June 4, 2010

Is it really so hard to understand the French McDonald's "gay-themed" ad?

Here's the ad:



Allahpundit is mystified:
French McDonald’s running gay-themed ads for … no apparent reason

More specifically: This isn’t an ad about how awesome the burgers are, with a gay protagonist singing the praises of Le Big Mac. That wouldn’t be a “gay-themed ad” so much as a “food-themed ad” with a gay pitchman.This is a true gay-themed ad, with the product almost wholly incidental to young Jacques experiencing l’amour fou with a guy while papa blathers on ironically about being a ladies’ man. Why’d McDonald’s do it? Er … no one seems to know. Apparently there was no anti-gay incident at McD’s over there that they’re trying to atone for. The obvious explanation is “controversy for controversy’s sake,” but I can’t believe French viewers will bat an eye. Maybe they hired a director who fancies himself an aspiring Godard and he simply decided to indulge his inner auteur, burgers be damned? All theories welcome!

Actually, maybe the “controversy” theory does make sense. Below you’ll find O’Reilly making an offhand comparison to Al Qaeda, which was enough to provide Media Matters with hours of content. It’s great when everyone wins, my friends.



As stated at the end of the O'Reilly clip, the ad is part of a series, showing different characters. I haven't looked at the other examples, but it's easy for me to understand the ad. Like many American ads I've seen over the last few decades, the viewer is drawn in by something other than the product itself. We're shown characters that interest us for some reason, and the product is woven in subtly in way that feels positive. In this example, we see a young man and understand something about him — he's gay — and then we see his father doesn't really get that, but they love each other and spend time with each other... at McDonald's. They don't share everything, but they can share a meal at McDonald's. It's really a typical McDonald's ad, showing the restaurant as an easy, comforting family place. It's not about controversy at all. It's about commonality. We're different in a lot of ways, but we can all agree that it will be good to eat at McDonald's. The ad is well-done, charming, and sweet, and it creates a good feeling about McDonald's.

Obviously, it is also true that the ad won't work on people who get riled when they see gay people presented as regular people who are part of ordinary life. I'm sure, back in 1980, some people didn't like to see a little white boy give his Coke to the black football player Mean Joe Green in the famous Super Bowl ad. And Coke might have thought about that. This will alienate some people who are not ready to see black and white people sharing a simple intimacy.  But Coke chose to do the ad and take advantage of the good feeling it would give a lot of people, a feeling that would halo around the product. They were right, too.

When O'Reilly jokes about McDonald's doing an ad in this series showing a member of Al Qaeda, he's revealing that he thinks gay people are a group that most people view with justified hostility. McDonald's, operating in France, hasn't analyzed things that way. That's their judgment call, and I hope it's a good one.

Some people say that gay people should keep their sexuality private: Why does anyone need to hear about what anyone else does in bed? But the reaction to this ad shows how obtuse that is. This young man is looking at a photograph and talking to another male on the phone in a way that lets us know he's in love. It isn't at all leering or overtly sexual. It's mild and innocent. It doesn't make any sense to say that's something that belongs only in the bedroom. The idea that expression like this should be kept hidden only makes sense if you actually believe homosexuality is shameful.

66 comments:

mesquito said...

Chortle. I just love the idea of McDonald's being such a huge cultural player in Frogland.

(Just don't let on to the banlieue types that your lifestyle choices are a little this side of orthodox.)

Dead Julius said...

Wow... it is amazing how conservative superhero O'Reilly trivializes the threat of Al Qaeda.

I guess we shouldn't be taking those Muslim terrorists seriously after all.

And...

Why the $#@! does Allahpundit consider himself qualified to critique a French TV commercial? Is he French? Does he live in France? Does he spend lots of time in France?

To a European mindset, Allahpundit's comments make him seem like an idiot and a bigot... and they smack of American cultural imperialism.

Must we Americans control everything, everywhere?

mesquito said...

To a European mindset, Allahpundit's comments make him seem like an idiot and a bigot... and they smack of American cultural imperialism.

Oh, for Pete's sake. We're not allowed to make fun of the Old Countries?

ricpic said...

