Four men set off on a camping trip. As they happily unload their gear, they hear the faint sounds of a banjo playing, a reference to the "Dueling Banjos" song in the film "Deliverance" (nominated for Best Film in 1972, starring Burt Reynolds), featuring a pair of male hillbillies who rape the men at gunpoint.
The men can't scramble fast enough back into their mini-SUV and peel out to escape.
"We were looking for a pop culture tie-in that's timeless and humorous," explains Cindy Kamerad, a Saturn spokeswoman. "College kids know about that movie." Kamerad notes that the ad has gotten positive reviews on an unofficial Saturn web site, SaturnFans.com
, and that sales have doubled for the new vehicle now that advertising has kicked in.
General Motors' Saturn, the "different kind of car company," unfortunately recalls a different kind of era, when homophobia was more accepted.
Ironically, Saturn was the first American car company with a gay market ad, though it ran just once in a 1995 OUT magazine. It came back more consistently in 1999 when the company extended equal benefits to gay employees.
One must also question how an agency based in San Francisco, perhaps the most gay- and politically-sensitive city, could have created an ad based on such a concept. While many argue persuasively that male rape is not a reference to homosexuality (rape is an act of violence, not sexuality), it remains a persistent stereotype.
And it is difficult to imagine how rape of any sort evokes humor, yet prison rape and male rape in general is considered humorous by some sophomoric segments of society. Further, the decision to pick a joke about male rape is an intentional choice over others that could also have worked, such as any horror movie reference -- they selected it because homophobia appears to "heighten" the humor.
Dowie Jones , New York, NY
I think they missed the mark on this one. Aside from the negative gay connotations, which I'm sure some gay people will find offensive, I just don't believe many people will "get it". Unless that is they are aiming solely at baby boomer frat boys and their college age, movie-buff, male offspring - Duh! Silly me, they probably are....
Russell Croy , Cuyahoga Falls, OH
A great ad for Subaru! A better reason not to buy a Saturn or General Motors product!
Rees J. Bennett , San Diego
I love this commercial!!! Unlike Dowie (comment above), I think many people will get the reference to the movie and not just "baby boomer frat boys and their college age, movie-buff, male offspring". Even if they don't, that's okay because baby boomer frat boys and their college-aged male offspring are the ones with the money and exactly who want to buy this vehicle. The reference to "Deliverence" is not a slam or attack on gays, it's a slam or attack on toothless, inbred, men who regardless of their sexuality, rape others at gunpoint (like in the movie).
John Primeau , Seattle
How does one get hold of Cindy Kamerad? Of course she's going to support this kind of prejudice. She's a Saturn spokesperson and she was probably one of the homophobic nitwits that gave an OK to the concept. I'd like to ask Cindy and her ad agency to make the same commercial, however substitute the "dueling banjos" for some hip-hop/rap music. Then, let's watch the white guys get into their Saturn and floor it to "safe" territory. Gosh, I wonder if THAT would be offensive? Of, perhaps the white guys hear Jewish music playing in the distance, and they high-tail it out of the woods lickety-split. Think Cindy would approve that? Cindy needs an education in more than just good advertising. She -- and the Saturn marketing team -- need an education in human relations and sexuality. I'd support a gay ban on Saturn until a public apology is made by the company.
Richard Philips , California
You know, homophobia aside, RAPE is such a funny topic, I'm surprised that it isn't used to sell other AMERICAN-LOVED products...like...like PAMPERS Disposable Diapers. Or, even better, any of the Mattel Barbie-Doll Dream World Products. Think of the untapped market!
Stephanie , Minneapolis
I love what they are trying to do. Unfortunately, I think this ad portrays gay guys as sissy scardy-cats, and will encourage Deliverance-types to try to drive US away. Still, I love them for trying. Maybe simpler would be better. They should just have the four guys driving in the country, ad a rainbow sticker to the bumper and do a close up of it with their logo & the subcaption "We Are Everywhere."
Bill , Minneapolis
You people go too far out of your way to find negative implications. Wanting to avoid being raped is NOT homophobic. Chill dudes.
