Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Humourless idiots

Air New Zealand has caved to recent complaints about a brief gay non-kiss in their flight safety video. I wrote about the video nearly four months ago after I saw an American blog post in which the blogger disliked the “grimace” of Richard Kahui when he turns down a male flight attendant’s request for a kiss on the cheek. My post four months ago included the video.

At the time, I felt the blogger’s reaction, and those of some of the folks commenting on the post, were imposing American values on New Zealand, expecting us to see the world their way and to share both their sense of humour and their over-sensitivity to supposed slights. As an American-born New Zealander, I’m probably more perceptive of that tension than either Americans or New Zealanders generally. I’m sure that also means more sensitive to it, which inevitably means I’m probably over-sensitive sometimes, too.

But in this case, I thought the video—and that scene in context within the video—was just a bit of cheeky fun. To me, it was clearly not intended to be offensive—and it wasn’t.

Clearly most Air New Zealand customers agreed with me because the video ran with little turmoil all this time. Then last week they received a lot of complaints about it. My gut-level suspicion is that there was some event on around that time and a bunch of like-minded people flew Air New Zealand, were offended, and complained. But who?

There’s nothing in any of the media reports I’ve seen that described anything about the complainers. Most people, including the gay flight attendant, assumed it was humourless gay people. They’ve been branded as “professional victims” and worse. But unless someone has seen some information the newsmedia haven’t reported, the complainers aren’t necessarily gay people: There’s a certain segment of heterosexuals who would’ve been offended by what is the only overtly (albeit, mildly) gay part of the video.

It really doesn’t matter what sort of people complained or why. To me, they’re humourless idiots who think they have a right to decide what everyone can and cannot see. To me, the bigger question here is why did Air New Zealand decide to delete the scene now, after it’s run for months and only had a few more weeks to run, anyway?

Humourless idiots abound, it seems.


epilonious said...

It really doesn’t matter what sort of people complained or why. To me, they’re humourless idiots who think they have a right to decide what everyone can and cannot see.

I'm saving this... Because there is going to be a moment when someone trying to be funny will piss you the hell off, and you'll puff up and get all serious and start questioning it's right to exist.

Things like "in poor taste" and "uncomfortable" and "homophobic" will be thrown around in your subsequent justification... but I'll still be there wondering publicly whether you might just be acting like a completely humorless idiot.

Into the tupperware, precious little quote... you might be used sooner than you think...

Arthur Schenck said...

Go right ahead. But if my political malaise doesn't lift, you may find you have a far longer wait than you anticipate.

epilonious said...

Well, if I don't have to use the quote... everybody wins!

seawall said...

My partner and I saw this last time we flew (the one prior was the also cheeky naked-with-tromp-l'oeil-body-paint). We're a mixed marriage, a bisexual woman and a straight man; I didn't think much of the scene in question, he told me when this news bit came up he'd thought it was homophobic. Then I quoted someone's concern that it could "spur gay suicides", and he admitted that was a bit far-fetched.

Our native Kiwi flatmates (who are 22-year-old straight kids from Auckland) claim that there's no serious anti-gay sentiment here, although there was one same-sex relationship portrayed on a popular soap that got some complaints.

Arthur Schenck said...

Seawall: Thanks for the comment! I've actually only ever seen the video online, and I never saw it as homophobic.

I think your flatmates are generally correct, despite some recent high-profile incidents of anti-gay intimidation, including a hate crime. Same-sex relationships have been shown on "Shortland Street" a few times, and they often attract complainst from wowsers.

However, one episode stands out: It had a comedic depiction of supposed gay sex, and that episode turned out to be the ONLY episode in which a complaint to the Broadcast Standards Authority was upheld. It's notable that no complaint against the programme has ever been upheld before that one and, for the record, I think the BSA decision was lame and totally wrong.

seawall said...

Oh that's budget! (As my female flatmate would say.) And that Christina Aguilera video too? I hear Katy Perry's "Firework" video had a similar two-guys-kissing bit that was cut in the UK! It's really ridiculous, the double standard set for hetero vs same-sex coupling shown on telly.

Anyway, I really appreciate your blog and podcast. A fellow expat friend recommended your site before my partner and I moved to NZ in January. My name's Angela and I'm a visual artist, and my partner's named Aaron and he's a computer programmer; we live in Wellington in a somewhat drafty house with two friendly natives, and we have just recently earned our permanent residence. :)

Arthur Schenck said...

Wow, congrats, Angela! I know getting permanent residence was a major relief for me. I'm so glad you've found something in my blog and podcast. Always feel free to suggest topics for me to tackle on either!)

d said...

I'm not sure when they deleted it, because it was still in the on-board videos when I flew back from London/LAX/Auckland on the 17th-19th (Dec).

I don't see it as any different than a hot person spurning a kiss from a nerd or anyone else they don't want to kiss!