Oh, good — I’m not the only one who utterly despised this ad


Have you all seen this Heineken ad? It takes six people who don’t know anything about each other and pairs them up. On one side, a black woman feminist; a man who accepts the science of climate change; and a transgender woman. In the prelude, each makes a brief statement about their positive beliefs. On the other side, three men: one skinheadish fellow declares that feminism is about man-hating, that women are needed to have children; another rather indignant twit who announces that all those people who believe in climate change need to get off their high horse and get a job; a middle-aged guy who flatly declares that you’re either a man or a woman. Then they’re put together to assemble a bar, and afterwards drink a beer with each other.

If you must, here it is.

I’m seeing people going all goo-goo over it. Aww, isn’t that sweet? One-on-one, people can see each other’s basic humanity and get along.

Except…there’s a striking asymmetry here. Two of those people rejected the basic identity and humanity of the others. The three left-leaning people did not go into this denying the existence of the others, while two of the righties did (and the third was just an ignorant asshat). We’re supposed to feel good about it because they’re able to drink beer together, but there’s no evidence that those three men recognized their own failures, while the three on the other side just had to take it and tolerate the intolerable.

Here’s a good take on it from Mirah Curzer.

This is the danger of the feel-good “let’s just talk to each other” approach. It’s just a more cuddly version of that horrible bothsidesism that equates being called a racist with actual racism as reasons for hurt and anger. Both sides are not the same. The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing. She, on the other hand, is giving up a certain amount of dignity by breaking bread with someone who thinks she shouldn’t have the right to exist. She’s risking her mental and physical safety, volunteering for the hard emotional labor of arguing for her right to be a person. And with ads like this, that labor is being demanded of her with no consideration of how much it may cost. Worse, it’s heavily implied that if she were to walk away, it would make her just as intolerant as the bigot who views her with disgust.

Not all viewpoints are equal. Not all olive branches are earned. And it is not in the service of justice to demand emotional labor of marginalized people while praising bigots for doing the bare minimum to act like humans on a single occasion.

Isn’t that the way it always is? And now we’re supposed to tolerate assholes so Heineken can sell beer, too.

Comments

  1. Emily says

    I found the transperson / transphobe one to be particularly uncomfortable. It’s like “Hey, that person is opposed to my very exitance and it’s people with beliefs like his that beat and kill transpeople for such offenses as using the bathroom and just existing, and we’re just expected to civilly sweep that under the rug right up until something bad happens.”

  2. says

    This, this, this is at the heart of all this “free speech” debate. “Free Speech” isn’t equal speech. The person arguing in favour of taking away my basic rights can only win, I can only lose. I am made to defend my basic humanity (in abortion discussions, for example) while the other person does not have to deal with that. There is no “free speech” for the marginalised, no “opportunity to share and discuss ideas openly” when the ideas debated are whether and how we should be allowed to exist.

  3. Sastra says

    People change — meaning, people do, at times, change their opinions. Social environment, personal experiences, reasoning, emotions eventually have an effect on at least some people, some of the time. It seems to me that it’s rather important to recognize this possibility at the individual level if there’s going to be any hope for improvement at the cultural one.

  4. jaybee says

    I too found it cringey and most likely staged. But I do think that the first step in getting people to change their beliefs is to expose them to real examples of the people they despise. I don’t think the commercial was suggesting that that one interaction cured homophobia, but it was a start.

  5. says

    People change — meaning, people do, at times, change their opinions. Social environment, personal experiences, reasoning, emotions eventually have an effect on at least some people, some of the time. It seems to me that it’s rather important to recognize this possibility at the individual level if there’s going to be any hope for improvement at the cultural one.

    Brought to you by Pepsi and Kendell Jenner
    Corporate consumer capitalism to save the world!

    Stay tuned for “why we really must listen to Trump voters, Open Ed #1567982, my unique and original view!

  6. says

    I agree that people can change.

    It takes a bit more than one beer to accomplish it, though, and it also first requires a recognition of one’s own flaws.

  7. alkisvonidas says

    I won’t defend the ad. I have to ask, however, what is the alternative to tolerating “assholes” or “deplorables”, especially when they get an asshole elected? It seems to me ignoring them is not an option. So, if you’re not going to try to convince them to change their mind, there remain two options: force them to change their mind, or remove them. Neither works without tearing down the very liberties you’re trying to defend.