Wayne Green , Atlanta
I disagree with the review. I think the commercial is funny, and I do "get it" -- perhaps, being a "Southerner" has something to do with that. I am in no way offended, nor would this ad dissuade me from purchasing a Saturn -- if I so choose.
Max , Antioch, CA
Before I read about this ad, I had never heard of the movie "Deliverance." I asked around, and my friends never heard of it. Now that I am aware of the movie, I recall many jokes in movies, and on TV in which men got nervous at the sound of "Dueling Banjos." I find it unfair that raping a female, and vaginal mutilation, are never used as humorous anecdotes, well at least not where I live, but raping a male and anal mutilation are used as common anecdotes. I also disagree with jokes about prison rape. What people should understand is that being raped in prison is not supposed to be a part of someone's punishment. I read about people who were imprisoned for things like writing bad checks, and using drugs. While in prison they got AIDS from being raped. You would have to be sick, and heartless to think that is funny. Not only am I offended by the ad using male-on-male rape, I am also a little bothered by the use of the "redneck/hillbilly" sterotype. I was born in San Franscisco, CA, so the "redneck/hillbilly" sterotype does not offend me personally. Still, I think it is cruel for people to stereotype that all middle & Southern Americans are incestuous, stupid, violent bigots.
Peter Mars , Jersey City, NJ
This one had me fuming for weeks. A hetero female friend loved it until I explained why it's so offensive. As a Saturn owner, her respect for the company has dropped considerably.
Carlos , Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
I'm not sure how hillbilly rape at gunpoint has anything to do with homosexuality, and so I'm not really sure why anyone finds this offensive, other than hillbilly rapists. I think we may be getting a little too sensitive here. Implications of dangerous backwoods situations should not be confused with gay stereotyping and thus this ad really doesn't belong here.
Matt Brown , Brooklyn, NY
I'm sorry, but I don't consider this ad to be homophobic. You can argue whether it's in bad taste or good taste. The was a lot in "Deliverance" that was scary. If I recall, two of the four guys never made it back from the trip. I read this as a "spooky" reference. They could have had a lightning flash and the outline of Jason from the "Friday the 13th" movies and it would have had a similar impact.
Bryce , Billings. MT
Saturn is a company that has been good to the gay market for the most part. But you need to realize that raping someone at gunpoint is not something that is going to be pleasurable to anybody. Gay/Straight, Male/Female, anybody. I certainly have no desire to be raped by hillbillies. A bad commercial, but I think you are missing the mark about rape. We do not all live in an "Oz" world like HBO would have us believe.
John , Canton, OH
If any of you have seen "Deliverence," then you know the scene in question has nothing to do with homosexuality. It is about power control and rape and is a very violent scene. I did not find the commercial at all offensive, If it were gay men camping and cheered when they heard the banjo -- as if to say gays like that sort of scene -- then yes I would find the commercial offensive. But I do not think any man, gay or straight, would stick around for a situation like that, which is why the men in the ad bolt. Which is what I would do too. I think it shows the car is good at getting out of dangerous situations. I liked the ad and i do not think it is any kind of a gay ad at all. I am sure I am in the minority on this, but i have never assumed male rape to be associated with gay men and homosexuality.
Rachael , Miami
I guess it makes sense to be offended, but not fuming. We're just playing into the hands of right-wingers who say that every male rapist who rapes males is gay. This has nothing to do with gays, just anal rape. If you think that whenever a commercial talks about same-sex rape, it's offensive to homosexuality, you need to reconsider what your idea of being gay is.
Alyc , Bloomington, IN
When I first saw this ad, I was utterly dumbfounded. I'm a graduate student interested in issues of identity, gender and "othering." I could teach whole classes on the cultural anxieties revealed through this ad. As it is, I'm going to be using it in a presentation on tourism, contrasting it with the Volvo SUV ad (the one with the Loch Ness Monster, etc.) and looking at them as representations of the abject (Saturn ad) and the sublime (Volvo ad), and discussing the fear that we have of being "unnaturally invaded and transformed" by the "other." So, I guess I hate the ad, but wow does it fascinate me.
