John M. Becker

Coca-Cola's Gay-Friendly Super Bowl Ad: Nice But Hollow

Filed By John M. Becker | February 03, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Coca-Cola, gay dads, parenting, Sochi, Sochi 2014, Sochi Olympics, Super Bowl, Super Bowl ad

During last night's Super Bowl, Coca-Cola aired a commercial called "It's Beautiful" that highlighted the diversity of America by showing people and families of many genders, ages, races, religions, and sexual orientations (the ad featured a shot of two gay dads taking their daughter to a skating rink). As the footage rolled, "America the Beautiful" -- sung in different voices and languages -- played in the background.

According to GLAAD, it was the first-ever Super Bowl commercial to feature a same-sex couple.

If you, like me, missed the Super Bowl yesterday (I was flying back to D.C. from the Creating Change conference in Houston), you can watch the Coke spot below:

The spot won widespread acclaim, but it also quickly came under fire from two groups: racists and xenophobes (the "We speak English in Uhmurrika!" crowd) and LGBT advocates, who criticized Coca-Cola for making pro-LGBT overtures at home while sponsoring the anti-LGBT Sochi Olympics in Russia.

While the racist/xenophobic critiques were -- duh! -- bigoted and meritless, those from LGBT advocates were right on the money.

gay-dads-coca-cola.gifTo be sure, Coca-Cola -- along with other proud Olympics sponsors like McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, and Visa -- are companies whose policies support LGBT Americans: Coca-Cola and P&G received perfect 100 ratings on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, and McDonald's and Visa both scored a respectable 90.

But the LGBT community isn't just an American one. We're a global community, and we're under siege in many countries (like Russia) whose governments have enacted draconian laws that call for our persecution, criminalization, arrest, torture, and even murder.

While it's all well and good that companies like Coca-Cola support LGBT protections and feature same-sex couples in feel-good advertisements in the United States, their willingness to accommodate, excuse, and overlook anti-LGBT human rights abuses abroad -- by sponsoring Vladimir Putin's anti-gay Olympics, for example -- suggests that their concern for our community may be more mercenary than moral. And we're not going to let them off the hook as long as they throw a pair of gay dads into a TV commercial.

Until these ostensibly pro-LGBT companies like take a harder stance against anti-LGBT hatred abroad (running an ad featuring gay dads in Russia, as Dan Savage suggests, would be a good start), gestures like Coca-Cola's gay-inclusive Super Bowl commercial will continue to ring hollow.

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