Classic cartoon enemy musclemen Popeye and Bluto haven't kissed but they have made up in this animated campaign behind Minute Maid orange juice. The two have overcome their differences to such a degree that some in the gay community (and the straight media too, such as Slate.com ad reviewer Rob Davis
) have wondered if the sailors are supposed to suddenly be romantic partners.
The two play like school children on a swing, a see-saw, bury each other in sand on the beach, and get tattoos together that say "Buddies for Life." At the end, they ride a two-person bicycle—passing usual romantic interest Olive Oyl, who calls out "Oh, boys!" and they ride past her without notice. She offers a confused, if not suspicious, look as they pedal away.
An ironic development for Minute Maid, given the anti-gay "Save Our Children" crusades by former Florida Orange Juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant in the 1970s.
Before the campaign was conceived, Dave Linne, the Popeye ad's creative director at ad agency Leo Burnett Co says the concept is "the opposite of the cliché of getting up on the wrong side of the bed” where people wake up in a good
Linne came up with about 12 conceptual examples of people acting out of character and being nicer than normal, including an elementary school cafeteria line that resembles a Depression-era soup kitchen -- except for one cheery server. Another example has a husband doing "wifely" weekend activities such as laundry and brings breakfast in bed to his wife to her surprise as she wakes up.
They also wanted an example of classic enemies who become friends. "We looked at movie villains and there are so many arch enemies, so we thought, 'Let's do an animated spot.' We looked at lots of cartoon characters and we liked Popeye and Bluto for two reasons: I haven't seen them in a commercial before, and they're human characters instead of animals."
So as they were making the ad, the creative team decided to put Popeye and Bluto in various playful situations. "The only reason we put them on a two-person bicycle was because it seemed so stupid," Linne says. As they pass Olive Oyl, who Linne notes "is usually the catalyst to make them fight" not even she can get between them this time.
Linne says gay innuendo was not intentional but is intrigued about its possibility. "I think it's interesting if you can read it both ways. I guess it's working on all kinds of levels," he mused.
While Linne seems impressed that his work can be read into by the gay community, the same cannot be said for officials at Minute Maid headquarters. "We're not going to go there," says Dan Shafer, a spokesman for Houston-based Minute Maid. "Any intent to draw a (gay relationship) parallel would be wrong. Anyone who knows Popeye and Bluto understands that's not the case, there's no intent like that."
Matt , Burleson, TX
I fail to see how this ad has any homoeroticism. This is obviously an ad aimed towards children, (hence the use of Popeye) with childish themes running throughout. See-sawing, playing in the sand, riding bikes etc. The fact that there has been controversy over an orange juice ad just shows how Americans aren't happy unless they are pointing a finger. If you want to be gay, be gay. If you want to drink orange juice, drink it. But don't go around making things out to be what they aren't.
Joey Shorts , Skykomish, WA
I see this ad as a LONG overdue gesture from Minute Maid that they regret the bad ol' Anita Bryant days and no longer want to be associated with the likes of Coors, Stuckeys, and other corporate right-wingers.
John , San Francisco
*I'm* not gay (surprise, one of the few here in Frisco) and even *I* can see that this ad has BLATANT
homoeroticism in it, LOL! VERY obvious...next up: Ernie and Bert share their own Minute Maid-fueled breakfast. Cool.
Nate , New York, NY
I think its presumptuous to assume that this is a gay themed ad. I believe the point Minute Maid is making here is that drinking their orange juice makes you a happier person who gets along with people better. (To the point that you'd pal around with a historic rival).
Deputy Davis , Tuscon, Arizona
Well, anybody who's a fan of Popeye KNOWS that he isn't gay. I DO think that this commercial TOTALLY indicates gay jokes and stuff, but I just want it to be known that Popeye and Bluto are not gay. Maybe the way they act in this commercial is actually just a save for the usual way the old cartoon was... Knowing all the political correctness crap in this recent day and age, you probably couldn't make a good old fashioned Popeye cartoon (with violence, etc.) and not get in trouble for it, today. I have no idea why, nowdays, old cartoon characters have to be so FREAKING nice to each other in order to be made into any new content for TV.
