Sixty-one seconds of your time, and you’ll see a revolution. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time an LGBT couple will appear as presenters of a household consumer item for children. And if they’re not there as a type of joke or stereotype (as in the Gay Pride Parade being viewed by a pair of doves from the Bituach Yashir insurance company), or as a conspiracy theory (the male cartoon characters Sheka and Teka in the ads of the Israel Electric Corporation are a couple, but nobody has dared tell you).
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Simply: A father and a father, Udi and Guy Ledergur, a doctor and high-tech person, a bourgeois home with a piano, with their young daughter Tom, a long-haired blonde – the quintessence of the childish beauty of ads – whose two fathers equally share the burden of care, grooming and reading stories.
When the manufacturer of toothbrushes for children wants to reach every home using presenters who aren’t actors, celebrities or animated birds with a Mizrahi accent, it wants you to see people on the screen who live a credible normal life.
For that purpose, they will present “proper” social values that the viewers attribute to themselves or whose existence they hope for: a harmonious marital relationship (both fathers use the family name Ledergur) plus responsible, hardworking, smiling parenting and a poster child. What could be bad? All that’s missing is a Labrador puppy, and everything is perfect.
A family of gay fathers? Nu, so what, says the ad. This is an important statement in a country that doesn’t allow the LGBT community to marry, have access to surrogate parenting or adopt.
And in a place where religious and ultra-Orthodox politicians represent benighted, dangerous homophobia, and “homo” is still the most common curse among teenagers, this is a strong, vital statement.
Kudos to the manufacturers of the electric toothbrush, who understood that their audience is capable of calmly accepting what the government itself wouldn’t dream of.
Along with this happy news, we have to remember that the job of casting for ads sanctifies stereotypes in which minorities or genders will always be given the most traditional, depressing role. Gay people can sell toothbrushes, but Palestinians still can’t. Those people – all they understand is hummus and Turkish coffee. Actually, Yoram Binur, our legendary correspondent in the territories, understands Turkish coffee. So maybe the Palestinians understand only hummus (and force).
Women don’t understand coffee, but they’re all addicted to ice cream pops, which are only oral sex toys. Women will always sell diapers, and for the most part won’t promote complex financial products.
Men who look or sound Mizrahi won’t be cast for senior executive roles. Mizrahi women will sell matbucha (a Moroccan tomato salad) and laundry gel. Rotem Sela can sell an air conditioner, but only in the role of a dumb blonde who doesn’t understand anything about technology.
The exciting niche of assisted living, absorbent products and hearing aids is reserved for old people, and dark-skinned people are still seen as “special,” if not actually aberrant.
There are many written and unwritten rules in this business, some of them the product of quantitative research and the result of focus groups, and some derived from solid but unproven opinions about the nature of the viewer and the character of Israeli society.
All the casting victims who aren’t LGBT people are still waiting for a revolution of their own on the screen. They also deserve to sell toothbrushes.