Complaints of homophobia against the ACT’s camp character Ricky Starr, based on 80s/90s cult fitness guru Richard Simmons, have been dismissed by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB).
The specific advertisement in question deals with the issue of people containing their recycling in plastic bags and uses the campaign character to deliver a simple message that your recycling can’t be recycled if it is in a plastic bag. We see Ricky running across the floor then bursting out of a recycling bin to demonstrate that bags should not be used. Check it out here:
Here are some of the other recycling ads:
A sample of complainants included the following: “I am offended at the actor pretending to be an obviously gay character Rickey Star who is very similar to Richard Simmons. The voice and over the top gestures are demeaning to gay men, embarrassing and is making fun of them for being different. I also find it incredibly irritating.
“I get he is supposed to be a parody of Richard Simmons but my gay son turned off the TV when this came on as it is such a mocking stereotype of a gay male. In this day and age, it would be the equivalent of showing someone with dark skin acting like a slave.
“Surely we are trying to move forward with acceptance and don’t need to see this. It offends me and I find it an embarrassing statement of where we are in our fight for gender equality.”
In response to the complaints, the ACT government said “The Ricky Starr character is based on Richard Simmons, an American fitness guru and actor whose popularity was at its peak in the 80s and 90s, when recycling first became mainstream. Due to his immense popularity in a period where people were first exposed to recycling (and when people were ‘psyched about recycling’), and his over-the-top personality, Simmons was identified as the perfect person to base a character on in order to deliver what can often be quite boring recycling messages.
“While the character used in the advertising is clearly flamboyant, this is a central part of the character development and relates closely to the way fitness videos from that era were presented by Simmons. Our contention is that the advertisement and the way the character presents is entirely within reasonable community standards.”
In its ruling the ASB said “the advertisement made no reference to homosexuality. The Board did not consider the advertisement was intended to mock gay people, as the character was using behavioural not sexual traits. The Board did note that the advertisement used an actor with flamboyant and exaggerated movements and an effeminate voice, but this was intended to be humorous and did not depict the actor as homosexual or vilifying homosexual relationships.”