Will , Chicago
There is nothing intrinsically funny about this ad. If I was in the woods and heard a noise that meant I was about to be ass-raped by a bunch of hillbillies, I would leave just as fast. If you find the ad funny, the problem is with you.
Kyle , Arvada, CO
This ad was so funny it brought tears to my eyes! You gay people take crap so seriously!! Do you realize how much publicity you give them by bitching all the time?
Turtle , New York City
Robert Topper , Healdsburg, CA
I think this commercial is very funny. It's too bad so many people are so uptight to be offended by it.
Scott Alamar , Chicago
I've been meaning to comment on this ad for a while. If people understand the Deliverance reference, they will get it. This refers to very specific moments in the movie that involve personal violation. If this ad is so homophobic, where is the commentary on the movie? The specific scenes in the movie somehow have made into the fabric of popular culture that the actual horror of the scenes have lost their impact. Does this ad mean rape? Don't think so. It refers to how we, as a culture, have absorbed an event and it has lost its impact.
Kimberly , Ellensburg, WA
I am actually doing a position paper on Deliverance and the stereotypes it portrays for my college English class. I think that some of you have it all wrong, the song DUELING BANJOS was in a scene that made a mockery of Southern, low-income mountain people. The song has been a trademark basically of the HILLBILLY STEREOTYPE. Later in the movie there is the rape scene involving the two hillbilly hunters and the city boys, however, the stereotype that has been pasted to these people is not one of "oh no, they are gay therefore they are rapists." In fact, I believe that these men are rapists period, these characters probably raped their dogs, sisters, wives and strange men. It has nothing to do as an attack against gays.. this stereotype is an attack against regular mountain people, who are not all rapists against dogs, sisters, wives and strange men. So... it is my belief that the gay community should relax a little, Saturn isn't attacking you, they are attacking and making a mockery of those who live in the mountains.
Diana , Phoenix, AZ
I love your site and your insights, but I'm not sure that I can agree that a man's fear of being anally raped is the same thing as homophobia!
Eric Hansen , Long Beach, CA
First Deliverance did NOT FEATURE rape. It featured four city men on a journey of river rafting and two mountain men on a hunting expedition. The movie was scary; and the Dueling Banjo theme conjures up MANY other images besides that two minute part where they depict rape. It conjures up images of being afraid for your life, not knowing what is out there, things that go bump in the night and on and on. Why would the viewers see this as a gay sex thing? Because you made such a big deal about the gay sex perspective.
TJ Singleton , Mobile, AL
The comedy is that the music reminds them of a a frightening scene in a movie. Rape is not glamorized. Gay sex is not made evil. Forced sex is shown as what it is -- undesirable. If there's anything wrong with the commercial, it's that it derives humor from rape (regardless of man on man, woman on woman, or man on woman!).
Todd Hill , Montreal
In order for their target audience to "get" this ad, the folks at Saturn would have to be pretty sure that their target audience of young, reasonably affluent (white?) males was familiar with a film made before most of them were born. And I really wonder if the 40-something ad execs (or GM) did a very thorough job of that...? Since "Deliverance" was about a violent, scary situation (of which male rape played only a part) I don't really see any genuine homophobia in it (and I'm usually pretty quick to denounce it when I think I've seen it) but conversely, the ad seemed to be trying to sell the positives of the car/brand in an awfully negative, paranoid atmosphere of fear and panic. Since I am not part of their target buying audience, and would be most unlikely to purchase one of their plastic-bodied and rather generic vehicles anyway, I can only say that the ad certainly did nothing to tempt me into the fold of the Saturn-owning cult. Gonna stick with those manufacturers who can straightforwardly "stay on point" (safety, comfort, reliability, mileage et al) in their ads, thanks anyway.
Mary , Morocco, IN
This ad really hits the mark for those of us who read the book or saw the film, and see not the homophobic terror, but the fear of the unknown. It's nice to see a thinking commercial for a change!
