Camping Trip

Brand: 
Saturn
Business Category: 
Automotive
Agency: 
Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Four men set off on a camping trip. As they happily unload their gear, they hear the faint sounds of a banjo playing, a reference to the "Dueling Banjos" song in the film "Deliverance" (nominated for Best Film in 1972, starring Burt Reynolds), featuring a pair of male hillbillies who rape the men at gunpoint.

The men can't scramble fast enough back into their mini-SUV and peel out to escape.

"We were looking for a pop culture tie-in that's timeless and humorous," explains Cindy Kamerad, a Saturn spokeswoman. "College kids know about that movie." Kamerad notes that the ad has gotten positive reviews on an unofficial Saturn web site, SaturnFans.com, and that sales have doubled for the new vehicle now that advertising has kicked in.

General Motors' Saturn, the "different kind of car company," unfortunately recalls a different kind of era, when homophobia was more accepted.

Ironically, Saturn was the first American car company with a gay market ad, though it ran just once in a 1995 OUT magazine. It came back more consistently in 1999 when the company extended equal benefits to gay employees.

One must also question how an agency based in San Francisco, perhaps the most gay- and politically-sensitive city, could have created an ad based on such a concept. While many argue persuasively that male rape is not a reference to homosexuality (rape is an act of violence, not sexuality), it remains a persistent stereotype.

And it is difficult to imagine how rape of any sort evokes humor, yet prison rape and male rape in general is considered humorous by some sophomoric segments of society. Further, the decision to pick a joke about male rape is an intentional choice over others that could also have worked, such as any horror movie reference -- they selected it because homophobia appears to "heighten" the humor.

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