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Tom Shales



Busy Signal

July 24, 2007 2:23 PM

Maybe this has become a common practice – I know it’s been done before – but the latest example seems so graphically a sign of the times, and of the practical realities of business, that it stands out on the landscape.

Though the commercial is fairly new, you’ve probably seen it by now, or at least one version of it: a good-looking young man in underpants and a t-shirt is getting dressed in his apartment for a night out, trying to pull on his apparently super-tight Levi’s jeans. As he pulls up the jeans, a telephone booth, of all things, bursts up through the floor, and eventually the room is demolished (the boy has dropped his Levi’s to his ankles by this time) and the whole apartment sort of bursts up through a city street.

Yes, it’s quite weird. But that’s not the point. In one version of the ad, a beautiful girl appears in the phone booth and the boy, enticed, pulls the Levi’s up again, successfully this time. The ad ends with boy-and-girl hugging and going off together into the city. They must be going to her place, since his is in ruins.

Anyway – Fade out.

It’s an okay ad if hardly revolutionary. But there’s quite another version. Viewers who watch Logo, the channel aimed at gay men and women and their discretionary income, see a slightly different pitch. Same boy, same jeans, same telephone booth bursting through the floor. But this time, the phone booth is occupied by a handsome guy. The two young men look each other up and down flirtatiously, just as the man and woman do in the other version. Their eyes, how they twinkle; their dimples, how merry.

Soon they are sauntering down the street together.

Levi’s: All Things to All Men.

There is one other major difference between the otherwise identical ads. The two young men do not nuzzle or hug or even touch. They walk off together very close to each other, however, and you’d have to be pretty thick to imagine they’re on their way to the public library.

Then again, we don’t want to stereotype. Maybe the public library is the site of many a gay date. Meanwhile, if there’s a lesbian version of this ad, we haven’t seen it, but let’s not rule anything out. Lots of lesbians wear jeans too – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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