Is Toshiba’s New “Back To School” Ad Campaign Homophobic?

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 5.06.09 PMThere’s a new Toshiba ad running on Canadian television that’s raising a few eyebrows and leading many to question whether or not it’s borderline homophobic.

The three ads in Toshiba’s new “back to school” campaign are targeted toward the average 20-something college dude. Created by the agency Capital C, the commercials are designed to demonstrate how Toshiba products can enhance dorm life and increase productivity.

Sounds like a great commercial! You know, minus the homophobic college students in them.

Though all three ads have problematic, borderline homophobic content, the most troubling is one titled “Math Notes.” Here’s how AdWeek describes it:

The third spot, “Math Notes,” showcases the Excite Write tablet’s ability to convert handwritten notes and sketches into sharable files. A guy asks his roommate for calculus notes, and looks extremely dismayed, almost repulsed, when he instead receives a drawing of himself reimagined by his roommate as a hunky centaur.

Maybe hilarious for folks in the 1950’s, but certainly not today. As AdWeek points out, the content is problematic because “the punch line falls back on what GLAAD has dubbed the “homo-queasy” ad cliché of showing a guy looking disgusted that another man might be attracted to him.”

After AdWeek’s article, Toshiba’s VP of Corporate and Marketing Communications Sherry Lyons issued the following statement:

“Toshiba would never intentionally set out to offend our customers. We do not feel that the ‘Math Notes’ video is offensive or cliché.”

What do you think of the ad?

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  • Ron Jackson

    Borderline…the guy on the chair was just the wrong person for the ad imo. I think his expression comes off wrong to some people. It’s too neutral to me and can be taken however the viewer wants. Shame on Toshiba for not “getting it”.

  • scottfoval

    Clearly hinged on the ‘uncomfortable’ reaction that the supposedly straight character has to ‘accidentally’ receiving notes from the apparently gay nerdy character who doesn’t want to give the guy his notes. Cliched, tired, stupid…Toshiba could have done much better and they’re simply playing on an old stereotypical reaction. Bad bad bad.

  • onahigh23

    We, collectively, need to stop being so offended over every perceived instance of homophobia and get a sense of humor. If we shout it over every little silly thing who is going to pay attention when we scream about real injustice against the community?

  • whatisthis

    @onahigh23: I agree. When will we get over this politically correct obsession as of late? I understand being outraged over ACTUAL homophobic things in the media, but my god, people scream racism, homophobia, and sexism over practically ANYTHING nowadays.

  • hyhybt

    I kinda like it, though his look could mean a few different things. It’s the sort of thing that might or might not be homophobic, depending as much on the viewer as anything else. To make it more clearly not, the last turn of the head could be replaced by his complimenting the drawing or something like that.

  • Katbox

    Offensive? Not really.
    ‘Cliche? ‘ most def.
    Nothing original there.

  • Sparkyu1

    Annoying and fairly offensive. The only reason it’s not majorly offensive is because it’s so extremely common.

    The fact that a man may be attracted to another man is considered funny or embarrassing; that’s a meme that has to die

    I think we need to be more firm about this sort of thing because it happens all the time. Our sexuality is a punch line, a joke and it’s not really getting any better

  • Fael

    Ridiculous, is not seen the slightest reaction of disgust or anything of the sort, on the contrary, at the end he seems wanting to match drawing

  • sfbeast

    Yes, it is homophobic. Especially because the guy who did the drawing is cute and the other guy is chubby and unappealing. So it is both unrealistic and inappropriate.

  • JH

    I really didn’t read the guy’s look as disgust. Definitely concerned, but not necessarily gay-panic related. I mean, if my gay roommate drew me as a centaur, I think I’d be a little uncomfortable about sharing close quarters with him. I’d probably get drunk and have sex with him eventually, but it’d be an awkward way to get that ball rolling.

    And what about when the guy leans back and attempts to mimic the pose of himself in the drawing? He’s kinda buying into it for a sec, and then looks back over his shoulder as if nervous that his roommate saw him admiring the pic when he finally took a second to really look at it.

    Let’s focus our energies on real issues of homophobia, like in Russia!

  • mjcc1987

    I don’t see the homophobia. Are we way to sensitive here?

  • Eduardo

    @sfbeast: so it’s “unrealistic” to you because you don’t think a guy who is cute and attractive by your definition can’t be attracted to a chubbier guy? You are an absolute moron. There is a whole community of gays who like bigger men (chubs and chasers). Also, who hasn’t had an awkward moment with a crush at one point in life?

    for f#cks sake people grow a thicker skin and stop being way to sensitive. I actually chuckled at it. We are becoming way to overly P.C.

  • Badger88

    How is this ad homophobic? It is no different than if a hot straight girl had asked an ugly straight guy for his notes, and saw that he had been doodling sexual drawings of her. The joke isn’t about being uncomfortable with gay people. The joke is the awkwardness that comes with unreciprocated feelings, whether they be gay or straight.

  • Mike

    Who the hell buys Toshiba anyway? Toshiba is cheap.

  • Will L

    This didn’t jump out at me as being homophobic. I think the idea was okay but the straight guy’s acting was not good. The confused/uncomfortable look was okay but he could have ended it with a “meh whatever” shrug. It’s just the fact that it ended on a creepy note that makes it negative.

    Toshiba isn’t the industry leader it once was so I don’t think they would be foolish enough to TRY to be homophobic. There is too much at risk. It was just a poorly acted attempt at humor.

  • smartguyd

    This isn’t homophobic and not that funny either. I would react the same way if anyone sent me odd shirtless art of me. He didn’t act disgusted that a guy might like him, he acted slightly weirder out that a person he is in close contact with was being a creeper.

  • MK Ultra

    The commercial is just stupid.
    Not really captivating nor funny.

  • Halston

    If the roommate had gay bashed him after seeing the picture then it would have been homophobic; other than that it was pretty tame.

  • Elloreigh

    Not homophobic, but does trade on stereotypes. Doesn’t make me want to run out and buy a Toshiba, regardless.

  • miagoodguy

    People need to stop being so easily offended.

  • lab

    the gay community has turned into a bunch of pussies…most of you are too young to remember real discrimination just 40 years ago. what is happening in russia is homophobia… this is an attempt at humor that actually shows how far things have come to take it so lightly. you guys try to find fault in everything…I got news for you…no matter how young you are there will still be many many people who will hate you for being gay on the day you die…deal with it

  • Yang Tai

    @Ron Jackson: How is it “Borderline”, the guy asked for math notes and got a picture of a Centaur with his roommates face on it. Nothing “anti-gay” about that. Having said that if the roommate was gay why wouldn’t a straight guy feel uncomfortable around him? It’s no different then when women get uncomfortable around men in certain contexts.

  • ivanv15

    @lab: preach it sister!

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