For those who haven’t seen this seg­ment on the Gruen Transfer, go and watch it first. Be warned, it’s offensive and designed to be. (For over­seas readers, the Gruen Transfer is a TV show ana­lysing advert­ising with com­pet­itors cre­ating ads for out­rageous briefs.)

The dis­cus­sion fol­lowing this seg­ment is ter­rific: robust, ser­ious and exactly what is needed about these issues. At first I thought the issues were too com­plic­ated for me to distil into a post but I’ve just real­ised some­thing vital. The first three jokes in the ad – about blacks, gays and Jews respect­ively – centre on the habit racists/homophobes/anti-Semitics have of mur­dering those they des­pise: they refer to his­tor­ical events, ster­il­isa­tion and forced abor­tion; ‘poofter bash­ings’ that lead to death; con­cen­tra­tion camps. The fat chick joke – the ad aims to end shape dis­crim­in­a­tion by equating it with other forms of dis­crim­in­a­tion – centres on someone not sleeping with her, which is very dif­ferent from kiling her. 

The ad not only fails to make its point because its viewers are either too shocked bythe first jokes to make the needed con­nec­tion or so pre­ju­diced their views are simply rein­forced but also because the equa­tion is not actu­ally made in the ad. Fat jokes are NOT equi­valent to the other jokes because they do not call for the exterm­in­a­tion of the target. Shape dis­crim­in­a­tion is enorm­ously prob­lem­atic and has sim­ilar emo­tional impact on the recip­ient; it may even be more isol­ating because there is no equi­valent com­munity to turn to as a haven in the way that blacks/gays/Jews have insular com­munities where they can rein­force pos­itive psy­cho­lo­gical tropes; but it is not the same thing and I don’t think this ad works for all these reasons.