Claire’s Project: Boys v. Girls taking off their t-shirts post (Tumblr)

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Claire's Project: Boys v. Girls taking off their t-shirts post (Tumblr)

Click through on the picture to get to iprayforangels’ slight conclusion of the great t-shirt debate post… Queer or not?

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Commercialized Queer Representation

Renault Twingo Gay Marriage Ad

A young woman and an older man are in a fancy car (Twingo) and they drive up to a church, are obviously going to a wedding, presumably the woman’s wedding. The relationship between them is guessed by the viewer to be father-daughter, and the father is giving away his daughter at the wedding. However, walking up to the altar, smiling at the groom, the woman says, “Congratulations, Dad”, and roles are reversed — she’s giving her dad away at his gay wedding. The two middle-aged white men kiss and walk out of the church. The text, Times have changed/the Twingo too appear on screen as a friendly male voice reads them and additionally says new Renault Twingo. Renault’s slogan is asserted at the end, Drive the Change.

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Toyota Corolla Lesbian Ad 

Sitting on the steps of a suburban house, a father and daughter converse, with playful music playing in the background.
“Mother tells me you think you’re in love”, Father says.
“Yep,” the daughter says.
“Is he just like all the others?”
“Nope.”
Her lover drives up in a blue Toyota. Father says, “I like him”, approving of the car.  He goes inside, and the daughter opens the car door, sits next to and kisses a short-haired girl, they drive off. Text on the screen arrives, Corolla/One thing you can count on. The commercial ends with the Toyota logo.

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These Renault Twingo and Toyota Corolla commercials are part of the phenomenon of trying to advertise to “the gay market”. They are also rich to analyze as texts alone. Regular viewers may be happy to see symbolic representation of queers in the media — to see them included in the consumer landscape. What’s interesting about this is the idea that there is a binary between what’s on screen and what’s off screen. As Joyrich says in “Epistemology of the Console”, representation shapes what queer sexuality can be in popular culture, and how it can be understood. As Sender says in “Selling America’s Most Affluent Minority”, rather than advertising to a pre-existing gay consumer base, queer advertisements create that gay market. These two commercials tell us how we should understand both queer sexuality in our culture, and the gay market.

The film, Further off the Straight and Narrow, does a good job of providing framework to analyze media content. One of the most salient things about these commercials is that they feature mostly gender-conforming, white folks with the classically high class markers that come with car commercials. The film asserts that the price of admission to be the good queer is to be rich and white, where all others will not be taken seriously. On top of all of this, gender non-conforming and transgender characters are traditionally evil, their non-conformity signifying something deeply wrong with them morally. The makers of the Toyota and Renault queer commercials use current media stereotypes about gender, class, and race to associate themselves with good queers.

While both commercials use a queer dynamic to sell their cars, each dynamic is slightly different. The Renault Twingo ad’s through line was that, Times have changed, the Twingo too. The Corolla ad’s final assertion was that the car was one thing you can still count on, addressing the straight viewer in a world of confusing change. They differ in their ideology — the Twingo ad aligns its own originality and new product with “changing times” of queer culture (citation). However, the Corolla ad plays up its originality as counter to new queer young people. According to Joyrich, in her Epistemology of the Console, there are many ways to analyze the queer aspect of media content. The main mode that these commercials use is enlightening, where queer characters are there to show that the main character of the ad is tolerant/enlightened. The main character, or focus of the ads, are the car brands, and we are shown that the queer characters are there to do the work of being a force for newness, originality, change, quirkiness, for the brand to either distance itself from (Corolla) or to embrace (Twingo). This queer quirkiness is constructed in the narrative by being included in two gay twist endings, by playing playful music, and by being played by affluent looking white people. The receiving of queer people in culture is influenced by pop commercials like this.

Advertisers like to target the gay market because of its cultural link to affluence, which further strengthens that cultural link, as Sender analyzes. This pigeonholing of the gay market as white and rich gives fuel to the normalization of LGBTQ representation, or the erasing of the actual queerness of LGBTQ characters. Advertisers want to attract queer consumers, but they don’t want to alienate the majority, straight consumers. Therefore, differences are smoothed over, which erase aspects of queer difference in both pop culture and in the gay market. According to Canadian commenter mutedthud on Jalopnik.com, the Toyota Corolla commercial with the lesbian characters aired for a short time in Canada, at which point it was considered too controversial and the butch woman in the driver’s seat was replaced by a punk/rock boy. Instead of wanting to continue advertising actively to the gay market, Toyota’s ad company pulled the ad and replaced it with something less controversial, to maintain a consumer base.

Each ad lives on on the internet, on YouTube, part of “Funny Gay Commercial” compilations, serving as gimmick ads, intended for niche markets rather than for mainstream use.

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Joyrich, Lynne. “Epistemology of the Console.” Queer TV: Theories, Histories, Politics. London: Routledge, 2009.

“Renault Advert Trends On YouTube As Gay Marriage Commercial Goes Viral”. Huffington Post – United Kingdom. 1.13.12. <http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/10/renault-advert-youtube-renault-twingo-gay-marriage_n_1196862.html&gt;

Sender, Katherine. “Selling America’s Most Affluent Minority”. Columbia University Pres. New York.

Wert, Ray. “Toyota Corolla: Lesbians Love it!”. Jalopnik.com. 7.25.07. <http://jalopnik.com/282250/toyota-corolla-lesbians-love-it&gt;

Edit: order of citations