    Obviously, some are beyond convincing, but not all of them – otherwise, you’ve already lost. Casual chat over a beer is not the way to do it, I agree. How about starting with the borderline cases, learning to walk before you run? Instead of trying to convert a total stranger in five minutes, try to hold a serious, honest, longer than usual conversation with a family member that’s bought the alt-right BS hook, line and sinker.

    Frustrating? Yes. Uncomfortable? Very. Futile? Only if you’re trying to win the argument. You’re not going to win the argument. But you might be able to make a dent in the bubble they live in.

    And in case you’re wondering: you’re not doing THEM a favor, you’re doing YOURSELF a favor: their choices will affect the world you live in. For a very long time.

  8. dhabecker says

    Take the ad for what it is, and if it sparked a meaningful conversation between any group of people, it is worthy. I still prefer Warstiener or Pilsner Urquell,- beer snob that I try to be.

  9. Sastra says

    PZ #7 wrote:

    I agree that people can change. It takes a bit more than one beer to accomplish it, though, and it also first requires a recognition of one’s own flaws.

    I don’t think the commercial was trying to show that a single beer is all it takes. The collaboration, the questions, the personal revelations all seemed to be emphasized as more critical for setting up the start of a conversation “over a beer.” That conversation was supposed to lead to others, presumably. There was some indication that the relationships might continue.

    As for the requirement that the bigots/ ignorant must first “recognize their own flaws” — wouldn’t that come later?

    It seems to me there’s a continuum. They begin with “I could never be friends with an X.” Then there’s “Well, yeah, I could be friends with an X, but they better not bring up any of that X stuff” (the situation in the commercial mercifully forces folks to skip this step.) Then, there’s “I’m friends with an X and I’m starting to see why they think X is okay — even though I still don’t.” Over time, that has a chance of changing to “Yeah … X.” Which may or may not be accompanied by “I was really flawed back then.”

    This may not be realistic, but I think it’s more likely than getting someone to admit their flaws before they change their mind. How would that even work?

  10. antigone10 says

    I have to ask, however, what is the alternative to tolerating “assholes” or “deplorables”, especially when they get an asshole elected? It seems to me ignoring them is not an option. So, if you’re not going to try to convince them to change their mind, there remain two options: force them to change their mind, or remove them.

    I don’t know what the alternative is. I have changed people’s mind on things before, and I do disagree respectfully on people with some things. But, here’s the big but, I already trust these people to be good people that are either fundamentally misunderstanding something or have some piece of information that I don’t have, or we just judge the same values at different proportions but we ultimately have the same goals and evidence and discussion can get us to a compromise position.

    I don’t have that trust with most, or even many, of my political opponents. I trusted Y when she said that she was anti-abortion because she wanted to protect life, because Y is a good person. And after discussion and observation, she’s now pro-choice though still personally against abortion because she did fundamentally believe that life is valuable and should be protected and that includes women’s lives. But I’m not going to have that conversation with, say, my aunt X because I don’t trust her “pro-life” as far as I can throw her. She’s anti-abortion because she likes to be a slut-shaming scold. And the difference is reflected in their actions- Y would post things like how low the abortion rates dropped in Colorado after free LARC and we should do that everywhere, and my aunt X would post things like “Look at the spaghetti strap nightmares these teenaged sluts are wearing to prom!”

    If there is no trust, there is no discussion, because coming to a compromise requires you to be vulnerable to the other person. I don’t know how to trust these people. Good evidence suggests I shouldn’t. And the consequences for those on the bad half of the intersectionality line are worse that those on the other half.

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing. She, on the other hand, is giving up a certain amount of dignity by breaking bread with someone who thinks she shouldn’t have the right to exist.

    I disagree. sorry to mansplain. I will anyway, why not, oh well, here goes:
    She has to go through this everyday with people who don’t know her history or have just been introduced she is trans. He, I’m sure, avoids it or refuses to acknowledge it. So to have to, on camera, deliberately sit down with a person he knows is trans, after saying a few minutes ago that trans are yukky, is quite a slap in his face with no damage to her. We’re just seeing the sacrifice she has to go through every hour.
    Talking to people you disagree with won’t solve all the issues, baby steps. To solve those issues you must start somewhere, talking is usually the best place to start. See the other side as a human and not just words you disagree with on a piece of paper.
    ?

