Brace yourself: Pride Month is almost here, which means companies will still start overlaying their logos with the rainbow flag and proclaim their “allyship” with the LGBTQ community.
Of course, a quick search engine check will reveal that too many of these companies have also funneled contributions to political leaders who have supported legislation that is hostile toward LGBTQ rights.
But never mind that hypocrisy, as we have at least one reason to celebrate how the queer community is breaking through.
Last Saturday, SNL brilliantly skewered what critics have long said has frequently been an off-message, corporate-sponsored Pride Month for years. But the video, in which Lil Nas X makes an appearance (and really gets things rolling), also shows how far the comedy sketch show has come showcasing LGBTQ voices over the past decade. As much as the skit throws shade at some of Pride Month’s cringeworthy and eye-rolling aspects, it is also a celebration of queer culture, presented by LGBTQ actors and writers, not toned down, with zero apologies and nary a concern if straight people get it or not.
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As with most of the entertainment industry's productions in television and movies, gay characters on SNL were long the frequent punchline and cruel butt of jokes on the show. The first openly gay cast member of SNL, Terry Sweeney, lasted only one season during the mid-1980s: His characters were often the crassest and clichéd cliched gay stereotypes; meanwhile, off the set, Sweeney had to endure the homophobic taunts of colleagues such as Chevy Chase.
Fast forward more than 35 years later, this season SNL has showcased three openly queer cast members, and several sketches have clearly been written with the point of view of those comedians and gay writers. For years, gays were the targets of humor often written by their straight colleagues. Now, the work of those including Bowen Yang and former SNL writer Julio Torres has turned that dynamic on its head: Gay writers and actors are creating more content, and it’s up to the straight audience to figure out the jokes, satire and context.
And therein lies the lesson this SNL parody offers to corporate America: The rainbow flag and boilerplate language that says “We stand with the LGBTQ community” are not inherently bad, but now, they are nothing more than the baseline. Many of those press releases that have been emailed and posted publicly are clearly written by a straight person, which again, isn’t necessarily wrong. Nevertheless, it’s clear gay employees or the wider LGBTQ community often had zero input in those Pride Month proclamations. That oversight certainly shouldn’t occur this year, considering the myriad of bills in statehouses across the U.S. that are clearly designed to shame transgender citizens and their LGBTQ neighbors.
So why should marketers and human resource folks watch SNL’s Pride Month video? Once you get past the NSFW references, the clip can also be viewed as a reminder for corporate managers to check in with their LGBTQ employees, ask the how they are faring amidst all the news out there, what challenges they still face as gay and queer employees in their organization and what they would like to see from the organizations for which they work.
Bottom line, many of us don’t want to be made to feel like the “token gay” that demonstrates their company has a “tolerant” or “working” culture. We just want to be, be ourselves, and only be – period. The end.
Image credit: Mercedes Mehling: Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.