Alan , Atlanta, GA
I loved this ad! It isn't homophobic at all, and you'd have to pretty thick to read it that way. Nobody, gay or straight, would stick around in that situation. Saying the ad is homophobic sort of implies that the hillbillies in [i]Deliverance[/i] are somehow representative of gays.
Nick , Wwashington, DC
I really think that the criticism of the ad is fairly unfounded as far as the homophobic overtones. I think the whole deliverance/dueling banjo stereotye has become part of american pop culture and is about how dangerous those "hicks" are, and not that they're homosexual predators.
Rick , Covington, KY
As a gay person, this ad didn't offend me in any way. It is a very funny commercial!! Everything you see isn't a political statement or an attack. Sometimes it is just a hilarious little reference to an event in a movie. And last time I checked, that movie wasn't an account af an actual event. The way I see it, I'm laughing at the straight guys that are nervous because they heard some banjo music!!! Ha, ha ha ha ha!
åsk , Copenhagen, Denmark
How many years must people shout "rape has nothing to do with sex, and everything with violence and power" before people get it? "Squeal like a pig" isn't referring to straight nor homosexual sex, but bestiality - I never saw the rapist in Deliverance as gay man, but only as a psycho. For all we know, the four men in the car could be two couples out camping together, and still terrified at the thought of a violent rape like the one in deliverance. Right?
Kenn , Miama, FL
As an out and gay middle-aged man, I found the commercial to be in very [i]poor[/i] taste and it stirred in me emotions of disgust that such a friendly company would stoop to such depths: utilizing a hate crime to promote their product. The crimes of rape and the perpetuation of erroneous stereotypes against the gay and lesbian community were and will always be a horribly [i]wrong[/i] choice. By the way, I am presently an owner of a Saturn--my father worked for 34 yrs at GM and this ad has seriously swayed me against making further Saturn purchases. Perhaps an apology should be aired for this unthinking ad would return some to the Saturn ideal.
Garin , Suches, Georgia
This is hilarious. It is one of the best commercials I have seen, and pokes fun at straight boys' fears. There is a group of them, they can take care of themselves, yet they run off like schoolchildren. I see no negative connotations about gay people, only overreactions from people that seem to have lost their sense of humor about the whole subject. I am a gay man, and I grew up within miles from where Deliverance was filmed. This is just a hilarious ad, aimed to poke fun at everyone, not just single someone out. Try to think before you put your feelings on your sleeve. Maybe some straight boys were offended that they weren't shown taking up for themselves. Two sides to a coin, and stories.
Dan A. , Boise, ID
So we're just going to sit here and allow this site, which I have enjoyed until this moment, to allow male rape to be used synonymously with homosexuality? This disgusts me. The commercial, while in poor taste, has absolutely nothing to do with the gay community. Nothing! Just as heterosexual rapists are not representative of the heterosexual community. Rape is rape. Deliverance was a movie which portrayed male rape. That scared people. If I were in the woods and that song started playing, I'd probably leave too. It's not fear of homosexuality. It's a psychological connection to a very uncomfortable movie moment. It's horrible that we as gay people would allow ourselves to even be associated with this commercial in any way. In accepting any kind of offense toward this commercial, we are accepting the accusation that we are all male rapists. Which we of course are not. This commercial has no business even being on this site.
Brad Gould , Washington, DC
Hmm, funny, for years we've been told that rape is a crime of violence and NOT one of sex, now you automatically assume that this ad is anti-gay because it references a violent rape scene in a movie. Could it be that those guys were afraid of a violent rape and not of gays? I know that neither I nor any other gay men I know would want to be raped while on a camping trip and that isn't a sign of homophobia, it's a sign of self preservation. Love your website but you were off the mark on this one.
Jenny , Cedar Falls, IA
I believe this ad really isn't that homophobic. If they are playing a tune that was played by a pair of rapists in a movie, then why shouldn't the men run? Who wants to be raped?