Andrew , Honolulu, Hawaii
This can't be a gay commercial; Popeye clearly has better taste. Besides Bluto is probably a top; if Popeye was a bottom he'd be a Marine, not a Sailor.
Jean , Paxton
When I first saw this commercial, I was blown away. While I can understand the 'orginal intent' of Minute Maid as explained by them, this ad was stunning homoeroticism when I first saw it. Hasn't changed after several viewings. :)
Randy Ogle , Anniston, Alabama
How truly sad that persons in the gay community actually think this is a good thing for us. Minute Maid is basically saying that they do not want people thinking that this is a pro-gay commercial. This is worse than Anita Bryant. Now they think we're stupid also. The boycott against Minute Maid is on again for me and my family.
Steve , New York
How nice it was to read the Creative Director's response to the hidden innuendo, only to be disappointed in the company spokesperson's response. I certainly won't be purchasing Minute Maid OJ.
John B , Denver
You know what they say: "Friends are friends, and pals are pals, but buddies sleep together." Seems like someone at Minute Maid KNEW what to have tatooed...
John Jebens , Georgetown, TX
I've bought my last product from your company. I am getting real tired of anyone connected with Disney pushing this kind of perverted agenda. (Editor's note: Popeye is not affliiated with Disney.)
Joel Perry , Los Angeles
Popeye and Bluto have always been closet cases. The hyper-macho strutting, the excuse of a female to wrestle over (it's so Fight Club), Swee' Pea being a foundling and not the result of either one of them having sex with Olive Oyl (who is such a fag hag beard), Popeye's extensive experience at sea with other lonely sailers, it goes on and on. When I saw the ad, my reaction was, "Thank God, they got counseling." Now if only Olive would recognize her own behavior for what it is, the desperate emotional need for protection acted out in the form of playing the helpless female for the benefit of men who are safe because they can never really be hers.
Richard Phillips , Hollywood, CA
If it weren't for Anita Bryant's "ghost," I doubt that this ad would be all that "homoerotic". By-the-way, if anyone is truly interested in REAL homoeroticism, they ought to check out some of the works of true artists who deal honestly with the subject matter. Minute-Maid though has to be up-front about this campaign. What will work against them is a 'wishy-washy' approach. People hate that!
Anthony Lewis , Kansas City, MO
I find it interesting that neither str8 men nor gays can see two men together, enjoying friendship and companionship, without questioning their sexuality. The str8 men likely will look on with feelings of homophobia. The gay men will likely look on with feelings of affinity. Why can't we observe with the most simple of motives... seeing these two men together as having an innocent child-like friendship and appreciation for each other.
K , Vancouver
Same here.... I'm straight and this seems like a gay ad to me.... Dan Shafer sounds like he's in denial or something.
Scott Olson , Calgary, AB, Canada
Why can't two buddies hang out without being assumed gay? This is just one of those intentionally over-the-top buddy skits that is usually accompanied with that song that goes, "Let me tell you 'bout my beeessstt friend ..." I do find the exec's vehemous denial of any gay inuendo to be somewhat disturbing, though.
Matt , Burleson, TX
I fail to see how this ad has any homo-eroticism. This is obviously an ad aimed towards children, (hence the use of Popeye) with childish themes running throughout; See-sawing, playing in the sand, riding bikes, etc. The fact that there has been controversy over an orange juice ad (yeah, orange juice) just shows how Americans aren't happy unless they are pointing a finger. If you want to be gay, be gay. If you want to drink orange juice drink it. But don't go around making things out to be what they aren't. Popeye and Bluto drank some juice and they are friends now.
On a side note, I don't know if Popeye and Olive Oyl were ever married. Should we attack them for living together out of wedlock? Just a thought.