I normally wouldn’t talk about Christmas this early, since Thanksgiving is the next upcoming holiday, but there is already some Christmas controversy brewing – and it seems fitting it has been brought to us by a Hallmark ornament.
This particular Christmas tree accessory is made to look like a sweater, with the following words printed on the front: “Don we now our FUN apparel.” Of course, this is an edited version of a line from the treasured Christmas carol, “Deck the Halls,” which is actually, “Don we now our GAY apparel.”
After the ornament was released, Hallmark’s Facebook page was flooded with complaints. The comments accused the company of everything from censorship to homophobia. Hallmark then issued the following statement:
“When the lyrics to ‘Deck the Halls’ were translated from Gaelic and published in English back in the 1800s, the word ‘gay’ meant festive or merry. Today it has multiple meanings, which we thought could leave our intent open to misinterpretation. So the planning team decided to say what we meant: ‘fun.’ That’s the spirit we intended and the spirit in which we hope ornament buyers will take it.”
This statement with its “Gaelic” history listen failed to quiet the disgust that echoed from the critics on social media, who continued to express their frustration:
“Do they support fun marriage?”
“Why did you change gay to fun? Do you still have Christmas cards, or just generic holiday cards now?”
“WTH Hallmark…….since when do you get to change the words to a Xmas song? Homophobic much?”
“If they don’t like gay apparel they’ll be shocked to see what the elves wear!”
So Hallmark then released this apology:
“We’ve been surprised at the wide range of reactions expressed about the change of lyrics on this ornament, and we’re sorry to have caused so much concern. We never intend to offend or make political statements with our products and in hindsight, we realize we shouldn’t have changed the lyrics on the ornament.”
Despite the controversy, the company says it would be impossible to produce and ship the ornament with the original lyric, so the ornament will remain on the racks for the entire Christmas season. The cost, $12.95.
Hallmark hasn’t always been so self-conscious about the word “gay.” After all, as the largest greeting card company in the United States, Hallmark released same-sex wedding cards back in 2009. “It’s our goal to be as relevant as possible to as many people as we can,” a Hallmark spokeswoman said at the time.
Clearly, we aren’t dealing with a homophobic company. And last I checked, there are lots of Christmas carol lyrics that would have fit on the miniature sweater. So was this just a momentary lack of good judgment or a sign of a wider issue?
Companies are caught between the changing tide of cultural views and marketing norms. The goal is to make sales and that means keeping old customers while at the same time finding new ones. To satisfy that goal of appealing to gay clientele and their green gay dollars, companies like Hallmark want to stand out.
But sometimes, without meaning to, this effort backfires. And in this case, many gay customers are banning any further purchases of Hallmark products.
My advice is to stop trying so hard. There are those accusing the gay community of being overly sensitive to the ornament issue, but it seems to me that Hallmark was originally over-thinking it.
Gay customers are, for the most part, like every other customer and the same rules will apply to us when we are shopping with Hallmark or any other company.
Great service, a great product, catchy jingles, funny Super Bowl commercials and a 20 percent discount for everyone who has a rainbow tattoo.
Hey, there are no bad ideas, right? Just ask Hallmark.