December 13, 2010
If I had to bet, my guess is that Air NZ has deliberately stoked this storyline to
send the video viral and to trigger thousands of online views without having to pay leverage the All Blacks relationship and promote the brand. They either grabbed on to one or two outlier complaints or manufactured the whole controversy from scratch. Call me a cynical old queen, but this is as tepid as an Anglican’s bathwater. I sense a beat-up.
If a gay man — or any living being — is so emotionally vulnerable that an airline safety video featuring a rebuffed same-sex smooch from Richard Kahui is enough to tip him into the abyss, then one suspects he would be too upset to travel in the first place.
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.
The real harm to the gay community lies not in the lame and unfunny gag in question, but in the way that Air NZ played its publics relations cards today. The airline knew full well the potency of a story that merges gay issues with rugby in general and the All Blacks in particular. It was a deeply cynical play, as demonstrated by the carefully crafted media statement designed to pit their pet gay flight attendant against anonymous whiners from the “gay lobby”. They knew exactly whose side most New Zealanders would come down on. They knew full well that the news media would happily flog the idea that the gay community is “precious”, humourless and “politically correct”.