—With this new ad, the brand extends its longstanding commitment to LGBTQ+ equality into traditional and more conservative cultures, says Craig Redmond—
Midway through my high school years, our family moved from the city to a place called Oakville. And I went from being the token gentile kid in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, lovingly known by my best friend’s Bubbe as her “Goy Boy,” to being just one of the teeming W.A.S.P. masses in Toronto’s executive bedroom community.
Oakville was the “Womb with a View’,” as I liked to call it. I felt lost.
But after a few months at my new, dumb-white-jock-ruled school, a group of misfits adopted and welcomed me into their outsider pack. They became my “Breakfast Club,” bound by a shared love for music, film, art, and the fact that none of us felt like we belonged.
The de facto leader of our clan was a guy we’ll call J. I was in awe of J. He was exceedingly handsome, wore cool vintage clothes, and had a cracking sense of humour.
And everything J. did, he did exceptionally well. He was a straight A student, a gifted painter, and would write and direct black and white films with his old Super 8 camera, using us as his cast and crew.
It was a foreshadowing of when, in just his first year of studies, J. would win the best film of the year award at NYU’s famous film school, a school that graduated Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese.
The only thing I didn’t know about J. was that he was gay.
As antiquated as that might sound, it’s important to understand that Oakville was a relatively conservative community, and J. was from a very well-established family. He was also—I would later learn—acutely concerned that coming out could hurt his ambitions beyond high school, far away from the suffocating limits of his hometown.
Throughout university, J. and I stayed close through written correspondence. We were “Men of Letters” as he liked to say. It was in one of those letters that J. revealed his secret truth. I’ll never forget becoming suddenly overcome with tears of joy, feeling as though an imaginary wall between us had finally crumbled.
Years later, I would receive another long, beautifully crafted despatch. This time he described how he had visited a growing memorial in Washington D.C., where family and friends placed quilts in honour of loved ones who had died or were suffering from AIDS.
At the very end of the letter, J. explained how he had sewn his own quilt to contribute to the memorial. Because, alas, months earlier he had received his own tragic diagnosis. It was shattering.
I share this tome of a preface because this week’s creative reminds us just how difficult coming out can still be. No doubt we have traveled light years with LGBTQ acceptance since my high school days. But in so many corners of society, and for so many different people of all walks of life, disclosing your real identity to family and loved ones must remain a terrifying and life altering moment.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been sure which strand of brand DNA inspired Oreo to embrace the movement for LGBTQ equality and inclusion. I’m guessing it’s because the brand is at its best when it is shared. Regardless, you can’t help but admire their enduring commitment to the cause since the introduction of its iconic rainbow stacked cookie 10 years ago.
In this case, however, they are going one courageous step further by addressing intolerance within more traditional cultures that might continue to shun LGBTQ acceptance. It certainly is one place where most mega-brands would fear to tread.
But Oreo leaps the bigoted abyss by celebrating the light force that will overcome any darkness that can divide family and friends.
More personally, it quickly reminded me of how torturously difficult a time it must have been for my high school friend way back in those reclusive early days.
So, this is for you J.