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Sunday, March 27, 2005

It's a Gay Thing -- You Really Wouldn't Understand

I don't know whether Candace Murphy gets paid for her writing for "Inside Bay Area." But, if she does, her editors should demand their money back for her current column, parts of which I've excerpted below. Murphy has a stick up her ass about Gay.com's new advertising campaign -- and bases her criticism on a flawed, hetero-centric analysis that, basically, is a poorly pondered load of crap.

As indicated below, Murphy thinks the campaign is ineffective and questionable because it doesn't make gay people as a subgroup appear to be upstanding citizens and it "extols [casual] homosexual sex."

I have no idea whether Murphy has any experience in advertising, but one would like to think if she's going to devote a column dissecting it, she should -- no? Advertising 101 says an effective campaign should identify a target audience -- an identifiable group the advertiser would like to motivate to act -- and shape the message to that group.

It's elementary to conclude that Gay.com has identified their target audience to be gay people -- gay men in particular. Although it would be intriguing to think they could motivate heterosexual people to join the site, more than likely that's not going to happen. There aren't enough toaster ovens in America for that. In any case, the Gay.com people understand an effective target audience is an appropriately segmented, quantifiable and reachable.

Murphy seems to think the point of the Gay.com ads are to influence straight people at large to be more open-minded about gay marriage. In her world, everything that gay people say and create must be a political commentary on equal marriage rights. It would be interesting to know her take on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," Elton John's latest CD or gay porn.

In her defense, Murphy reveals she's heterosexual -- which is probably unnecessary because her clouded bias comes through loud and clear. I give her credit for being on the gay marriage bandwagon (she seems to be a proponent), but -- unfortunately -- she seems to think equal marriage rights should only be extended if the potential gay marriages fit a clean, palatable, "Stepford Wives" model.

Screw that. If straight people can marry at will even though they are prone to divorce and adultery and seem to be only interested in sex (Murphy cites this stereotype about gay men, not acknowledging that TV shows, popular movies and music videos paint straight people with the same stroke) then gay people should be allowed the same prerogative.

Supposedly, by Murphy's standard, all advertisements make a larger commentary about some political or social issue. So, those blonde women who flash their cleavage in beer commercials -- or those shirtless guys in that commercial in which the wife daydreams her husband was more of a stud -- what do they say about heterosexual marriage?

Maybe it's not covered the first day, but somewhere along the line, also in Advertising 101, someone will assert "sex sells." To be responsible, I'll even add the qualifier "for better or worse." It might indeed be a very sad comment to make about advertising as a construct -- but it's realistic -- and it holds for people whether they are gay or straight.

Murphy has the luxury of not coming to such a conclusion because she's a straight woman, so she can sit back and drone on about the manner in which gay people should aspire to present themselves. That's fine. As a rule, I personally think straight women should generally not come across as such constipated, puritanical bitches.

You see, I am a gay man. I find the Gay.com ad with the two men in bed sexy and intriguing. Furthermore, I find the added symbolism of the American flag fitting and appropriately "in your face." Being a full person with a complete palette of issues beyond the gay cause du jour, I don't see any commentary at all about gay marriage in the ad. But that's just me.

Murphy opines the Gay.com ad misses the mark. But, who do you think they were hoping to reach -- her or me?


Gay.com's Latest Advertising Campaign Misses the Mark


The most provocative image in the campaign is of a gay couple ("an actual couple, by the way," says Gay.com's media relations) lying in bed beneath [an American] flag, post- or pre- something quite obvious, with a tagline reading "Come Together -- Gay.com." According to Gay.com, the campaign is supposed to illustrate how the concepts of freedom and patriotism and the freedom to be intimate with whomever they choose are not mutually exclusive.

Whichever world I'm in, the campaign doesn't seem like a good idea. Not because I don't want to see anyone in bed, straight or gay (which I don't), [nor] anyone under a flag, whether it's American, Polish or one of those suburban holiday-themed ones (which I really don't).

It has nothing to do with gay vs. straight, patriot vs. traitor, shocking vs. coddling. Instead, it's because the ad campaign is completely off-point.

As I understand it, the issue that's been on the table of late, for both gay proponents and opponents, is about marriage, not about intimacy. And the issue is with the word "marriage." One side has imbued the word with God, church and biblical connotations. The other side just knows it's the only word to use that represents what they need to have to have equal rights. Same sex unions simply don't have the same rights that marriages do. Hence, the inequity; hence, the conundrum.

In my admittedly straight opinion, it's a shame the Gay.com ad alludes to none of this. Because quite likely, it will alienate the very community from whom they're seeking empathy by reaffirming that tired stereotype that a segment of society subscribes to: that gay men are only interested in sex.

The billboard ad doesn't get across the message that the two men are a loving, committed couple in real life.

...For years, my less-sensitive acquaintances, perhaps stuck in traffic in San Francisco during the Pride Parade, have in non-politically correct moments mumbled that they don't have a parade extolling heterosexual sex: No floats of male and female private parts simulating any graphic acts, no fist-pumping cheers of "We're here, we're NOT queer, get used to it!"

Of course, while sexuality is intertwined with the gay community's identity, in a way, that's not the point of the Pride Parade and that's not the point of the gay community's modern agenda either. And for years, those more attuned to the needs of the gay community have said as much.

But Gay.com's advertising campaign says the opposite.


Find the entire column, and see the Gay.com ad, here --> http://www.insidebayarea.com/bayarealiving/ci_2625495

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