This week saw Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday come and go. And Saturday is Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. So we’ve well and truly entered Lent.
This year’s theme for the world-famous parade of LGBTQI sexualities is “creating equality”. How do the BTQI crowds feel about being squeezed out of the name of the event? Unequal, probably.
Nonetheless, a commercial made by the Gay Mardi Gras organisation to promote “marriage equality” has been wildly successful on Facebook. In less than a week, “The Big Deal” has chalked up 2.2 million views.
It’s not hard to see why. It was made by an award-winning Australian advertising guru, Armand de Saint-Salvy, so the production values are superb. It’s heart-warming, affirming, cheerful and ironic -- all winners on social media.
But let’s take a closer look at the video.
It depicts a birthday celebration for Dad in typical suburban Aussie backyard, with mum, sister, son and boyfriend, and grandma. There’s a paling fence, a Hills hoist clothesline, plastic chairs and a fold-up plastic table. After “happy birthday to you”, everyone reaches for sauce bottles and drowns everything edible in barbeque sauce.
Then the gay son stands up, nervously clears his throat and comes out of the closet: he declares that he likes tomato sauce (ie, for American readers, ketchup) and always has. His dad, deeply distressed, rushes into the bathroom, takes a deep breath and strides out like a tank.
The wide-eyed family scatters, thinking that he is about to murder his son, but he gives him a bear hug instead. Mum hugs the boyfriend. The gay couple kiss and we see that they are wearing wedding rings.
It’s OK to like tomato sauce because “A simple difference shouldn’t be a big deal”. For this average Aussie family, a gay marriage is perfectly normal.
But if you take a closer look at the video, there are a few details that undermine the “marriage equality” theme.
How about its view of women? Flying prominently on the iconic Hills hoist are Mum’s bras and undies. What sort of frowsy Mum leaves these out at a family gathering? We get a glimpse of the sister picking her teeth with her fingers. And senile old grandma doesn’t get the joke at all. You get the feeling that the creator of the video really doesn’t respect women.
And how about Dad, an overweight, lovable Homer Simpson with a tiny party hat? Nowadays he’s tame, but the family knows that he could explode. You get the feeling that the gay community views older heterosexual males as bubbling cauldrons of repressed bigotry and homophobic rage.
And how about the food? Part of the joke is the barbie itself, and the lamb, bangers, and white buns. No tofu. No bulgogi. No guacamole. No smoked eggplant. No rocket salad with walnuts. No salad at all, in fact. Just lots of meat. And sauce.
Scratch the surface and you see that Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is sneering not only at the traditional view of marriage but at the uncouth Australian families who treasure it. Respectable people support #EqualLove and live in the inner city. Then there are the boofheads who don't. They live in ticky-tacky bungalows in the vast sun-baked sprawl surrounding Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Not only is “marriage equality” not marriage, it’s not even equality. “Prejudice is prejudice, and right now this is a reflection of that,” de Saint-Salvy, the commercial's producer, told Buzzfeed.
Abso-bloody-lutely. Couldn't agree more.
What do you think? Here is the YouTube version of the video. (Most of the hits are on Facebook.)
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. This MercatorNet article was republished with permission.
Michael Cook likes bad puns, bushwalking and black coffee. He did a B.A. at Harvard University in the U.S. where it was good for networking, but moved to Sydney where it wasn’t. He also did a Ph.D. on an obscure corner of Australian literature. Currently he is the editor of BioEdge, a newsletter about bioethics, and MercatorNet. He also writes a bioethics column for Australasian Science.