  12. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    @12
    borked the blockquote. tried double blockquoting the first paragraph, forgetting to de-blockquote it. oops

  13. anbheal says

    Yeah, caught this a few days ago, it really is the worst sort of false equivalency: racist pig = black person, transphobe pig = trans person, MRA pig = feminist, why can’t they all just own up to their differences and get along? If only that bloody nose had a Heineken with the fist, the fist wouldn’t feel so offended at being told to stop hitting it.

  14. alkisvonidas says

    @antigone10

    I can definitely see your point. I didn’t mean to say that changing other people’s minds is an easy thing to do, nor even that I’m particularly adept at it. I’m only questioning the knee-jerk reaction that it’s not our problem, and that even suggesting we try it is somehow an affront.

    The fact is, I was forced to consider the issue with the rise of the far-right in my native Greece, resulting in a party of formerly* openly neo-nazis entering the Greek Parliament. Until recently, for me, that was simply unthinkable. Quite a few people I know have friends or relatives who expressed their support for the far-right out of the blue (fortunately, I didn’t have to face such a case myself). So, what do you do when it’s your own people expressing an odious viewpoint, and not some faceless, complete-monster skinhead that you can wish was locked away? Surely you can’t remain silent, even when you don’t know where to begin discussing things with them.

    The example you give of your aunt X illustrates a key difficulty: you cannot change a person’s views if they are not honest about their motives in the first place. You can still call them out on being dishonest, though – in which case, you’d better have your own motives straight. And I may be overly idealistic, but I think few people are nasty just for the sake of being nasty. It usually boils down to some perceived injustice; “I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and you should too!”, etc. Again, you can make a dent: have the privileged really earned their privilege? Are there not plenty of cases when hard-working people end up in the gutter?

    Lastly, you speak of compromise. This is not about compromise; this is about convincing someone that your views are, in fact, correct. You neither need nor should compromise. After all, if you’re not going to stick to your convictions, why should others accept them? What you should avoid is framing it as some kind of battle, where your victory is their defeat. In the case of Trump voters, for example, the ideal strategy would be to demonstrate that Trump is making a fool of them, instead of you trying to make a fool of them.

    * I mean that they no longer openly admit to being neo-nazis, not that they have ceased to be neo-nazis.

  15. dbinmn says

    After what Heineken did to Strongbow, any reference to the company makes me want to smash its face in (if it had a face).

  16. anchor says

    If anybody is going to complain about ‘The Media’, it should be identified with this kind of crap – the idiotic staged bullshit pretending to convey a snippet of reality. Its not just phoney news presentation (which treats news as entertainment to sell ads) or movies (which is generally fiction-fantasy entertainment for profit). Its that the whole damned culture is choking on excruciatingly obnoxious commercial ads that attempt to resonate with real people in order to sell them something. They all stink for that primary reason alone – there ain’t no sincerity in it whatsoever.

    This specific case is especially repulsive precisely because they’re trying to sell beer by associating it with something ‘genuine’ like human camaraderie, and its utterly bogus. It leaves a foul aftertaste even worse than their beer. Its the very embodiment of fake.

    Very well then. From now on I will always associate their beer with this crap commercial. The brand now speaks to me loud and clear: normalization rewards assholes. And these assholes thought they were being clever and hip by promoting their beer with crap.

  17. unclefrogy says

    once again advertising proves itself to be insensitive money grubbing creeps.
    The purpose of the add was sell beer. So they trotted out a cheap stunt with actors playing parts to get their clients logo into the conservation. See our beer is still relevant and everyone thinks it is good try some today!
    it clearly makes no difference they will show up in what ever seems to be the current excitement, I was surprised there were no adds showing heroic workers at the Twin Towers ruins or the “reconstruction” hocking some product or other.
    uncle frogy

  18. says

    They begin with “I could never be friends with an X.” Then there’s “Well, yeah, I could be friends with an X, but they better not bring up any of that X stuff”

    Any X who volunteer to be the bigot’s token X friend and nicely smile and serve as a fig leaf are of course welcome to do so, but it is more than shitty to imply that the solution to bigotry is in the hands of the abused.

  19. johnmarley says

    sorry to mansplain. I will anyway,

    So, pre-emptive disingenuous apology, followed by declaration of pompous asshattery. Got it.

  20. gijoel says

    @6. Oh glob yes. Ran into this >article yesterday. Most of it is pretty good take on the press’ problems with Trump. But then Matthew Continetti claims that we have to listen to Trump’s voters and then implies the press live in a New York/beltway values bubbles.

