Did Coca-Cola take creative license to nix drag queens in favor of showgirls for its 2013 Super Bowl advertisement?
Coke debuted its "Coke Chase" ad during the Super Bowl on Sunday night. The commercial features several groups of characters competing to clench an icy cold drink in the desert. Among the competitors: men on camels, cowboys on horseback, a "Mad Max"-type zooming on a motorcycle and showgirls riding in a bus.
Queerty correlated each group to a popular desert-themed film, such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Mad Max;" however if the glittering girls in the pink bus are supposed to be from "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," then Coke got the representation all wrong, the outlet notes.
What’s that you say? You don’t remember a movie with showgirls in a big pink bus riding through the desert? ... It’s pretty evident Coke was referencing Priscilla in its Super Bowl ad. (The showgirls pop up at about 0:24.) But, fearful of alienating football fans with images of guys in drag, the company swapped in leggy Rockettes. (Ironically the showgirls won the online contest that allowed viewers to determine who got the cola stash.)
The 1994 film-turned-Broadway-hit "Priscilla" tells the story of two drag queens and a transsexual woman who travel across the Australian Outback in a tour bus for a gig in the middle of the desert.
Whether or not Coke purposefully changed the characters of "Priscilla" to target a certain audience is unclear. (The Huffington Post reached out to the company for comment but has not yet received a response.) However, the advertisement has faced backlash for other facets.
Arab-American groups have criticized the soda company for its racist representation of Arabs in the "Coke Chase" ad, and other groups have highlighted the problem of perpetuating stereotypes.
"The problem with the ad is that it relies on stereotypical characters to tell their story,'' Chris Lehtonen, president of Asterix Group, an LGBT and multicultural marketing firm, told USA Today. "While it may not be blatantly racist, the fact that it pits these groups against each other in the ad is insensitive. It is trying to sell their product at the expense of these groups. There are much better ways to tell the story."
Coca-Cola spokeswoman Laura Thompson, who admitted that Coke's Super Bowl ad took a "cinematic" approach by invoking characters from films past, responded to the backlash.
"Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand enjoyed by all demographics," she said in an email to Reuters. "We illustrate our core values, from fun and refreshment to happiness, inspiration and optimism across all of our marketing communications."