Why Did Coke Turn Drag Queens Into Showgirls For Its Super Bowl Commercial?

Coca-Cola had a big presence during last night’s Super Bowl: The soft-drink giant aired a multi-part ad, “Coke Chase,” that saw characters from different desert-themed movies racing to a find a cache of sweet, syrupy Coke. The cinematic cliques included sultans  from Lawrence of Arabia, cowboys from a Western, badlanders from Mad Max—and showgirls in a big pink bus.

What’s that you say? You don’t remember a movie with showgirls in a big pink bus riding through the desert?

Neither do we. We do, however, remember The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the film (and later Broadway musical) priscilla super bowlabout three drag queens in a giant colorful bus making their way through the Australian Outback.

It’s pretty evident Coke was referencing Priscilla in its Super Bowl ad. (The showgirls pop up at about 0:24.) But, fearful of alienating football fans with images of guys in drag, the company swapped in leggy Rockettes. (Ironically the showgirls won the online contest that allowed viewers to determine who got the cola stash.)

Look, we get that fans of RuPaul‘s Drag Race aren’t the target demographic for the Super Bowl. We weren’t angling for an Absolut commercial featuring Latrice Royale. (The Calvin Klein ad with Matthew Terry was nice, though.) But if you’re going to bring Priscilla the Goddamn Queen of the Desert into your commercial, then you put drag queens in it.

Otherwise, go with Dune.


What do you think? Was Coke being dragphobic, or are we just off our meds again? Sound off in the comments section!

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  • QJ201

    FUCK YOU Coke for de-gaying the reference to one of the most fab gay movies of all time.

  • stadacona

    It was lame to switch trannies with show girls, but most Superbowl viewers haven’t a clue that Priscilla movie even exists. Just a weird reference by an obviously gay marketer.

  • Caleb in SC

    @QJ201: I’ve got to agree. They had a definite movie theme going on and pussied out with the drag queens.

  • kurt_t

    In any event, the smokin’ hot horse trainer in the Budweiser commercial was kind of a bright spot.

  • kingkuy

    when that bus pulled up i instantly thought it was gonna be drag queens… and then all of the light went out of my world

  • Dot Beech

    Maybe they’re post-op’s and you’re all being transphobic. One of the characters in Priscilla was NOT a drag queen, ya know. She was a post-op. And the other two were working hard at being show girls of a fashion.

    If Coke had omitted the pink bus, as if Priscilla never existed, that might be the greater offense. But it didn’t happen. The Priscilla reference got the strongest placement in the commercial.

    Priscilla set out to blur the lines and it succeeded mightily. Perhaps that is why one has to work so hard to get offended by this putative slight.

  • Aidan8

    At first I thought… whatever. But I just watched the ad and I have to agree. That was really lame of them to de-drag the Priscilla bus. Lame lame lame.

  • dkmagby

    @Dot Beech: Yea I’m sure thats why they used only trans actors…quit straightsplaining.

  • dkmagby

    Its like referencing Roots with Brad Pitt in black face.

  • Chad Hunt

    Oh come on now people. As Miss Felicia Jollygood Fellow said at one point in the movie, “Get down off that crucifix, someone needs the wood.”

    Instead of being happy that at least they did make a Gay Reference in a SuperBowl ad we have to complain that it was not gay enough.

    You have to look at it from Coke’s point of view. They didn’t want to offend or turn off their target audience (closed minded heterosexual men) but wanted to expand †heir ad to be a lil more inclusive and join in the Chris Kluwe bandwagon. Coke was in a position that it could never win. Offend 1 million moms, Christian organizations, Bigoted hetero men etc. by including a bus full of drag queens, or just not make any gay reference at all. They took a middle of the road approah and just decided to piss everyone off equally.

    Straight bigots won’t like the gay reference at all and queers will bitch it wasn’t gay enough. See, nobody wins, and nobody is happy but at least everyone will notice.

  • IzzyLuna

    I’ll say it: In all honesty, the drag queens from PQOTD are kinda scary when not prepared for it. I’m sure it was a marketing reason and they didn’t wanna scare the kids.

  • kurt_t

    @IzzyLuna, are you thinking specifically about the substance abuse, the filthy language, the butt cleavage or the false eyelashes and glitter mascara?

    Oh wait. Or are you thinking about the scene with the ping pong balls?

  • Thedrdonna

    @Dot Beech: I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that Coke was trying to “adjust” the ad by replacing the entire cast with trams folk. There are legitimate places to discuss the rampant tran phobia that is endemic to our media and society, but this has nothing to do with that.

    But yeah, the ad kinda sucked. They chose to include a “sanitized”, bowdlerized Priscilla. It’s like making a reference to Catcher in the Rye where Holden is played by a middle-aged accountant.

  • Joseph

    even Sam champion twittered yesterday it should have been Priscilla Queen of the desert stop being so damn puritan Coke and get over yourselves…you think one straight guy is gonna turn off the Superbowl or stop buying coke for an obvious movie reference..stupid!

  • Joseph

    @Chad Hunt: “You have to look at it from Coke’s point of view. They didn’t want to offend or turn off their target audience (closed minded heterosexual men)” they wouldn’t even notice nor would they stop buying coke for a polite and honest movie reference!

  • twsnkc

    @Dot Beech: Pull your panties out of your ass and get off the cross Mary.