Cutter McCoy , Orlando, FL
Once again, the implied homophobia of the "deliverance" parallel is unacceptable, but the socioeconomic stereotyping other words like "hillbilly" are acceptable to the Commercial Closet's editors? Insensitivity is insensitivity, no matter how you look at it. Shame, people, shame!
Terrence , Alberta, Canada
This ad made no sense to me; as it probably did not make sense to many others in Saturn's target market. The assumption that most people would "get" this pop culture connection is overstated. I even saw this old movie a while back, and didn't make the dueling banjo connection in the context of this ad. Maybe it has not become part of Canadian pop culture.
While technically this ad uses fear of the psycho hillbillies from the movie, the underling element is the "chilling" connection to the deep seated fear of anal sex, rape or otherwise, held by straight men in our society. No, anal rape by straight psycho hillbillies and loving, consensual anal sex between two gay men are not the same, but the difference does not matter, because, for straight men, the fear is essentially the same. This ad touches upon, reinforces, and normalizes that deep fear. It's this aspect of the ad that I really have a problem with. It perpetuates the fear of gay sex, and by extension, gay people. The sheer, supposedly comical, panic of these tough straight guys trying to get away from this potential threat in the woods is the same fear and panic that, in another circumstances, would lead straight men into beating the hell out of a guy who came on to them out of the fear that he might try to have anal sex with him!
It may be hard for staight people to understand, but telling these "jokes" and perpetuating and normalizing these fears undermine and marginalize gays, hinder our acceptance by society, and keep us from understanding each other. It's not that gays are "overly sensitive," "reading too much into it," or "don't have a sense of humor," it's that we are very aware of how we are portrayed, and how those protayals impact how we are viewed, and treated, in our society.
Lee , Summerside, Canada
Rape isn't about gay or straight, it's about violence and control. The rape in the movie Deliverance is not just about sex, or about homosexuality, it's a violation. When the banjo tune reminded these men of the movie, they wanted to escape because they didn't like the concept of suffering a fate similar to vicitims of a violent encounter in a violent movie, not because they were a bunch of uber-straight homophobes protecting their precious bums. Whether or not this commercial is funny depends on your perspective, but I don't think it's homophobic at all.
Anthony , Spokane, WA
I came across this ad in haste and viewed out of curiosity. I thought, hmm, dark setting, a man's frightened expression, Friday the 13th, it must be a camping trip! I admit this ad makes me want to watch Deliverance to see how accurately the critics critiqued its content. I was absolutely appalled, for both the movie and this ad. Honestly, if these advertisers are going to make fun of us, don't you think they should get some better material?
Alex , Atlanta, GA
What's offensive about this ad is all the overly-PC sensitives who are reading way too much into the ad. It was hilarious! It made reference to a seriously spooky movie, and that's it. There was no stereotype or gay bashing, no one making fun of anybody, just a bunch of guys getting the hell out of Dodge before bad things start happening. "The ad references a movie that features a gay element in a negative light, therefore the ad is homophobic." never mind the fact that rape is not something we want to associate with our culture, and that treating rape, gay or straight, as something to be avoided at all costs is all to the better. Sometimes, things are just funny - no need to get all PC-huffy. Ok, that's my $0.02
Stephanie Johnson , Athens, GA
This is not a gay bashing ad. It would be, say if the guys were gay and decided to hang around to see if they would get some action - giggling all the while. Saying this is an anti-gay ad is just silly. How many of you who think it is would stay in the woods after hearing the infamous banjo cry?
Mark , Lexington, KY
Homophobic or not, this is a tired and insensitive joke. You don't see "humorous" references to the rape of women on commercials. Why? Because rape is not funny.
Linda , Houston, TX
Now I know why I only saw the ad twice! I thought it was hilarious and I got it immediately ad I'm not a baby boomer or frat boy. I loved it and didn't even consider anything homosexual or homo anything. It was just funny to me.
Victor , St. Petersburg, Florida
Is gay America really so uptight that humor is lost? Unless of course it's 100% in support of gay culture being mainstream? Gay culture isn't mainstream though. Please people, take a breath and enjoy things for the simple stupid humor in them sometimes.