All over the world it's the same thing: the withit decadents putting down the dated squares. A dead world that keeps on twitching.

Fen said...

it is amazing how conservative superhero O'Reilly

O'Reilly? He's a just a blowhard.

The worst thing about him is that he talks over more interesting guests, just as they are making a point I'm interested in.

You really don't know your enemy. Please stay away from foreign policy.

mesquito said...

And what, for crying out loud, is a "European mindset?" Is it kinda like listening to NPR?

ricpic said...

Speaking of NPR, they're all excited about those temp Census jobs. Means the economy's on the way back donchyaknow. Well, NPR is made up of such obviously superior types that it must be so. Fucking traitors.

mesquito said...

Oh, ricpic, I wouldn't call NPR "traitors."

Mincing, lisping weenies with a genius for turing 90 seconds of information into a fifteen-minute snorefest?

Absolutely.

(I kinda think of myself as a media critc.)

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dead Julius said...

@mesquito-

And what, for crying out loud, is a "European mindset?" Is it kinda like listening to NPR?

Oh, I see. Let me explain:

There is a continent over across the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Mesquito, and it has lots of countries in it. It is called "Europe". And you know what? It's actually different than America. Yeah, I know, hard to believe, isn't it?

And in this continent certain generalities about behavior and values can be gleaned... and even an obtuse American such as myself can observe that behavior and values are generally different than they are in America.

Yeah, I know, it's really hard to wrap your mind around. D-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t. Different. That means not the same!

Here's a little video to help you out, Mr. Mesquito. Just listen to Zoe and if you try really hard you'll probably get it.

Flexo said...

Make up your mind --

Is it other people's business what one does in the bedroom or not?

If it is no one's business for X, then it is no one's business for Y.

But more importantly, it has nothing to do with cheeseburgers. And one should be able to simply go have a cheeseburger without having to be subjected to someone's ideology or political advocacy statement, "gay" or otherwise.

Beyond that, it's boring. Not cutting edge, not daring, not socially brave. It's boring.

We. Get. It. You're here. You're queer. And we don't care.

Dead Julius said...

@Flexo-

We. Get. It. You're here. You're queer. And we don't care.

Actually, in this case, it should be:

We. Get. It. You're there. You're queer. And we (over here) don't care.

Ann Althouse said...

@edutcher If you have a problem with anal sex, don't do it. Anyone, whatever their sexual orientation, can find sexual acts other than anal sex if that's what they choose. Focusing on that as a way to distance yourself from gay people seems really mean-spirited.

Andrea said...

Dead Julius has just discovered Europe and he's all a-flutter. It's so sweet when the mentally handicapped learn something new. Next week I hear they're going to help him tackle putting on his underwear himself.

edutcher said...

O'Really's been going off the deep end for several years now. Where he's headed with this is anybody's guess.

mesquito said...

Oh, I see. Let me explain:

There is a continent over across the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Mesquito, and it has lots of countries in it. It is called "Europe". And you know what? It's actually different than America. Yeah, I know, hard to believe, isn't it?


Oh, please, Dead Julius. I'm the son of a European immigrant who spent most of his childhood overseas, and who had rambled about quite freely. I need no lectures from you about "difference." What I am curious about, however, is this "European mindset." Pray elaborate.

Joe said...

This isn't so hard to understand, you're talking about McDonald's. Seems like a very successful ad campaign.

ricpic said...

It's mean spirited to be put off by taking it up the arse? Yes, we must all get withit or forever live in exile.

mesquito said...

Hello? Dead Julius?

Dead Julius said...

Okay, mesquito, no more fucking around, not even in the ass:

What I mean by "European mindset" is the way that young people in Europe think about societal and cultural issues, including especially the moral aspects of homosexuality.

I limit this to young people because that seems to be the intended audience for the McDonald's ad.

I spend four or five months of every year living in a very small Euro country. I notice that while there seem to be obvious differences of language and appearance among Euro-kiddos, there are few discernible differences in opinions about social issues. Young people in America seem to be much more diverse in this respect.

sunsong said...

The idea that expression like this should be kept hidden only makes sense if you actually believe homosexuality is shameful.

