Every time a TV spot is criticized for being chauvinistic or homophobic, the ad men have the same canned response: “It’s a joke! Haven’t you got a sense of humor?”. Well, these days it seems trans people are the butt of the joke, from New Zealand tampons to the first aid course the company made me take this week, to this recent Israeli ad for Domino’s Pizza:
In the ad, Israeli singer and comedian Maor Cohen talks about being pampered by his mom in the winter time. The camera zooms out just as a big masculine arm slaps Cohen, and we see a male actor playing the role of the mom whose pampering apparently involves delivering pizzas to her son. Now, you don’t need to hone your Hebrew skills to pick up on the pointy boobs, the crotch grab and the general macho quality of the mom character. Simply put, there doesn’t seem to be any plausible explanation as to why a cisman was cast to play the mom – except for the obvious one: “Whoosh, that’s the joke…” – and a very transphobic one, in my opinion.
How can a first aid course make fun of trans people, you ask? Well, one needs to try very hard, as the EMT that taught the course proved: When he talked about snake bites and how you should never cut the bitten organ to extract the venom, the instructor held up a piece of paper which read “Do not cut” and had a photo of Israeli singer Dana International on it. Get it? Do not cut. Yeah, I know…
Israeli telecom provider 012 Smile know how to create an ad without insulting trans people (or their friends). Read all about it here.
I like Dana International. As I have said in the past, her winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998 was a giant leap for gay acceptance in general and particularly for transsexual visibility. As a judge on Israeli Pop Idol in recent years, just by appearing in the living rooms of millions of Israelis, I believe she does more for LGBTQ equality than any Supreme Court decision could ever do.
But this post is not about her. It’s about 012 Smile, the Israeli telecommunications provider and their recent TV spot featuring Dana and Israeli comedian Eyal Kitzis who play themselves in a kind of alternative reality:
You see, LGBT acceptance is not binary; It has different shades, different grades. At the very far end there are those who define their so-called progressiveness with letting queer people live their lives just as long as they themselves don’t have to hear about it. The other side is closer to what 012 show us:
– In the ad Dana International is not asexual. This particular M2F has a male boyfriend, Kitzis, who is straight, and whom she fondly calls “Kitzi-Kitzi”.
– She also has a home, a family, a father that, much like ours, got mad when we talked too much on the telephone.
This parallel-universe-Dana seems to have had a childhood in the eighties quite similar to ours, and while all this may seem trivial to progressive-thinking-homo-lovin’ readers, it is probably not trivial to their parents.
You see, I complain quite a bit about Israeli advertising, about its lack of creativity and its sexist undertones, but for putting this ad on Israeli Channel 2 at prime time, all I can say is:
Bravo! Bravo, 012, bravo!
If advertising is harmful in its core, I believe this ad does quite a bit of good.
Jonathan Danilowitz, Adir Steiner, Uzi Even, Tal and Avital Yaros-Hakak – each of these individuals have helped Israel shape its laws and grant equal rights for queer people, that much cannot be disputed – but I contend that all these people have helped very little in softening the collective Israeli heart towards gay people, compared to one transsexual singer who granted Israel its first Eurovision Song Contest victory in nineteen years. As simplistic (dare I say, moronic) as that may sound, I believe that when Dana International performed on stage in Birmingham, England in 1998, she granted mothers and fathers from the generation right above mine a night of many firsts, as for most of them it was the first time they ever rooted for a queer person and the first time a queer individual had flooded them with feelings of pride and patriotism.
Just like straight men have an easier time accepting the idea of lesbians over gay men, as it is not perceived as a threat to their own masculinity, I believe that many straight men and women have an easier time accepting the idea of transgendered people over other queer individuals, as it is not perceived as a threat to the boy-meets-girl dogma.
Being a minority, any minority, is probably not much fun wherever you may live, but the fact that this country is so tiny must make it that much harder for individuals to surround themselves with enough people that love them, so that they would not be forced to constantly see the masses that hate them. This coming Thursday, Israeli Channel 10 will feature a documentary named ‘Mom, I Didn’t Kill Your Daughter‘ about two F2M transsexuals living in Israel who are also a couple. The film, directed by Orna Ben-Dor, received rave reviews in festivals around the world.
Here’s a snippet:
‘Mom, I Didn’t Kill Your Daughter’ will air this coming Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 9pm on Israeli Channel 10.
You can also watch it online here. Happy Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom from slavery!