In the LivingSocial Super Bowl ad, the ambiguity of this person’s sex and gender identity is precisely what makes the ad brilliant — not offensive.
Perhaps because I earned my B.A. studying gender, or perhaps because I identify as gender queer and perform as gender fuck royalty (rather than as a drag queen or king,) or perhaps because I am often involved in Philadelphia’s trans communities, I am seen as the go to guy for transgender and transsexual issues when my friends have a question. I give a pretty good “trans 101″ and beyond that I point people to first hand resources as often as possible. I am not transsexual and that isn’t my story to tell, but I do know where to find a lot of stories, and I think that’s generally the best way for me to be an ally.
That said, a friend asked me today what I thought of LivingSocial’s Super Bowl ad, and if I had resources explaining why it was problematic. I started racking my brain for blogs and books and got ready to be offended and indignant and disappointed. Then, I clicked the ad. And – I smiled, laughed, and thought – what a funny, progressive advertisement. I wondered how he could possibly be offended by it, only to turn around and find it on this site, listed under “The Worst of the Superbowl.”
To my estimation, it is not reasonable to assume that this individual is supposed to be trans. (I’ll use the gender netural pronouns ze/hir in lieu of he/his or she/her since the gender identity is not made explicit.) What we see is a person who is male-bodied describe feeling “trapped,” and then ze dons feminine clothes, removes hir facial hair, and partakes in activities that are considered feminine. Whether ze felt trapped into doing only masculine things or whether ze felt trapped in a body that didn’t feel right to hir, we don’t know, only that ze goes through a transformation that ze obviously regards as positive.
The ambiguity of this person’s sex and gender identity is precisely what makes the ad brilliant. The point is that, however ze identifies, ze feels that ze has made the choice to live more authentically, regardless of whether those choices fit the societal norm for hir born sex. The humor here is not in making a gender-variant person a punchline, but simply in the surprise that we, as an audience, didn’t see this coming, with the first purchase being go-karting, and ending with heels and a dress. The ability to make choices for living one’s life without regard to sex or gender is not only not offensive; such a world would represent the crowning achievement of feminism and queer liberation. I give this ad an A+ for taking a light-hearted look at living beyond the gender binary.
J. Rudy Flesher, a Philadelphia based actor and author, holds a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey. Ze blogs here and at The Pistol in Bed Thirteen, works with PhinLi Bookings to connect LGBTQ and sex positive talent with audiences, and is currently writing hir first book, an essay collection on the daily experiences of a genderqueer life.
The New Civil Rights Movement
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.