Exactly. And those same folks think it is their prerogative to decide what *rights* those abominable homosexuals ought to have :-)

mesquito said...

I spend four or five months of every year living in a very small Euro country. I notice that while there seem to be obvious differences of language and appearance among Euro-kiddos, there are few discernible differences in opinions about social issues. Young people in America seem to be much more diverse in this respect.

Now, I'm really confused. Where exactly does American "cultural imperialism" fit in? Now American kiddies are more diverse than Eurokiddies? Are they, the Yanks, exporting, forcibly, a more homphobic culture to Dear Old Europe? Or less homophobic?

mesquito said...

And what, for pete's sake, is a European mindset?

Dead Julius said...

Oh forget it, mesquito... Now you are just being annoying! I ought to either swat you with a mesquito-swatter, or else we ought to get together at my place and have anal sex all weekend long.

Palladian said...

Dead Julius, didn't you once claim you were a pornographer? Of course you'd be excited about the "European mindset"! Why, it's all soft-focus, hirsute pussies attached to women named Emmanuelle over there!

"
What I mean by "European mindset" is the way that young people in Europe think about societal and cultural issues, including especially the moral aspects of homosexuality."

Young people in "Europe" believe in a 0% birthrate, sandals with socks, daytime fucking in public parks next to children's playgrounds, non-ironically attending "raves" bearing glow-sticks, running away from angry Jihadis, smoking hashish, receiving public assistance to pay for backpacking holidays and laughing at Americans. In other words, young people in "Europe" are hardly oracles of moral, aesthetic or societal wisdom.

But I'll concede that it's good they support homosexuality, as some of the lads over there are really cute with big uncut cocks and cute accents.

Dead Julius said...

oung people in "Europe" believe in a 0% birthrate, sandals with socks, daytime fucking in public parks next to children's playgrounds, non-ironically attending "raves" bearing glow-sticks, running away from angry Jihadis, smoking hashish, receiving public assistance to pay for backpacking holidays and laughing at Americans. In other words, young people in "Europe" are hardly oracles of moral, aesthetic or societal wisdom.

Wow. You are actually 100% on spot.

I didn't claim they were wise. I claimed they had a common viewpoint. And all the things that you so astutely enumerate show that their viewpoint is quite distinct from general American opinion.

AC245 said...

Successful trolling of the troll... well played, mesquito.

(Btw, Julius, that offer to have me and a couple dozen friends beat you with bats, saws, pipes, chains, sticks, etc. and then have you explain to everyone how peaceful and unarmed we were still stands.)

Damon said...

Dead Julius - I think you are in over your head.

But really, can we talk about how the young kid in the ad was fondling the picture? "...Lets us know he's in love." Really? McD's definitely straddled a line, but that is about as obvious as Drudge's Daddy plug the hole.

Hollywood, or Eurowood in this case, isn't known to handle "love" in a true, authentic, or healthy manner.

Ralph L said...

Hey Dead J, it's "different from", not "different than."

edutcher has debugged his comment.

Fen said...

What I mean by "European mindset" is the way that young people in Europe think about societal and cultural issues, including especially the moral aspects of homosexuality.

Yes, they think homosexuality is a stoning offense.

"European" doesn't mean what it used to.

PatCA said...

What is puzzling to me and maybe others is that the son looks like he resents his father, whom he thinks of as a buffoon. That's what I didn't get.

Robert said...

Whatever.

McDonalds is gay now.

I'm going to Burger King.

Revenant said...

they smack of American cultural imperialism.

Oh noes! Not "American cultural imperialism"!

Seriously, now -- Americans are supposed to feel guilty that our culture is steadily dominating the entire globe? Why? We like our culture. That's why we have it!

Palladian said...

"Why? We like our culture. That's why we have it!"

Speak for yourself. I hate both European and American culture.

William said...

When McDonald's advertises in order to sell hamburgers it is guilty of "cultural imperialism". When McDonald's uses its ad budget to sell tolerance of homosexuals it is a force for good and change. Those slow eating, snail slurping primitives are the ones you got to watch out for. Those "gourmands" want to return to another era when fast food and gays were not acceptable at the dinner table....Sacred blue shit, is it possible that the French are being insufficiently cynical about this ad campaign?

bagoh20 said...

