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Kudos, IKEA, and thanks for going there

For the last few weeks, I’ve been tuning into live TV and finding myself harping on how terrible the advertisements are. Is it too much to ask for clever commercials that aren’t so dumb, especially when there are SO many of them? Very, very rarely do I come across one that I about which I have something positive to say.  (Though I’m down with those recent Oreo ones with the kid singing — I sing along every time, even during the NHL versions … and I hate hockey.)

But every now and then, one of them I find worth watching for some reason. The Dove commercials are ones I appreciate, with their campaign encouraging women to feel better about themselves. Sure, it might be a gimmick and there might be a couple flaws here or there, but as a whole the message is great and it’d be nice if the rest of society clued in and we got away from forcing ridiculous expectations on (either) gender.

But this week, the commercial I have an appreciation for is a recent IKEA ad. I didn’t catch the beginning since my back was to the tele, but I overheard the voice-over going on about “house rules”. It was kind of fun to listen to, considering I grew up in a house with rules they mentioned and we have our own in this household. So it was relevant. Though the best part was turning around to glance at the screen and seeing a gay couple snuggled up on a couch.

Okay, for me, that makes me want to KEEP watching. Why? Because the company doesn’t seem to give a damn about something so many people find so terrible.

Call me biased (being a bisexual in a homosexual relationship and writing fiction often focusing on/involving LGBT characters), but I’ve got more respect for companies that are willing to go there and embrace diversity — race, colour, lifestyle, preferences, love matches, whatever. They went there and not in a shameful way. It’s how I feel about any advertisements that throw away the perspective that there’s something taboo or horrifying about being gay.

Of course, the flip side is that it’s also the saddest part.

There are very few of these moments.  I vaguely remember JC Penney going there and getting flack for it. At the time, I was impressed with their tenacity to hold ground and supported the decision.

Of course, they then turned around and reportedly fired their CEO, Ron Johnson, for it. I don’t give a damn about their sales: they fail on the human rights issue. They’re not a company I’ll ever support because they’ll cater to one set of people’s beliefs with one hand and push everyone else out the door with the other (even though they’re highly likely to have customers who identify as LGBT, so great job on the insult!). And then they apologized … making it sound like the LGBT community needs to be sorry for something.

Forget that.

It’s because of crap like this that I perk up whenever a company isn’t afraid to include this form of diversity in their advertisements. Then again, when advertisements are practically carbon-copy ads of colour, accent, and lifestyle, not terribly surprising.

Which is why the IKEA ad sticks out. Sure, I relate to the ad in terms of their house rules chatter, but I’m more interested in the suggestion portrayed by the actors. I’m all for diversity. It’s one of my favourite things as an author. The palette of characteristics is a beautiful, bright range of options that make the characters unique and who they are, combined with the sum of their experiences and emotions. It’s probably for this reason that I love writing fantasy: I can write out the stuff that makes the real world seem ridiculous and unbearable and create societies that still have issues, but are more open and accepting to things that aren’t a problem. Because a man and a man (and maybe another man, and another …) or women or those in between or those who don’t identify with a specific gender hooking up romantically and/or sexually is NOT the end of the world. I find it beautiful, no less than when anyone else hooks up. Love’s a wonderful thing. Most of us yearn for it. Many of us are lucky to have it. At the end of the day, it’s what I wish we’d celebrate.

So good job, IKEA. Keep it real. Stay respectable. Now, next step: including trans* actors because they need jobs, too. And they use furniture. Put this one together or as my favourite Star Trek captain says … make it so.

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