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Air NZ confirms cynical gay backlash ploy

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is the email I recevied from Air New Zealand in full.

Hi Phil

As per our twitter dialogue, we have issued this statement in regards to media enquiries.

Air New Zealand confirms it is in the process of removing a scene from its current in flight safety video “Crazy About Rugby”.

The move comes after complaints from members of the gay and lesbian community in the past week.  There has also been concern from a university Professor that the scene could lead to gay male suicide.  The scene features a rugby player turning down the opportunity to give a peck on the cheek to a gay Air New Zealand flight attendant.

The Crazy About Rugby in flight safety video, which has been viewed by more than two million people on aircraft, online and via the media, has received huge volumes of positive feedback, including regular applause from customers on aircraft.

“The video has been a phenomenal hit from the perspective that it has really engaged customers in its core messages around safety. When we created this video and discussed the scene featuring a gay male flight attendant and a rugby player with key stakeholders, including a number of the gay community, we received none of the feedback we have in the past week. The scene was not something that we, the people we tested the scene with, or indeed the participants in the scene, viewed as distasteful or likely to cause concern,” says General Manager Airline Operations and Safety Captain David Morgan.

“We could have set out to run research on whether the views of the complainants in the past week were representative of the wider gay community.  However, given the Crazy About Rugby safety video only has another seven weeks to run, we have opted on the side of caution and are changing out the scene.”

The reaction to the scene has shocked Air New Zealand flight attendant Will Coxhead who was the flight attendant in the scene and he says he has been inundated with hundreds of compliments from people within the gay community and customers.

“I’m absolutely gutted that a couple of people in the gay community have ruined this for everyone else. I’m proud to be gay, proud to be an Air New Zealander and extremely proud of my role in the safety video. Obviously there are some people in the gay community that can be a little precious and need to lighten up. If anything this particular scene shows a bit of light hearted humour about the situation. If you take the complainants’ view of life, why not cry foul about gay people showing any sign of affection to anyone who’s straight. Come on, it was a bit of fun and was only meant as such.”

The change to the Crazy About Rugby safety video will begin to be uploaded onto aircraft this week and the video itself will be changed out by February with Air New Zealand ’s next engaging video, which has been in the production process for a few weeks.

There is an old Australian saying — “don’t bullshit a bullshitter” — that seems apt about now.

Remember Air New Zealand’s earlier tweet in response to my earlier post that it pulled the video because it took concerns about “gay male suicide” seriously?

How does this square up with the media release (which was cut and pasted into the email to me) that goes out of its way to attack the motives of the people behind the complaints.  Whoever wrote the media release was clever enough to drive home the point via the gay flight attendant featured in the video, Will Coxhead:

I’m absolutely gutted that a couple of people in the gay community have ruined this for everyone else. I’m proud to be gay, proud to be an Air New Zealander and extremely proud of my role in the safety video. Obviously there are some people in the gay community that can be a little precious and need to lighten up.

Air NZ can’t have it both ways.  If they are genuinely concerned about the possible role of the safety video in triggering gay suicide, it seems out of place to distribute media material that then attacks people who objected to the video (using a gay staff member as a battering ram).  If they thought the complaints had merit on mental health grounds, they were right to pull the video.  If they believe, as I do, that the complainants are a kill-joy minority of whiners (as the media release and front-page Dominion Post story clearly argues), then they shouldn’t have pulled the video.

However you look at it, pulling the video, making fun of the people whose complaints led them to do so, and then retrospectively playing the gay male suicide card seems deeply cynical.


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