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Dodge Caliber and the Case of Fairy Dust

Posted by: David Kiley on April 19, 2006


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.

Reader Comments


April 21, 2006 10:08 AM

Dodge Caliber is not intending to offend GAY People !

James Jallos

May 3, 2006 9:02 AM

Viewed your visit on the Imus show and was struck by your wonderfully insightful remark that there is no coherent energy program coming out of Washington - DAH - and that the oil companies are not doing a good job of finding new oil. WOW ! What pearls of wisdom. Who is stopping the digging for oil in Alaska ? Your Aunt Jane or friendly Barber ? it certainly isnt George Bush or Cheney. If you owned a business along one of the many spidered concrete highways of America and you see the bafoons in Washington saying the answer to the gas problem is to keep the exhorbitant fed and state taxes on each gallon, keep all the restrictions on how gas blends are produced, add a few more restrictions for political gain and the love of the tree huggers and wherever there is or might be any oil put up all kinds of objections to why the oil shouldnt be harvested it might give you some nervous moments. These millions of businesses, yes millions that also hire employees where once there were no jobs, that have cropped up all along our I-77's,I-20's,I-90's etc etc rely on gas remaining at prices governed by the free flow of oil not a contrived price that is highly taxed, highly governed as to how its produced, where it can be processed and where it can be or can't be dug for.

It amazes me as to how all these master minds scream and holler about how business has departed American shores. Well one thing they have never experienced is being heavily invested in Business and having been on the receiving end of a visit from the EPA, ACLU,OSHA or any one of the City or State Inspection Agencies. Extortion under some kinder names is rampant on American Business. At least Jesse James was honest he did his extorting with a gun. If you would have been under the same degree of scrutinity regarding your eating habits you surely wouldnt be the massive person you are today or if this country couldnt produce enough food products to go around you'd need a basketfull of dough to visit the local super market. Thankfully you wouldnt be able to buy as much as you might need anyhow as its pretty difficult to bring back more than a few bags of groceries on a bicycle.

How about a name change Kiely -- BUSINESSWEAK.


May 8, 2006 3:57 PM

The Car and Driver comparison test was pretty bogus. The Caliber is in a different vehicle category than the Fit. The HHR and PT Cruiser have sold quite well, being larger than the Fit, (just as an example) and the primary point being that 5 door hatches are for hauling, not for handling. The Caliber has a much smaller engine than the HHR and PT, so you could argue that it should be in this test, but the small engine is really offered for manu. fuel economy purposes. Not many $14k 1.8l? engined caliber will be sold, I bet.

Previously, C&D's tested the HHR, PT Cruiser and Element, but rewarded the pint-sized xB with the championship on the basis of handling, too. I don't argue with their tendencies towards handling, but most buyers will disagree with them. Most importantly, all these cars are just a bit too small for most Americans.

Ignore that we're getting fatter. Americans more than 6 feet don't want to cut off anyone's legs in the back to be able to stretch out in the front. So the Golf/Rabbit, Element, Matrix, HHR, PT and Caliber should be compared in one test, and the Aveo, Kia5, xB, xA, Fit, etc., compared in another.

So real men will still buy Caliber. The BMW-loving, truck-avoiding, NYC-based C&D isn't your best source for male testosterone. Lastly, the long-term tests of tiny cars like the xB in the Northeast haven't been entirely positive. Their wheels tend to break in our man-sized potholes. Proving the point that reliability and durability are completely different, and you still buy American for the latter.

Oh, and bad interiors hasn't hurt Nissan.


May 23, 2006 9:40 PM

Holy smoke, I can't believe how much people are reading into an ad. It's a masculine guy that gets turned into a not so masculine guy after making a "silly little fairy" comment. I'm missing what the problem is. Masculine oaf into not so masculine guy, not seeing the gay connection unless you are truly embarassed to be gay or have difficulty identifying with yourself.
There are much more offensive and damaging marketing schemes than this. Get a grip folks!


June 4, 2006 10:38 PM

I think I'd kill myself before I drove a foreign car...

I fail to see why this is offensive to gays, though. It's not like Dodge is poking fun at them, or is using them as some sort of scape goat... I guess I just don't see it.


June 7, 2006 11:24 PM

No, David, you are mistaken--real mean will not drive a Honda Fit.

Ralph Cusack

June 21, 2006 4:56 PM

Ok, I'm gay! Am I offended by the fairy? NOT! Do I like the commercial? YES! It's funny! Do I think we [gays] should do something about it? YES! Write to Chrysler and tell them to put the line back in the commercial! Look, I own a gay bar, and I hear all that there is to hear about everything! Have I heard anything about this being offensive? NO! Funny? YES. I say keep it!

Rick McCready

June 26, 2006 4:26 AM

Hey get over it and stop nitpicking. All I want
to know is who is the girl who plays the role of the fairy? Does anyone know her name????

Jeff Martin

December 29, 2006 3:39 PM

I found two errors.

1. The NPR show is "On The Media".
2. "adsby" needs a space.

John Doe

June 16, 2009 9:45 PM

I agree with Mr Rick McCready.

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