Funny, Scary, Dead: Negative Depictions of Male Homosexuality in American Advertising
Journal of Historical Research in Marketing
ISSN or ISBN
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?
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.
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.
Given the paucity of available imagery, data collection was opportunistic and resulted in a relatively small sample.
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.
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.
The authors are aware of no other study that specifically categorizes and assesses negative depictions of gay advertisement imagery.
O'Leary, Kathleen and Branchik, Blaine J., "Funny, Scary, Dead: Negative Depictions of Male Homosexuality in American Advertising" (2016). HCBE Faculty Articles. 644.