Who knew a simple Gap ad could stir up such a fuss? When a Gap ad featuring Sikh model Waris Ahluwalia was defaced with racist comments, the company responded in a way that should surprise no one -- if you've been looking at Gap ads for the past 20 years. The ad reads "Make Love," but someone had crossed out the word "Love" and written "Bombs!" and added the brilliant zinger (eye roll) "Please stop driving TAXIS!" When blogger Arsalan Iftikhar (AKA "The Muslim Guy") posted a photo of the defaced ad on Twitter and Facebook, Gap actually thanked him via Twitter. But they didn't stop there.
First, here's Ifikhar's tweet:
PHOTO: On this GAP subway ad featuring a Sikh man...Vandals have written "Make Bombs" & "Please stop driving taxis" pic.twitter.com/yvw2vhfexW— Arsalan Iftikhar™ (@TheMuslimGuy) November 25, 2013
And here's Gap's response:
@TheMuslimGuy Hi there. Thanks for informing us. Can you please follow & DM us? We'd like to know the location of this.— Gap (@Gap) November 25, 2013
And THEN, Gap changed their Twitter background to show solidarity:
Now. You know there's a difference between Sikhs and Muslims, right? They're two totally different religions. And you know that even if Waris were Muslim, crossing out the word LOVE and replacing it with BOMBS is still a shitty thing to do (and not particularly clever, either). And not that it matters, but Waris is hardly a taxi driver. He's a jewelry designer who regularly appears in Wes Anderson movies. Also, he's hot. What is the matter with you, asshole Gap ad defacer? Are you threatened by Waris' undeniable handsomeness? Is that what this is really about?
I'm getting off-topic ... I was supposed to be writing about how much I loved Gap's response to the graffiti. I know it's just a clothing company, and they're selling jeans, not saving lives. But their ads carry a certain amount of cultural power. Ads are like a mirror held up to society -- and how we respond to those images says a lot about who we are and our values. Do we reflect back love and inclusiveness, or fear and ignorance?
Gap ads have featured people of color -- a wide range of people -- for years. Those ads reflect the world I live in, and I love that about them. What a sad world it would be if our ads featured only guys who look like David Beckham and Matt Damon. Love them! But the world is bigger and more interesting than that.
We're one day away from Thanksgiving, and the holiday season has begun. Can we go back to the LOVE? Can we put down our angry Sharpie markers and embrace differences? Say YES more and NO less? That's all this ad was saying (well, that and "buy our jeans"). Here's a photo Waris posted on his Facebook page, and I think it pretty much says it all:
What do you think about how Arsalan Iftikhar and Gap responded to the defaced ad?
Images via Gap, Waris Ahluwalia/Facebook