Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chick-fil-A's "fruitcake" gaffe may not be what it seems

This Chick-fil-A flier, which made the viral rounds last week as further proof of the brand's anti-gay stance, may not be what it seems.

Oh, it's real. But there's context:
"This is an advertisement that a locally owned and operated restaurant has been using for the past five years to promote Chick-fil-A's catering options during the holidays," Steve Robinson, the company's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement to The Advocate Tuesday afternoon. "It was simply a play on words referring to the traditional holiday food, and the restaurant had no intention of offending anyone whatsoever. We regret the flier may have been taken out of context."
The problem is that slang terms change over time. Wikipedia gives an origin for the term "nutty as a fruitcake" dating to 1910, and meaning simply "crazy," but notes that "fruit" and "fruitcake" were used as slanders against gay men by the 1930s. Since homosexuality was seen as a mental illness at the time, the shift isn't that surprising.

While I have heard both "fruitcake" and "fruit" used to mean gay men in my own lifetime, I have probably heard "fruitcake" used more often as a synonym for "crazy." Perhaps it depends where you live.

As much as I despise Chick-fil-A's CEO's anti-gay statements, I don't see this as evidence of the brand's association with homophobia.

It's just insulting to mentally ill people.

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