  21. says

    On the topic of what should be done, it would be nice if we could spread values (such as strong curiosity and good epistemology) that made people tend towards correction. Also the recognition that learning happens all our lives, so we might be able to improve past what we currently think.

  22. John Pieret says

    It takes a bit more than one beer to accomplish it, though,

    Quite true! It usually takes somewhere between 5 and 15. At some point the illiberal hater will say something like “Youse not so bad …” or get his buddies together and beat the shit out of you.

    IOW, typically human conflict resolution.

  23. says

    Ugh, that was vile. Hey, uninterrupted hate speech about other groups is totally the same as existing as someone who is not a straight white male. Why can’t we all look past our differences and get along?

    And it’s made even worse by the fact that they treat this as a both sides come together moment. Like one person is just living their life and the other person believes a bunch of a-reality garbage, but they’re supposed to “meet in the middle” instead of it being on the bigot to get over their shit and recognize the humanity of the other and their right to live.

    And by doing so it normalizes hate crimes against these groups which have been on the rise (like, anti-women spree killings have been going up as have anti-trans hate crimes). Because eliminationist rhetoric and unremarked upon airing of hate speech is sold as “just another side” and you can’t speak out against a “side” unless it’s the liberal “side”.

    Like, outside the cutesy frame of folks just getting along, it’s implying that the defensive kindness marginalized folks have to give bigots so they won’t kill them, including non-committal laughter, is somehow endorsement of the bigots and like they’ve learned a valuable lesson about folks who want to kill them as if those people haven’t been harassing them day and night unendingly.

    Fuck this ad and the centrist poison it represents.

  24. methuseus says

    I honestly wonder how many couples they got together where the end result wasn’t rosy like that in order to get those three good examples for their ad? I really highly doubt that those are the only three groups they got together like this. For data’s sake I’d like to see the ones where one or the other flips out (most likely the bigoted asshole, of course).

    @Brian Pansky #23:
    The link to the article about the study stating that having a higher level of mental (scientific) reasoning means you will be further entrenched in your “side”s ideas is somewhat flawed. For example, they say that a highly reasoning conservative will find evidence that global warming is a hoax, where a highly reasoning liberal will find evidence that global warming is true. Here’s the problem I have with that study: global warming is true, so doesn’t that say the conservative isn’t actually highly reasoning??

  25. chrislawson says

    methuseus@26: yes, that’s badly worded. Research supports the idea that high-IQ people are very good at coming up with convoluted fallacies to support their personal prejudices. This should be called “highly puzzle-solving” rather than “highly reasoning.”

  26. chrislawson says

    There was a much better version of this ad in Australia where a popular local tea brand brought together two well-known personalities who had been in a famously heated debate that led to one punching the other in the face on national TV. They got the two to sit down for a friendly chat over their tea. The reason this worked was (1) despite how heated the debate was, it was between a monarchist and a republican on the matter of the future political structure of the country, an important and emotive topic, but not driven by bigotry or refusing to acknowledge the other side’s basic human rights, and (2) the ad was made several years later when the matter had already gone to referendum and was no longer an active political dispute.

    This Heineken ad just shows that some people, when brought into a social situation, will follow basic social norms. Having a beer together is not the same as rapprochement.

  27. microraptor says

    methuseus @26:

    I honestly wonder how many couples they got together where the end result wasn’t rosy like that in order to get those three good examples for their ad?

    You think they’re actually using real people instead of actors following a script?

  28. says

    The act as though cohabiting peacefully with people who oppose your very existence isn’t an every day humiliation for many of us. There was nothing unusual about being in a social situation with a bigot. I did it all the time while in the Navy, though I was in the closet at the time. I’d be on watch with a group of people having a jovial conversations about those f*****s and t******s. It was humiliating. And I didn’t want to speak up, and make myself a target. And it’s not like no one suspected anything. But then I’d be in a completely mundane and cheerful conversation with them an hour later about something totally innocuous, and it’d otherwise be quite pleasant. What was revolutionary about having a polite conversation with them? I was powerless to do anything but shrug it off. We’re not on equal footing. It’s not two sides that just can’t get along. It’s a hostage situation, and it’s humiliating and dehumanizing.

  29. says

    @29 It may well have been actors reading a script, but I’m not sure how much that matters to the message they were sending. And minority actors are frequently forced between humiliating roles and unemployment, so even actors could easily have been uncomfortable with it.

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