While this is technically old news, I just heard about it for the first time today through an article relating to advertising considered to be offensive. The commercial in question here that I am writing about is what I found to be a hilarious commercial for Snickers candy bars that uses Mr. T to poke fun at the supposed lack of masculinity when it comes to speed walking.
The commercial was widely regarded in the humorous spirit the ad was intended to be viewed. According to the Advertising Standards Authority of the UK the ad barely ruffled feathers and a spokesperson for Mars, the parent company of Snickers candy bars, the ad was meant to be funny and was positively received in the UK. If the commercial is designed to be funny and the intended audience of the commercial does find it funny, what is the controversy?
The controversy is that some American organizations took great offense to the commercial and have caused such a ruckus about it that Mars has opted to permanently retire the ad and no longer show it anywhere in the world. Keep in mind the commercial was made for the UK market, it wasn’t shown in the United States at all prior to the controversy. The parent company of the advertising agency responsible for the ad received an open letter challenging the ad in a US advertising industry title and the Human Rights Campaign declared the commercial offensive to the gay, lesbian, bi, transgender community by implying that the speedwalker was a homosexual and the attack on the speedwalker both verbally and with Snickers Bars being shot out of a machine gun, is essentially a hate crime.
Of course, it makes it easier to discuss the video by seeing it:
Maybe it’s just me, but I must have missed where Mr. T calls the speed walker a gay man. Sure he may call him a “disgrace to the man race” but there are plenty of straight guys who qualify as being a disgrace to the man race. The commercial just plays up comedy, as you see Mr. T in a role very much like his former role as B.A. Baracus from the 80’s tv show, “The A Team” and it pokes fun at the not so masculine look required in speedwalking. It ties in directly to the campaign’s slogan “Get Some Nuts” which has a double meaning of getting more masculine and that Snickers is loaded with peanuts.
All the campaign shows is how much America in general lacks a sense of humor. It reminds me of the movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut” where the parents of the main characters declare war on Canada over a silly movie the kids found entertaining. As a Canadian, I didn’t find the South Park movie offensive. I found it hilarious. In fact, it was my first time seeing South Park because my cable system at the time didn’t carry Comedy Central so I was unable to see any episodes. I laughed so hard at the declaring war on Canada in the movie that I immediately went from the theater to the nearest music store so I could get the soundtrack to the movie.
Did Canada cry bloody murder over the movie? Did they take offense at being vilified in the South Park movie? No. Canadians have a sense of humor. Had the situation been reversed and the story was about Canadian kids with parents declaring war on the United States, there would have been groups in the US taking offense to the film. Sure most of America would get the joke, but there would be some organizations actively boycotting the film and creating controversy over something created for the purpose of being funny and entertaining.
The Snickers caused such controversy that Mr. T even went on the Bill O’Reilly program to defend himself. Check out the interview below. Obviously Bill O’Reilly thought the controversy was pretty silly too.
Again, what really gets me about the whole controversy is that these American organizations that took offense, are complaining about a commercial made to be shown in the United Kingdom. Why are the American groups taking action and forcing a company to pull an ad that isn’t even being shown in America? I’m sorry, but I find it highly silly and arrogant of those American organizations to be forcing their opinions on the rest of the world.
The original article that introduced me to the commercial and the controversy can be found by clicking here.