Ann, you are sometimes very helpful to me. I don't think I would have gotten all that from the ad, but after reading your take, it all seems obvious.

Thanks.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: The ad is well-done, charming, and sweet, and it creates a good feeling about McDonald's.

The man isn't out to his father, and the father either doesn't know his son is gay (showing alienation) or is passive aggressively telling him he doesn't want to be told the truth. No good feelings were felt by me!

Jason (the commenter) said...

Robert: McDonalds is gay now.

I'm going to Burger King.

One week later.

Largo said...

I'm going to Burger King.
ROTFL!

AllenS said...

Time to think outside the bun.

lemondog said...

Ad is maybe to tick off the Muslim population? Headscarves and hamburgers.

Is the ad accepted in France without controversy?

In many ads the product is secondary to the 'narrative.'

What is puzzling to me and maybe others is that the son looks like he resents his father, whom he thinks of as a buffoon. That's what I didn't get.

For a long time the trend of American ads. sit-coms, etc., is to make the man/father appear as a buffoon. Nothing new.

DaveW said...

McDonald's seems to have an ad strategy to identify themselves with every (apparently) splintered group of modern culture. I've noticed over the years they have ad campaigns obviously targeted at women, men, black folks, young and old folks in all of the preceding, kids etcetera. This strikes me as a very typical McDonald's ad, same music, same themes, it just targets a group I haven't seen them target before.

I don't find it at all surprising to see a McDonald's ad targeting a gay audience. I'm sure McDonald's would love to be the go-to place for burgers for gay folks.

It strikes me interesting that I've seen so many bloggers like AP commenting on this ad as if there is some mystery why they're running it. They must not see many McDonald's ads, or they're just not thinking about them very much. Or perhaps it just shows they're just anti-gay, or haven't thought much about the idea of gay's wallets as a legitimate target for businesses.

Kirby Olson said...

France has the same urban-rural split that America has with its rural and small-town populations rather conservative, and its urban populations tolerant of just about anything.

Even Finland is like this. The blue state mentality is largely an urban phenomenon.

Why should this be so?


The nuclear family is still the basic unit in rural areas around the world. In the cities, any kind of sensation or excitement is the name of the game. Could be a burger. Could be a new lover. It could be a hot new movie.

Things move slower in the rural areas. Fun is not the catchword that it is is in the cities.

Fun keeps getting new twists. It could be joining a Maoist cult in the 70s. I don't know what cutting edge fun is now. But McDonald's wants to be part of it.

Bon chic burgers!

Kirby Olson said...

The young man in the flick appears to still like his dad, even if he considers him a little out of it. I think that feeling is probably universal among teens.

Glen said...

Robert said...
Whatever.
McDonalds is gay now.
I'm going to Burger King.


For a juicy Whopper? Or do you prefer a tossed salad?

Hagar said...

France is a Texas-sized country in Europe, but it isn't Europe any more than Texas is the United States.

Scott said...

O'Reilly has Masters degrees from Boston University (Broadcast Journalism) and Harvard (Public Administration). Just goes to show.

Don't forget that France is culturally a Latin-influenced country with a very male-macho culture. The contrast between the old school macho dad and the metrosexual son is also happening here.

This ad wouldn't fly in the United States because when it comes to sex, Americans are prudes and hypocrites.

Scott said...

@Kirby Olson: True. Their relationship is much like my relationship was with my dad when I was the boy's age. You love your parents, but you don't think they're ready to see your reality.

jgm said...

European culture: In the McD's across from the Gare Du Nord about a dozen years ago there was a "no smoking" sign over every table. On every table? An ashtray.

Pogo said...

"...when it comes to sex, Americans are prudes and hypocrites."

It's a method that guarantees demographic success.

Meanwhile the licentious unhypocritical Euros are being replaced by Muslim women bearing 5 or 6 kids.

Scott said...

Just goes to show, Muslim women are only baby making machines who have been genitally mutilated so that they can't even enjoy the sex they're being subjected to.

Pogo said...

