Magnum ice creams have stolen the hop on the magnificently named Golden Gay Time ice cream by depicting a lesbian wedding in their latest Spanish advertising campaign. If ever an ice cream were well placed for the future it was the GGT for sure. But Magnum has ridden the slip stream then taken the lead.
You can watch the ad here, it’s quite affecting, with a lovely rendition of Is This Love? to accompany it.
This has raised the level of interest in Magnum, a move that has taken the icecream’s owners, Unilever, by complete surprise.
Of course it hasn’t. Advertising agencies don’t take risks, they follow cautiously behind the cultural trends. Unilever sniffed the breeze, before tapping into this issue only when it felt that its product was in safe hands.
Now if you are about to settle in to read my rant about this, sorry to disappoint you. I mean, what are you shocked by? Are you shocked by the fact that it’s a lesbian wedding that a multi-national company is using to sell one of its products?
I mean, hasn’t it shocked you in the past that they used heterosexual weddings to advertise a massed produced, chilled dessert? No?
Was that somehow okay for you? If you’re a full blown hetero-only marriage person and you think that marriage is a gift from God to be enjoyed in a covenantal relationship between a man and a woman for life, have you been reaching for the remote every time an advertisement for paint, shoes, cars, ice creams, whatever, comes on your screen depicting a heterosexual marriage to sell the product?
Was it somehow more wrong for a company in search of an “in” into the market place to simply do what the late modern world has always done in order to sell its wares: commodify something that the world desires in order to make a “this equals that” pitch?
Advertising doesn’t sell a product, it sells you a vision of the good life that draws you in until you are no longer able to emotionally differentiate between the vision and the product. Notice I said “emotionally” not “cognitively”. You know a new car cannot satisfy you, really you do. But you have been drawn to feel that it just might.
We’ve lost the ability to be shocked by advertising that uses all of the images of the good life to seduce us. So what if two lesbians getting married is the latest Magnum campaign. So what if the point is that two women are going to get it on, or have been getting it on. Those facts are simply two of the myriad applications of Magnum’s alternative Golden Rule, which their webpage helpfully states as:
There you have it: Pleasure is a birth right for all people. Take it from Unilever. Or at least buy it from Unilever. And all people, gay, straight, bi, whatever, have tapped into that. Advertising agencies in our modern world simply paint shimmering narratives for us, add in their product, sit back and allow us to do the rest. And like the restless existential sharks that we are, we are on the move for the next thing, lest we come to a halt and die.
Jamie Smith calls these “cultural liturgies”. He talks of how a liturgy is designed to trump every other liturgy in its efforts to paint a vision of the good life. We are shaped, says Smith, more by what we love than by what we know. And it’s when we are unthinkingly shaped by what we have grown to love over time through practiced repetition, that we are truly captive to our desires.
Smith states that cultural liturgies:
“…carry within them a kind of ultimate orientation…they bend the needle of our hearts. But when such liturgies are disordered, aimed at rival kingdoms, they are pointing us away from our magnetic north in Christ. Our loves and longings are steered wrong, not because we’ve been hoodwinked by bad ideas, but because we’ve been immersed in de-formative liturgies and not realised it. As a result we absorb a very different Story about the telos [goal] of being human and the norms for flourishing. We start to live towards a rival understanding of the good life.
The sobering news from all of this is that you cannot think your way out of your desires. The liberating news is that you don’t have to. All you have to do is to shift the focus of your desires on to some new desire, and over time as you focus on it, it will become your new desire. All you need is a different vision of the good life, a better rival to Magnum wedding ads, whatever their sexual orientation.
Well, that’s not all you need. You need the ultimate vision of the good life. An ultimate vision that has more than empty promises or a use-by date attached, thats what you need. You need the one who is “the desire of the nations” – you need Jesus, the ultimate desire filler. That’s Smith’s point.
Are you shaped by desires that you find don’t ultimately fulfil? Are you worried that if you desire Jesus he too will melt away like a Magnum in the sun? He won’t. He’s got a wedding feast to end all wedding feasts waiting for those who desire him. A wedding feast that will get better and better as the days progress to weeks to months to years to eternity. And, in the seductive words of the song in the lesbian wedding ad, Is this love? It sure is. And it’s the only love that will satisfy your desires forever.