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.