“Flipping A Man’s Meat” Ethics

Is this what the culture has accomplished with its hard won respect for and acceptance of gay Americans? Really?

Neil Patrick Harris has done a series of quirky, benign spots  for Heineken Light, perhaps to lure us into a false sense of ease.  For in his most recent commercial,  Harris notes, as he stands next to a man grilling barbecue, that Heineken Light makes it OK “to flip another man’s meat.”

This is another in a long and growing list of TV ads based entirely on the assumption that adults think it’s hilarious to suggest obscene or vulgar innuendos. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, which is merely the normalization of crudeness in our discourse, nothing more, but nothing less either. So now we have gay sexual innuendo  by an openly gay actor to advertise beer. Isn’t that great? Boy, Heineken must be so proud.

The grill guy replies to the puckish—or flirtations?—former-Doogie that no man can do that, but late,  Harris asks him: “Can I flip your meat?”

Wow, that’s just hilarious! Why is it hilarious? Because it’s naughty? Because it’s daring? It’s certainly not clever, and if virtually defines the word “gratuitous.” It it a challenge to viewers, daring them to question the taste of joking about “flipping a man’s meat” when they routinely accept gross commercials with vulgar and gratuitous—you know, like this —heterosexual double entendres?  Is the assumption that gays will giggle, guffaw and slap each other on the back when they see this! “Good own, Neil!” Really? How insulting.

I can’t wait for the masturbation double-entendres in credit card and bank commercials.

Here’s Heineken’s slimy and evasive response to criticism about the spot:

“We’ve received lots of positive feedback for the campaign overall since launching all of the videos this spring. We’ve especially seen some great traction on digital. We’ve partnered with Neil for three years to create commercials with the same fun and cheeky sense of humor our consumers have come to expect. He’s one of the most respected actors in the business, and we’re proud to be working with him on this current phase.”

Translation: “Hey, there are plenty of vulgar, lewd, moronic consumers who can’t get enough smut. We’re not the ones who are out of step, you are!”

By all means, use Neil for the cheeky ads eluding to anal sex. Those will be hilarious to that market too. I’m sure he’d be happy to do them.

There is no justification for polluting television and the culture with such ick, and it is irresponsible and disrespectful to TV audiences to do it.

As I noted earlier this year, the useful and natural filter we used to have on language has been shot full of holes by too many high profile boors to mention, although the fact that one Presidential candidate is one of them doesn’t help.

“Does everybody want to live in a society where everyone from executives, pundits and actors to nannies, athletes and bank tellers are routinely spewing cunt, fuck, suck and motherfucker like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day? That’s where we’re heading,” I wrote. Isn’t it inspiring to know that our newfound comfort with gay sexuality is able to contribute to this cultural progress, a.k.a rot?

I need a beer

It will NOT be a Heineken.

31 thoughts on ““Flipping A Man’s Meat” Ethics

  1. Jack,
    Not a disagreement, just a challenge.

    If you were asked about the greatest bit of comic relief in Shakespeare, the gatekeeper in Macbeth (I forget how he was listed in the credits) would be high on the list. For a tragedy, that was a unique comedic monologue (I believe); it stands out and is well known by anyone with familiarity with the Bard. And what is the monologue about? Wine, and how much it makes you have to pee! (It has been a few years since I saw a production, but that was my takeaway.)

    Granted, this was a comic relief in a tragedy, and the only tragedy with Heineken beer is the drinking of it. But, vulgarity had a place in Macbeth. As a thespian, you must appreciate that. So, when it comes to vulgar comedy, where and how do you draw the line? You can’t simply complain about this, if you are unprepared to distinguish it from legitimate vulgarity, like the Doorman in Macbeth.

    • Yes, but people generally pay to see a Shakespere play. Some might not like Hamlet’s line of “Get thee to a nunnery.” and what it really implies but they could choose not to go if offended. In your face commercials are a different matter. I wouldn’t want my kids to use expressions like this on the playground. Heineken made a bad choice to air this commercial and they should offer a straightforward apology to viewers.

  2. Is it bad that the gay sex stuff flew right over my head and I thought the whole thing was a joke about stereotype gendered behavior of men liking to cook outdoors and not messing with a man’s way of cooking meat?

  3. Oh but Jack, Lenny Bruce is a saint in heaven and on earth because he said “cocksucker” on stage. His doing so was one of the great cultural turning points of the twentieth century.

      • As the article linked points out, there is a time and a place where vulgarity is not ony useful but essential—like describing and properly designating assholes. “Bad parents” doesn’t do them justice; “jerks” is too nice. I’ve even invented a word, “fick” for a special brand of self-satisfied jerk, but that’s not right either. And, of course, there is the crucial “gratuitous” aspect, and the fact that the blog is a self-selecting communications vehicle, not an ad that appears unannounced and injects ugly images into my fertile and easily stimulated imagination.

        Other than that, good point.
        I’m sorry, just feel snarky: I’m glad you raised it. I assumed someone would.

