After starring in the Volkswagen Polo campaign, which stirred social media for bringing a photo of a gay couple, Murillo and Diego Xavier’s family has been suffering attacks and threats. Despite fearing retaliation – and saying they don’t want to be a martyr – the duo believes that participation has been important to reinforce that the LGBTQIA+ public is consumers and can occupy spaces even in traditionally sexist media, such as automotive.
UOL Cars spoke with Diego, who, in addition to starring in the campaign alongside her husband, is a journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist, coordinating employability projects. He says that this is the second time that the couple has suffered attacks due to the Volkswagen campaign, which began to air in 2021, but that now the accusations and threats have reached his family.
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“The first time, this movement was just on the internet, but now they abused it: they went after my brothers and nephews, who have nothing to do with it. I’m an example of LGBTI who had to leave the countryside to live their sexuality fully in the capital”, says Diego, who left Cambé, where his family still lives, to live in Curitiba.
Diego explains that he and his husband did not imagine the proportion that the campaign would take, as it was initially built to be aired in June 2021, considered the month of diversity.
“On this date, all companies take actions, so everyone is a little more friendly to the cause, advertisements do not generate as much impact. This continuation even shows a greater commitment on the part of the brand. The balance is positive, it is a matter of representativeness , to show that the public also pays taxes and is a consumer. But I don’t want to be a martyr. Nobody wants to die. The attacks are worrying”, he laments.
“Volkswagen is very correct”, I made a professor at ESPM
For the professor of campaign planning at the Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM), Murilo Moreno, Volkswagen is right in showing the diversity of use of its cars, but it will need intense work to avoid losing customers.
“In Brazil, we have had, several times, reactions against campaigns that are normal in Europe and the United States. This happens because our society, in general, is more traditionalist. It will take a while for people to understand that it is not because there is a gay couple in the advertisement that the car is only for gay people. The automaker was right, but it is important to monitor what it will do to avoid splashes in the image due to these bothered consumers”, he opines.
Moreno also points out that the internet reaction was late, as the advertisement has been in circulation for more than five months. For him, all the controversy may have been caused by a video of a customer who said he would return the car because it is a vehicle for gays.
“It is very likely that the initial message was accepted in a good way, the repercussion came after this video went viral. As it is the profile of the Brazilian to make fun of his own misfortune, the subject became a meme”, said Moreno.
“Attacks can characterize crimes”, says lawyer
Lawyer and professor at IBMEC, Marco Antonio Sabino explains that, just as Volkswagen has the right to advertise its products to any public – protected by the principle of free initiative and freedom of advertising creation -, people are free to say that they did not like of propaganda, as long as they do not attack any of those involved.
“The attacks can, eventually, characterize criminal types and crimes. The Public Ministry can act asking for compensation from those responsible. This type of situation is very worrying, because it makes other brands that want to talk to this audience to give up this type of communication out of fear of retaliation. In my understanding, this cannot happen in a plural and democratic society that we want to build, but it seems that we are a little far from being able to build it.”
Volkswagen defends advertising
Asked about the attacks, the automaker said that promoting diversity and inclusion is one of the brand’s strategic pillars. “The brand’s premise is to ensure respectful and inclusive behavior, inside and outside the company, with direct or indirect business partners. Volkswagen launched a Diversity & Inclusion booklet for its entire supply chain and dealership network in Brazil and, continuously, it develops debates with its employees, in all hierarchical spheres.”
The German automaker continues: “We believe that each person, of different races, ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation and age/generation, has unique experiences, which together contribute to strengthen not only the company’s culture, but also the environment in which we live. It is our responsibility to continue learning how we can contribute to the fight against any form of prejudice, as we consider it essential to reconcile differences for the construction of a fair society for all. Regarding interaction with users, offensive and disrespectful comments are duly erased from our pages”.
LGBTQIA+ entities take a stand
Grupo Dignidade, an NGO that fights for citizenship and LGBTI+ rights, of which Diego and Murillo are part, stated that it is providing legal support so that all people who practiced LGBTIphobia against the couple are punished according to the law.
“Although society has changed a lot in recent years, cases like this are still much more common than they seem. There are several complaints of LGBTIphobia that reach Grupo Dignidade every week. In 2019, the STF understood that LGBTIphobia is a species of the crime of racism, serious conduct, whose minimum penalty is 4 years in prison. Thus, it is clear that society no longer tolerates acts that exclude and discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity”, says Mateus Cesar , managing director of Grupo Dignidade.
Mateus also reports that it is quite common for civil police stations not to correctly register LGBTIphobia, treating it as if it were an insult or defamation.
“Which is not nearly enough for those responsible to be punished, because these crimes have a much lower penalty. The result, in many cases, is impunity for those who practice LGBTIphobic acts.” The director still praises Volkswagen’s stance in making the campaign and not going back, even with the criticism.
Another entity that took a stand was the National LGBTI+ Alliance. “The expressive amount of LGBTphobic comments on social networks demonstrate that in addition to the naturalization of discrimination and psychological violence against LGBTI+ people, there is also contempt for the Law. are extremely necessary, as they corroborate with the deconstruction of the culture of prejudice for sexual orientation or gender expression”, he said in a note.
Camila Nishimoto, Director of Communications at the NGO TODXS, says that the market and society are evolving in their receptivity to campaigns that bring LGBTI+ faces and themes, despite the insults.
“Companies that hire more diverse teams profit more. People want to see themselves represented in what they consume. But, unfortunately, LGBTIphobic comments and attacks are still a present aspect, to a greater or lesser extent, in everything that involves our community. we can let this type of reprisal weaken the quest to put increasingly diverse faces and bodies in the spotlight, acting in campaigns for major brands and also occupying the most diverse spaces inside and outside the job market.”
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