Dodge Caliber and the Case of Fairy Dust

So, is Dodge offending gay people or not? Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield wrote this week that a new Dodge ad featuring a fairy was disparaging to gay people. In the ad, a fairy bonks her magic wand onto a skyscraper and turns it into a fairy house. Then, she bonks a commuter train and turns it into a train that would be more at home on the Isle of Sodor. She tries to bonk the new Dodge Caliber into something softer and more playful a few times, but it resists. The fairy then slams into a wall and hits the pavement. An oafish man stops and mocks, “Silly little fairy.” Then she bonks him, transforming the oaf into a Lands End model with a sweater around his neck and walking Pomeranians instead of his big black manly dog.

While I would have panned the ad for being lame on many fronts, Garfield panned the ad for being an example of hate speech. The oafish man reminds us of those lads in the schoolyard who call the weaker boys fags and fairies. Frankly, I’m inclined to agree with Garfield. And I seldom agree with Bob, who also hosts “On The Media” on National Public Radio. It seems like one of those ads where the creative guys knew exactly what they were doing, and intended to push the envelope. It has long been in the Dodge ad playbook to get people talking about its ads by ocassionally running, or trying to run, controversial themes and images. Nothing wrong with that. But I, like Garfield, thought it smacked of insensitivity and callousness.

I read the comments on, though, and if the posters, especially those who said they were gay, were legit, then maybe Garfield, and Kiley, are all wet.

This is typical of the posts on Garfield’s column: “I appreciate the sensitivity to the issue, but as a gay man in the business, I don’t see any level of homophobic undertones in the ad at all. Now, if there were any stereotypes of swishy walks or limp wrists once the guy is transformed, than I’d be emailing HRC, BBDO and Dodge. Think it’s a cute ad. Jeff New York City –NEW YORK, NY”

The whole point here is to make people think the Caliber is the brute, the non-fairy, entry in the newly emerging small-car category. But here’s a little irony. In a very good and credible comparison test of the new crop of small cars in Car & Driver, the manly caliber placed sixth out of seven, besting only the Suzuki Reno. The masculine Caliber came up well short against the Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio5, Nissan Versa and arguably the cutest, fairiest of the bunch, the Honda Fit.

Cheap interior surfaces, a feeling of “sitting in a tub,” a 0-60 that was slower than the Neon, no tachometer, ambiguous steering, slow lane changer and “heavy and clumsy” dotted the C and D review.

The cute, quaint, fem Fit was hailed for being the quickest in maneuvers, best in fuel economy, best interior, best handling, best shifter. It sounds like real men will drive a Honda Fit.

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