        • All good points. I think “really, really awful parents” would work. But yeah, it’s a tough urge to repress or control. The English language is a great thing and trying not to be potty-mouthed is a great thing to aspire to. I fall way too short all to often in conversation. I have a little more success when writing things. down. Not being potty-mouthed is the preferred, adult way to go though.

    • Still had the 1st Amendment on his side, though. No Bruce, there’s no Lewis Black, George Carlin, or most crucially of all, Animal House.

      That said, I’ve tried to listen to Lenny Bruce routines, and find him spectacularly unfunny. I can’t see how anyone ever found him funny. He’s just angry, cynical and self-absorbed.

      • And no “Blazing Saddles.”

        I suppose it’s the Apollonian vs. Dionysian tension in society. We need freedom but also standards and mores. I guess as I get older, I worry more about mores and less about freedom. Too much freedom is destructive. But it’s a never ending tussle.

        I think Bruce and much of his genre is greatly over-rated. I think he’s just a manifestation of a centuries old Yiddish tendency toward and facility with earthiness. Howard Stern is nothing more than a guy who’s been cynically dining out on that shtick for his entire, absurdly lucrative career. It shocks the goyim, but I don’t really think it’s anything new or particularly remarkable.

        • Stern: ANOTHER alleged “genius” whose talents and appeal completely escape me, and always have. I have literally never heard him utter a witty, perceptive or constructive thought or phrase, or seen one quoted, but then, to be fair, I gave up listening many moons ago.

        • Again, the crucial point is that people can choose to pay or not to see a raunchy movie (“The Hangover”), comedy show or play. I have no problem with that if they’re over 18. But to expose 8 year olds to heretofore taboo tv vulgarity robs kids of their innocents. This leads to preadolescent girls dressing like hookers ala Jodie Foster and boys snickering like longshoremen in our schools about who’s gay and worse.

          • Wayne, unfortunately, I just don’t think the “over 18” line is that bright. I think kids of all ages swim, to one degree or another, in the overall cultural soup. I saw it raising my kids. They see and hear everything. They are sponges. They don’t miss a thing. All the raunch trickles down and out.

  4. I have to admit, this did not register on my naive brain. Or perhaps it did, because I found the spot so completely lacking in humor that my mind automatically filtered it. I can recall seeing it on the television perhaps three times, and I can’t recall actually watching it closely any of those times, despite my fondness for Neil Patrick Harris and his Heineken ads. My antennae, normally alert for commercialization of gay people, didn’t even twitch.

    Now that you’ve pointed it out, it’s obvious. What’s also obvious is that the entertainment industry is anxious to continue pushing the bounds of acceptable social discourse, much as some of the violent rap songs full of the f-bomb and other profanity have pushed it. Nudity, crude language and overt innuendo are gradually, and inexorably making the cut on commercials and TV shows.

    This is a trend that will not stop, and I think we can count on no-holds-barred (at least by the standards of old fogeys like me) “entertainment” on the public airways fairly soon. Sexual innuendos in commercials are just the camel’s nose under the tent, and the rest of that camel is coming like the proverbial freight train.

  5. I didn’t even read your post, or any of the comments. I just saw the title, and recalled the commercial, which has caused me to leave the room, or determinedly to avert my attention from the TV more times already than I want to remember. God, I hate that commercial, and that “flip…” phrase…I’ll be honest: I don’t even know WHAT it REALLY is meant to be double-entendere-ing, if anything, but I still hate that commercial.

  6. I suspect Heineken is simply making a play for the gay beer drinking demographic. Their advertising budget must be bigger than Budweiser/InBev’s. They are ruthless, ubiquitous advertisers.

    • If so, it’s a pretty insulting assumption. As a group, I’d estimate that my gay friends are MORE civil and less crude than my straight friends. Heineken’s template for all gays seems to be Dan Savage. I’m disappointed that Harris, who appears to be a pretty civilized guy, didn’t object. $$$$$ talks, however. sigh

  7. Hi, Jack. I’m guessing I am late to this party but I just wanted to note I have a slightly different impression from the commercial. It may be a juvenile/pseudo-machisom ideal but I would never let another man (or woman, wife included) tend the meat I am grilling/smoking. I took the banter in the commercial as a literal exchange, no double entendre or innuendo meant (though I’m not in the mind of the ad company who put it together).

    This comes from personal experience which is obviously not the same for most people. Like I said, it’s a bit of a silly thing but the idea of some other dude flipping the chicken that I am grilling for people just sounds terrible and sinful. Just a different perspective.

    Since this is my first time posting I do want to say I love your insights. I don’t agree with every single one but I think what you are doing is a great. The importance of integrity, ethical behavior and honesty seems to be lost on so many. Thanks for doing what you do.

  8. I suppose it will be successful when everyone in the bar orders a Heineken by asking for that gay beer. Good luck Heineken, but I am guessing that is not going to be a very successful campaign unless there are a lot more gay beer drinkers than I thought there were. Sometimes high paid executives can be so stupid it is hilarious!

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