We've been working on this item for a couple of weeks, and every time we try to write it, there's a new "battle" to include. Let's start with a rundown of the big culture wars incidents of the last month or so, in roughly chronological order:
We all can agree if a group of white boys in black face—a modern day Al Jolson ensemble—were to be honored by an MLB team, there is little doubt that the event would be cancelled [sic] and sanctions would be forthcoming. There is no difference between this and the hateful farce of awarding the "Sisters."We're not so sure that the Sisters' performances are anti-Catholic as much as they are satires of religion and of authority in general. We don't seem to recall people complaining about Father Guido Sarducci, for example, or the show Father Ted, and those also involved performers donning Catholic garb in service of satire. In any case, the moment we got to the paragraph above, which is so profoundly ignorant of history, we could no longer take Donahue's claims seriously. Even if there is a nasty, and even anti-Catholic, edge to the Sisters' performances, blackface was a form of propaganda masquerading as entertainment, and intended to make the argument that Black people are subhuman. It is not possible to mock Catholics, or Texans, or Democrats, or Dodgers fans, or accountants, or nearly any other group in that way because this historical context does not exist for those groups. Yes, there was serious anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry in 19th century America, but it wasn't expressed by people putting on nuns' habits and dancing jigs.
Also, by the way, with The Little Mermaid—can we also just mention that, from a scientific perspective, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have someone with darker skin who lives deep in the ocean.That might be the most tortured "Make America White Again" argument we've ever seen. How does one even respond to something like that? Perhaps we should point out that if we're sticking with the science, there's no such thing as mermaids. In any case, very few moviegoers under the age of 12 take their cues from Matt Walsh, and so the film's been a runaway hit. It will cross $200 million worldwide today, its 6th day of release.
I mean, if anything, not only should the Little Mermaid be pale, she should, actually, be translucent. If you look at deep sea creatures, they're, like, translucent. They have no, kind of, pigmentation whatsoever. And they're just, like, these horrifying—they look like skeletons floating around in the ocean. That's what the Little Mermaid should look like. She should be totally pale and skeletal where you can see her skull through her face.
And that would actually be a version of The Little Mermaid that I would watch.
It's a good thing we didn't wait another week to write this item; by then there might well have been enough news that we would have to have written a book.
Anyhow, as we have written many, many times, businesses do not want to be caught in the middle of these situations. And undoubtedly, some of them will take a look at the incidents above, and others, and will shy away from "inclusive" marketing decisions. In particular, trans people are a relatively small segment of the population, and reaching out to them really upsets a lot of people, so it would not be surprising to see a lot of businesses back away from the "T" part of the LGBTQ equation.
That said, there are a lot of LGBTQ people in the world. Not to mention a lot of non-white people. Gone are the days when businesses could concern themselves with marketing only to straight white people, since everyone else had no better options. At the same time, the employees of these companies will tend to demand inclusive practices, or else will move on to an employer where they feel more comfortable and more heard.
Meanwhile, on the right-wing side, it should be pointed out that a lot of these culture-wars battles are waged in bad faith. To return to Walsh, a week ago he sent out a tweet that lays out the whole strategy: "The goal is to make 'pride' toxic for brands. If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they'll pay a price. It won't be worth whatever they think they'll gain. First Bud Light and now Target. Our campaign is making progress. Let's keep it going." This is a fellow, by the way, who consistently argues that he should be allowed to practice his Christian faith as he sees fit, without interference from outsiders. Guess what's good for the goose is not what's good for the gander.
There's no doubt that many of the people being targeted by the Walshes and Cruzes and Rubios and Kirks of the world really are upset by tuck friendly swim suits, and men in nun costumes and Black mermaids. But the leadership is just seizing its opportunities wherever it can find them, and using them to gain power and wealth. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book.
The thing is, it's hard to maintain this kind of outrage for long, particularly when the list of targets is constantly growing. And the list is always growing, because there's always a new outrage. If it's not Disney, it's Mr. Potato Head. Then it's Dr. Seuss. Then it's drag performances in Florida. Then it's books that need to be banned. Then it's some sports team. And then some high school swimmer. And then some department store. And then some fast-food chain. The phrase "Give them an inch and they will take a mile" comes to mind.
The fundamental inefficacy of the right-wing "cancel them" project is indicated by nearly all of the items listed above. The Sisters are still going to be at the Dodgers game on June 16 and will still get their award. Target is still selling plenty of LGBTQ merchandise, Chick-fil-A is still selling plenty of chicken sandwiches, and Disney is still selling plenty of tickets to movies and amusement parks. Bud Light is still feeling the pain, yes, but it was a rather unusual choice for a product with a blue-collar, Trumpy customer base to try to break into the trans market. Plus, let's see where the sales of Bud Light are in a year, by which time the Dylan Mulvaney outrage will have been supplanted by two dozen other outrages.
The conclusion here is this: The right-wingers are not doing particularly well in the culture wars, short-term. And we don't think the long-term prognosis is great, either. We further presume that this dynamic will carry over to the world of politics in 2024, and that any national candidate who builds their campaign substantially on a platform of anti-LGBTQ planks is going to do themselves more harm than good. (Z)