HCBE Faculty Articles

Title

Funny, Scary, Dead: Negative Depictions of Male Homosexuality in American Advertising

Document Type

Article

Date

2016

Publication Title

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN or ISBN

1755-750X

Volume

8

Issue

4

First Page

524

Last Page

544

Description

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine negative depictions of male homosexuality in US print and video advertising during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It answers three research questions: What sorts of negative depictions of homosexuality are presented? How, if at all, have pejorative depictions of gay men evolved in the past 100 years? and Why have they changed?

Design/methodology/approach

The authors specify eight depictions of negative imagery in advertising and, using content analysis, assess 88 print and video advertisements featuring 133 depictions culled from a large sample.

Findings

Analysis reveals that, once rare, there has been a rapid expansion of negative gay imagery in advertisements beginning in 2000, even as gays are gain increasing acceptance and visibility. Typical advertisement depictions have evolved from men dressed as woman early in the twentieth century to men reacting with fear, revulsion or even violence to concerns that they might be gay or be subject to homosexual advances.

Research limitations/implications

Given the paucity of available imagery, data collection was opportunistic and resulted in a relatively small sample.

Practical implications

Practitioners can benefit from explication of how various audiences can view certain advertisement depictions of gay men as insulting or threatening. They can then become more attuned to the impact of negative minority depictions in general.

Social implications

Society can benefit from heightened awareness of the impact imagery can have on minority or marginalized groups. Results further illustrate society’s evolving and ambivalent views on homosexuality, the visibility of gay imagery in media in general and changing notions of manhood and masculinity.

Originality/value

The authors are aware of no other study that specifically categorizes and assesses negative depictions of gay advertisement imagery.

DOI

10.1108/JHRM-07-2015-0027

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Peer Reviewed

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