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Calm Down, That Heineken Ad Is Just as Bad as the Pepsi Ad

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Calm Down, That Heineken Ad Is Just as Bad as the Pepsi Ad

Over the weekend, Heineken dropped a new ad entitled Open Your World. I’m sure if you have even one internet literate liberal friend, you’ve seen it. The accompanying post probably made some mention of how this sure is showing Pepsi how it’s done. It is a little vague though. Because really, when you get too deep into the ad, it is just co-opting and simplifying a social movement to sell a beverage.

Beyond the obvious irony of using a liberal social movement that has largely eschewed capitalism to structure an advertisement, the Heineken ad showcases a dangerous and insidious brand of kumbaya bullshit. One of the great fallacies of the 21st century is that every opinion is valid and should be treated with respect. Which, I mean, fuck that. There is no reason to validate opinions that are actually just people ignoring facts. No one was out here arguing that we need to respect B.o.B.’s opinions, so why am I supposed to listen to someone who doesn’t believe climate change exists. And honestly, the climate change guy is the least offensive of the bunch.

The ad features a white man climate change denier v. a rational white man who believes in science, a white man who is very angry about feminism v. a black woman who believes she deserves basic human rights, and a white man who…what…hates transgender people? That seems to be his defining characteristic within the context of this “social experiment.” So a man who hates transgender people v. a transgender woman. I would like to take a petty moment to point out all of the regressive, idiotic perspectives are represented by white men.

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“Getting the right participants was crucial. We wanted to find people who had strong opinions that they felt passionately about from both sides of the argument,” UK Marketing Director Cindy Tervoort said in a fawning Fast Company interview. “We spent two months searching through varying methods (a press and web search, internet forums and chatrooms, approaching specific bodies or organizations, local groups, communities) and simply interviewed them to get to know them.”

As they had found these people on “internet forums and chatrooms” I feel pretty safe assuming everyone was the most sane, hinged people out there. We all know internet forums and chatrooms are where all astute thinkers of the 21st century gather.

I am a great believer in debate. I think it’s fun when two educated viewpoints go head-to-head. But that’s about opinions. That’s Alien v. Aliens. That’s Backstreet Boys v. N’Sync. That’s which city has the best pizza. That’s not WHETHER CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.

Let’s just get this out of the way: climate change is real. Not believing in it is not a valid opinion because you are just refusing to believe an indisputable fact. I do not need to respect the perspective of a climate change denier. There is no middle ground. One view is based on science, facts, figures and easily observable anecdotal evidence. The other is based on sticking your head firmly up your own ass and saying the weather is exactly the same as it always has been.

Let’s also get this out of the way: sexism and misogyny is real and dangerous. Believing that feminism is misandry doesn’t make it true. Believing that your view that women should remain in the home so as to protect their baby-making abilities is fair and viable does not make it not the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Women are murdered every day for simply existing. Women are paid less. Women have less opportunities. Do you think this Fyre Festival debacle would have happened if the two people behind it were women? I’m not saying women aren’t capable of being idiots who can’t plan things. I’m saying there’s not a chance they would have gotten backers. Women can’t get backers for good ideas, let alone bad ones. It is no accident that serial fuck up Billy McFarland is a white guy in his 20s.

And here’s the real kicker, here’s where I honestly don’t even understand how this got made. What is the “alternative opinion” to being transgender? Being transgender isn’t an opinion you can disagree with. Not understanding the nuances of being transgender, maybe, yeah. But what this man is spewing isn’t misunderstanding. This man didn’t come into the conversation looking to better understand his fellow human. This man does not believe people can be transgender. Not believing that people can be transgender is an innately violent opinion. It is refusing to believe that another human is a person with inalienable rights. It’s fucking ridiculous to me that we have to point out the constant violence that is perpetrated against trans women and men, but here. you. go.

“This kind of heady material is impossible to fully explore in a meaningful way within the space of a beer commercial,” Fast Company wrote in yet another fawning write-up which called the ad “The Antidote to That Pepsi…Ad.” “However, encouraging actual dialogue is a thousand times more of a mature and responsible way to address our current international predicament than glamorizing, fetishizing, and whitewashing the protest movement.”

A couple problems with that assertion. Climate change, misogyny and discrimination against transgender people is not a “current international predicament.” This shit is centuries old. It’s just loud enough and “cool” enough that ad agencies think they can use it to make a buck. Also, stop, this absolutely is “glamorizing, fetishizing, and whitewashing” the movement. The ad makes everyone seem like they’re just passionate people looking to live their best lives. We’ve all got stories, the ad says. Isn’t that enough? NO, IT IS NOT. This movement exists because some people are uncomfortable with the idea of equity, because they are violently afraid of anyone different. Yes, the people with the regressive ideas are humans, and they should be treated as such. They should not, however, be given an equal platform upon which to spew their ignorance. The false equivalency itself is whitewashing.

Having conversations with people who disagree with you is an incredible tool. Being kind and respectful, discussing difficult issues with an open mind, and seeking understanding are the only way anyone’s opinions will change. That said, you have to be talking to people who are willing to have their minds change. I don’t believe that if these conversations had taken place in a bar over a couple bottles of Heineken that the conclusions would have been nearly so utopian. It is beyond unfair to put people in situations where they are forced to interact with someone who questions their very personhood. Situations like that are downright dangerous and it is incredibly harmful of Heineken to ignore that fact.

That said, I’m not naive enough to believe that advertisers don’t and won’t tap into social movements. I also am not enough of a purist to believe that capitalist groups can’t sometimes make products that benefit society at large. I am a huge fan of Coke’s America the Beautiful ad that ran during the Superbowl in both 2014 and 2017. There’s a reason they used the exact same ad twice—it works. Hey, Coke is for everybody. Full stop. That’s the message. The Heineken ad, on the other hand, is like if someone took the Coke ad and cut in the Illinois Nazis scene from the Blues Brothers.

We don’t need to respect Nazis. And we definitely don’t need to drink a Heineken with them.

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