to help us get there.


kittens not kids said...

I'm going to come down on the side of McDonald's here. closing with that tagline "come as you are" is pretty affirming.

I wonder, too, if it's not just that the kid is closeted - obviously, that's part of the "plot," but there also seems to be just some regular old teenage/adult disjunction. What kid - straight or gay - wants to hear their dad say "I was quite the ladies' man"? And keeping one's relationship (again, straight or gay) private, or at least hidden from your parents (especially in early stages, which the "I miss you" conversation suggests to ME) also rings pretty true for me. But then, I'm the kind of person who keeps those sorts of things to myself, so I may just be projecting.

I say this is more good than bad - we're in on the secret/joke with the boy, we can kind of smile at the dad's cluelessness, we aren't meant to be laughing at the gay kid.

Rita said...

I find the commercial bittersweet and ultimately to the good. I agree with others here that the narrative points to a moment--whether within the next minute or the next few years--when the son will clearly come out to his father, and will be out and proud. And the ad is pulling for it.

I also sympathize with the Anonymous comment above that the main risk in representing, always, is that that such attempts will draw criticism (or at least closer scrutiny) from the group being portrayed. That doesn't mean we shouldn't scrutinize, though. All we can ever do is discuss, and then push for more representation!

It feels a little strange that this is the way McDonald's has chosen to portray itself as a place where life happens. Why not show the moment when the boy comes out, or a father-son scene where the son is already out? Maybe... such happier visions (assuming they're done in a heartwarming way, with happy outcomes) increases risk of mockery or accusations of fantasy, whereas this draws on the masses' sympathy?

(It also casts McDonalds's "Come as you are" slogan in a more life-affirming light, whereas normally I would have interpreted that as, "Feel free to wear sweats.")

I have met a couple kids whose gay orientation has been known to their parents from the beginning--and seem absolutely thriving from that fact. But one still assumes most gay people can remember a time before they came out.

I also like the comment above about how so many teens don't discuss their relationships with their parents, period. Some do, certainly, but I would never! And neither would most of my friends, as teens (straight or gay, or closeted gay who had straight relationships, for that matter). I'm baffled by open parent-teen relationships in general.

Misrule said...

What kittens_not_kids said, plus throw in some of what ivanova said about narrative. I read it as the boy hugging his secret to himself as something wonderful and new and precious to be held private for the moment, not as being closeted. He'll come out. I bet he already is, his dad just hasn't caught up with the news yet. If his dad did know, there's no story here, ergo no ad, ergo no McDonalds ad (with its MAMMOTH audience) with an angst-free gay teen.

But I'm not gay, so usual disclaimer...