Don’t praise Robert Dyas for their awkward, virtue-signalling Christmas television commercial. Condemn them for exploiting the hard-won civil rights accomplishments of others for monetary gain
If any further proof was needed that tolerance and equal rights have morphed from being simply the right thing to do into just another opportunity for ostentatious virtue-signalling, you need look no further than the bizarre Christmas television commercial recently released by Robert Dyas.
In the ridiculous TV advert – a parody of a 2009 satirical video by Rhett and Link – various Robert Dyas staff members are shown confessing their sexuality before going on to plug completely unrelated products stocked by the retailer.
(The original video showed black and white employees explaining how the products in their furniture shop were suitable for both black and white customers).
From the Telegraph:
The minute-long film, described as “the weirdest Christmas advert ever”, shows men and women declaring whether they are straight, gay or bisexual while describing unrelated products in the store.
In the clip filmed in one of the chain’s branches, a member of staff introduced himself by saying: “Hi, my name’s Marcus, I work at Robert Dyas, and I’m gay.”
Before showing off a large inflatable yellow Minion toy, he adds: “I like going out with my friends and playing volleyball. I also like showing our gay and straight customers a funky range of our Christmas gifts.
[..] The confusing advert then comes to a close with a shot of staff members and customers standing at the shop’s counter, and announcing in unison: “Robert Dyas – where gays and straights can buy drills and much, much more”.
Like all clever television adverts, this was clearly designed to be controversial and to generate discussion which would expand Robert Dyas’ marketing reach well beyond the number of people who will ever see the commercial on television. And as with the creepy John Lewis “Moon Hitler” commercial, also released this year, much of the weirdness is intended to get people talking – so mission accomplished.
But in this case it is worth taking the bait, because the message of the Robert Dyas commercial is symptomatic of a wider trend sweeping Anglo-American society, whereby it is no longer enough to quietly practice the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination in one’s own life, but rather we are continually encouraged to make ostentatious public displays of conformity with the new enlightened PC dogma.
Of course people of any sexual orientation should be treated with respect and dignity at all times, including people either working for or shopping at large chain retailers. But since when did it become the job of hardware shops to start preaching about social issues? How does the spectacle of individual staff members inexplicably revealing their sexuality help to advance equal rights? And what of those customers of traditional (or bigoted, depending on your view) beliefs, who do not agree with the message? Are they worthy of no respect, or magnanimity in the face of now-inevitable ideological defeat?
The Robert Dyas affair is not dissimilar to a similar action taken by Starbucks in the United States following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Following that tragic death, Starbucks became possessed by the idea that they were going to make a meaningful contribution to race relations in America, and encouraged their baristas to “start a conversation about race” with customers while serving them in store.
In other words, Starbucks decided that it was no longer enough for private citizens to be non-racist themselves, and engage in whatever activism or campaigning on the issue that their hearts dictated in their roles as private citizens. Now, Starbucks – that beacon of moral enlightenment – would “help them along” by prompting them with guilt-tripping conversation openers about white privilege.
Quite how initiating a serious conversation about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” with a bleary-eyed morning commuter might meaningfully help the country was never fully explained. And no sooner was the proposal announced in a blaze of sanctimonious publicity than it was then quietly dropped in the face of public scepticism and mockery.
The Robert Dyas affair is much the same – an ostentatious display of “right on” progressivism from a corporate retailer, who rather than being lauded for their enlightened position on civil rights should be condemned for co-opting the still serious issue of discrimination against gay people and exploiting it in service of their viral Christmas marketing campaign.
Of course Robert Dyas has the right to say anything they like in their television commercials – that much is an issue of free speech which should be protected and defended at all times. But not every PC pronouncement is made for the “right” reasons, and we should be smart enough to see through the virtue signalling of the social justice warriors and the cynicism of the business interests, which are more about self aggrandisement or monetary gain than advancing important social issues.
Real social change – positive or negative – comes from the ballot box, the picket line, the popular culture, the academy and the hearts and minds of private citizens.
Real social change does not come from the marketing department of Robert Dyas or their advertising agency – though thanks to their cynical marketing they do stand to reap financial rewards from the hard-won accomplishments of others.
UPDATE – 14 December: As the sharp-eyed commentator below points out, the Robert Dyas video is a parody of a 2009 satirical internet commercial by Rhett and Link, which is very similar – except that gay and straight are replaced by black and white. Top of the piece is now updated to make this clear, though I don’t think this necessarily changes the validity of my argument. Robert Dyas still chose to make and release the parody, and their motivations were still likely to be as described, half viral quirkiness and half virtue signalling – only now we can add unoriginality to the list of faults.
Robert Dyas have yet to comment on the video.
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