  • Chad Hunt

    @Joseph: … What world do you live in that bigots don’t boycott products because they support LGBT … I can name several in past few months … J.C. Penny boycott called for by 1 million moms and other activist groups simply for using Ellen as spokesperson …

  • Mark

    I thought the ad was great. One of the best of the day. Society progresses in step by step increments, not leaps and bounds.
    Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the shows. Relax! Relax when you want to complain!

  • David

    I’m curious to hear what Coke’s LGBT focus group had to say about the ad. They did use one… yes? I mean… if they’re going to hijack an iconic movie… they better have researched how the audience would react.

    If Coke did it’s due diligence and everything seemed to indicate a green light then I have no ill will toward Coke.

    Troubling the commercial through an anti-opression lens.. the hetero-normalization of a gay icon as ground breaking as Priscilla isn’t cool. It doesn’t even appear to have been done to start intelligent conversation. It appears to have been done for pure hetero titillation.

  • kurt_t

    The only group that I can see that clearly represents a specific movie is the “Mad Max” group. The Bedouins with the camels could represent the movie Lawrence of Arabia, but if you wanted to represent that particular movie, why wouldn’t you use an actor who looked like Peter O’Toole (or T. E. Lawrence)? Now the cowboys, I don’t have a clue what movie they represent. They just look like generic movie cowboys to me.

    So could it be that the cowboys represent generic Hollywood cowboys, and the Bedouins represent generic Hollywood Bedouins, and the showgirls represent a generic Hollywood conception of Las Vegas showgirls? And could it be that “Mad Max” has achieved a place in popular culture and popular consciousness where those characters are also just sort of an archetype? As opposed to villains from a specific movie?

    I suspect we’re reading too much into the showgirls.

  • hotshot70

    Coke got scared of the “heteros” complaining.

  • hotshot70

    THey feared being too gay, yet they aired a Doritos ad where grown men wore dresses and makeup for a tea party!

  • sfsilver

    So not only is the ad potentially racist (the Arab community is up in arms about the depiction of stereotyped Arab portrayals) but it’s homophobic too! Glad I don’t drink cola

  • Chad Hunt

    @kurt_t: U R definately wrong. There are absolutely clear movie references beyond Mad Max and Priscilla is one of them.

  • Ogre Magi

    They should have gone with DUNE! Sandworms and Coke would be an awesome combination

  • nolehace

    …i’m waiting for coke to say there were no references to any movie, case closed…a better strategy is for coke to say, “we’re glad this was brought to our attention. we were insensitive. we did what you think we did. we have learned from this incident and will do much better in the future, just watch”…

  • erikwm

    @David: I am an early 30-something gay male and did not identify the commercial with the movie. I even saw the commercial a few times before the Super Bowl aired in previews of the advertisements.

    I think I’ve seen the movie, but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve definitely heard of the movie. Either way, I’m not offended. If I was on the focus group, they’d have gotten a green light from me.

  • Cam

    @Chad Hunt: said…

    “Instead of being happy that at least they did make a Gay Reference in a SuperBowl ad we have to complain that it was not gay enough.”

    Sure, I’ll be happy about it if black people would be happy if they did a “Color Purple” reference except Miss Celie and Sophia were white or if women would be happy if they did a Susan B Anthony reference….except it had all men.

  • Chad Hunt

    @Cam: Why not, if they can do a “Steel Magnolias” remake with an all black cast they surely can do a Color Purple movie where instead of poor black women they can use poor white women. It is called artistic license. I’m sure, though, you are also one of those annoying gays who get upset anytime “Fag” is said on TV or a gay character is portrayed by a straight person. Pathetic

  • Chad Hunt

    @Cam: Besides the fact that we are talking about a movie and a commercial here not a historical reference like Susan B Anthony.

  • Victor_in_PA

    They de-gay’d Priscilla because they THOUGHT it MIGHT offend a few knuckle draggers but they certainly don’t give a second thought about possibly pissing off the whole gay community. Oh, you’re probably right. They probably didn’t even think about it. After all, who are we? We don’t really matter and I’m certain there’s no gay bar that serves coke. They should’ve used another movie reference.

  • Chad Hunt

    @Mark: … intelligence … clearly you have it and some on here don’t. LOL

  • Humanedge

    I think it was pathetic to heteronormalize the reference for the reasons already given, but also 1 more:

    The biggest moral to Priscilla was that free expression is priceless, and if you’re gonna stick out, you may as well do what you want. They made the ad knowing who would get the reference and who wouldnt, but chose to cut out the gays who made the story make sense! Coke essentially ran from the whole moral of the story, wanting credit for all the expression with none of the core flair material, and ended up looking like cowards in the process.

  • Calder

    People should complain because nothing changes if some people aren’t angry enough and brave enough to stand up and say something is wrong. We did it for civil rights, women’s rights, protecting children, speaking out against Islamophobia, et al and now hopefully, people are standing up for LGBTTQ rights.

    Yes, it’s only a coke commercial, but these are not isolated incidents. LGBTTQ media content is constantly and consistently removed, “de-gayed” or gutted due to the fear of offending others. The US has no laws protecting its queer citizens and is legally able to refuse health, marriage and other civil benefits to the community. Why shouldn’t we complain? I don’t want the status quo; I want change, change for the better for all human beings.

    I am an American living in Canada. I miss New York and want to come home, but how can I when here in Canada I have equal rights, all their people have rights, regardless of their citizenship, national origin, race, colour, religion or sexual orientation.

    Why is the US unable to offer basic civil rights to its citizens in this day and age? And some people want us to just stay quiet? Please…

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