From the moment I first saw this ad my thoughts on it could be described as ambivalent. On the one hand, I and most of the people watching the game applauded Amazon for choosing to quite frankly take a bit of a risk and include a homosexual couple in their Super Bowl ad. We need to remember that although in a widely liberal and progressive area like New York this ad stirred up little controversy, in many parts of the country airing an ad like this, when the spotlight was shining brightest, did involve some risk. There are people in this country and in general that would and did take offense to this ad (for example check out the comment by the poster “Disgusted” on this webpage who tries to explain said disgust as calmly and with as much tact as possible: http://www.webpronews.com/amazons-new-kindle-paperwhite-ad-is-making-people-on-the-internet-argue-2013-02). But with all that being said, I do take some issue with how the concept of homosexuality is employed within the commercial. To be clear, my issue doesn’t necessarily lie within how the concept of homosexuality was presented-my qualm comes from how homosexuality and the “acceptance” of it is used a device to turn heads. I believe that Connor was alluding to this in his post, so I want to take it a step further and try to explain this issue that I feel flew right over much of the general population’s heads.

But before I do that, I want to take a quick moment and combine two of Connor’s points to reveal another issue with this ad. As Connor pointed out, the poolside resort location “transfers abstract symbolic qualities” of wealth and luxury to the Kindle in a setting which is only available to those in the middle or upper classes (Leiss pg. 184). And as Connor also pointed out, Amazon felt compelled to use “safe” white actors to portray the two couples in order to ease in the homosexual narrative. At this point, I urge you to watch the commercial again and see if you can spot anyone who isn’t white. After  watching the commercial several times a few seconds at a time, I spotted exactly one person who potentially may not be white, and even then they’re so blurred and off in the distance the only way they’re noticed is within a thorough examination. For as progressive as Amazon is attempting to be, they’re (potentially unknowingly) promoting the idea that the luxuries of the middle and upper class are still dominated and normalized through whiteness.

Now let’s return to the original point of the employment of homosexuality. Amazon should be applauded for taking the “risk” they did for reasons I listed earlier. That being said, remember that the man’s homosexual orientation is revealed as a “shocking” surprise that grabs our attention because it’s not what we’re led on to assume. That’s no accident on the ad’s part-we’re supposed to be duped and surprised. Is anything terribly wrong with this? Not really. However, in this instance homosexuality is still being presented as an “other” that comes off as “different” from the “norm”. It’s presented as an accepted other. As soon as a lifestyle is projected as “accepted,” it has to carry the connotation of being something unusual and not normal.

Because of this phenomenon, I feel that this ad fell short in terms of being truly progressive. It came off to me as Amazon saying “We accept this other lifestyle despite it being different, and you should appreciate our progressiveness.” Granted, this is an ad and does have to serve a purpose of increasing revenue. But if Amazon truly wanted to be progressive, they’d present a homosexual couple in a fashion that is simply presented as normal instead of being revealed as shocking. If we accept that ads promote a normative view of our world and relationships as Goldman & Papson tell us, a company willing to present a homosexual or any other non-heterosexual couple in a truly normative sense on a stage like a Super Bowl ad should make valuable strides in society’s perception of all sexual orientations being “normative.”

By Joe

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