Mebbe so. And in a generation their progeny will outnumber the europeans.

And McDonalds will not be running those ads.

Shame, sublimation, prudishness, and hypocrisy have all been staples of successful cultures. The squares always replace the libertines.

dbp said...

"I'm sure, back in 1980, some people didn't like to see a little white boy give his Coke to the black football player Mean Joe Green in the famous Super Bowl ad."

I saw that ad very differently. To me, it seemed like they were trying to contrast the innocent and tiny child with a big scary football player. If I recall correctly, the player had been having an off-game and was angry about it.

One could argue that in choosing a black player, the advertisement was perpetuating a racial stereotype that blacks are more frightening than whites.

In any case, this ad was in 1980, not 1950. Most people, myself included, didn't place any significance on the racial breakdown of the actors in the commercial.

Jeff said...

However pretentious you may be, welcome to demographic suicide, Scott.

Scott said...

You're a regular Edward Gibbon, ain't ya.

PatCA said...

This is a brilliant ad--people all over the world are talking about it and maybe thinking, hey, let's get some fries.

It's ambiguous on purpose. Look at the range of contrary readings of the ad we all have had.

Re the Mean Joe Greene ad, I don't think it's accurate to say that it was objected to in its day on any public level at least. Greene was chosen over Staubach because he looked meaner, which would contrast with the kid better. It was very popular, sales went up, the ad was repeated in other countries, and eventually a movie was made about it.

Also, I saw the O'Reilly show, and his mention of Al Queda I think was meant to indicate another group whose discourse is totally unrelated to hamburgers, not that gays should be viewed like Al Queda!

Trooper York said...

Hey that Burger King dude is really gay!

You notice how he is always turning up in some dude's bed with a big grin.

If you are afraid of the gay maybe you should try Wendy's.

Trooper York said...

And as far as "French" culture goes, I was watching TruTV which has all these real life videos and they had one from a bus in France. It seems this young Metrosexual dude with a scarf was standing next to the driver when these four Muslim street kids decide to mug him and start to beat the shit our of him. All of the young people on the bus just walked away. It seemed to be late at night so it was mostly young people on the bus. Nobody did anything while the kicked the crap out of this guy for resisting their robbery attempt. They surrendered.

Your basic "French" culture.

Good luck to you there mon ami.

Jana said...

I might have liked it more if dad wasn't portrayed as a baffoon unaware and disengaged from his son's life. I don't know that it glorified being a closeted teen, or anything, I just don't know that the message was all that heartwarming. It isn't like they were bonding at McDonald's, accepting each other as they are.

MadisonMan said...

Speaking as the parent of a teen, I think the father-son relationship is accurately portrayed. Dad is clueless about many things, talking a lot about the past, and Son is tolerantly listening.

Doesn't make me want to go to Mickey D's, however.

Robert said...

"If you are afraid of the gay maybe you should try Wendy's."

From here on out it's Arby's roast beef sandwiches for me.

Leaving nothing to interpretation.

Wait, scratch that. Make it Hardees. Arby's can be associated with cowboys which can be associated with that gay cowboy movie from a couple years ago that I have no interest in watching.

Trooper York said...

"Wait, scratch that. Make it Hardees"

Nah, you don't want that is sounds too close to Hard-on which you got watching the gay dude.

Stick with Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips if they worry you that much. Just sayn'

Largo said...

Stick with Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips if they worry you that much. Just sayn'

Trooper! Have you ever seen the spoofs of the old "Captain Highligner" fish stick commercials?

Cap'n: Have you ever been to sea, Billy?
Billy: No, but I've been blown ashore!

Billy: What's that, Captain Hindgrinder??
Cap'n: Tarter sauce, Billy!

[slinking away in shame now]

Trooper York said...

Nice.

Thanks for playing.

Flexo said...

Stick with Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips

That's what we need to see. A commercial with Kanye West, "I'd like some fishsticks, please."

HDHouse said...

Ann wrote "Obviously, it is also true that the ad won't work on people who get riled when they see gay people presented as regular people who are part of ordinary life."

ahhh Ann, the gay population is part of ordinary life...I'm sorry that fact escaped you.