Masculinity, Homophobia, and Racism in Advertising

Nike's 2008 Hyperdunk
Historical Context
"That Ain't Right"
"Say Hello"
"Punks Jump Up"
Further Information
Sexism and Racism in Advertising Homepage

The phrase “Punks Jump Up” depicted in this advertisement from Nike’s Hyperdunk campaign is borrowed from a 1992 rap song by Brand Nubian called “Punks Jump Up (To Get Beat Down).” Before looking further into Nike's ad, it is important to read through the illustratively hateful lyrics of the song or listen to an audio file of the song, which is presented below:
Many of the lyrics in this song are overtly and strongly homophobic and anti-gay, very much in line with the seemingly homophobic implications seen in the Nike Hyperdunk print ads. Examples of these lyrics from “Punks Jump Up” include statements such as:

Though I can freak, fly, flow, fuck up a faggot
Don't understand their ways, I ain't down with gays.

Such blunt homophobia leads to the question of intent on the part of Wieden+Kennedy’s integration of a hate-filled song into this ad. Brand Nubian’s song also specifically references Nike in a homoerotic context:

I always do the fuckin', if I have to do the buckin'
I leave my Nikes stuck in your rectum, 'til you learn
Brand Nubian, yo, you gotta respect 'em.

These lyrics imply that the speaker is always in the dominant position, as is the dunker in Nike’s print ad, and that he is willing sodomize his opponent with a Nike shoe if his masculinity is threatened with disrespect. The rapper’s seemingly clear homophobia is conflated with his willingness to engage in homosexual behavior with his opponent as a manner of demanding respect. This is a similar message to what is being depicted in this ad image: the dunker, wearing Nike shoes, is asserting his dominance by dunking over his opponent and forcing his phallocentric masculinity (male genitalia) in the dunkee’s face in a rape-like and unwelcome manner. This scenario creates a homoerotic image of a dominant and an unwillingly submissive individual similar to the situation described in Brand Nubian’s song. Veena Das (1945 -     ) states in her analysis of gendered violence at Abu Ghraib that, “The theme of humiliating the ‘enemy’ through effeminizing men…has been recorded for many colonial contexts” (Das 2003:289). While Das specifically references colonial contexts, this kind of behavior can be seen in American society as well. The basketball frame of this ad pits the two ‘players’ against one another as “enemies,” and the dunker is effeminizing his opponent by placing him in the position of the receiver of a male sexual act, a position traditionally seen as belonging to women. This similar placement of the “enemy” man in the “female” sexual role is seen in the song “Punks Jump Up”:

Then you're gonna taste blood in your mouth
It's gonna flood south to the ground
An' you're gonna know I don't fuck around
So if you think you had two soft new jacks
We're gonna have to off you with a few cracks.

To the jaw an' you won't pop that shit no more
Explainin' to your friends why you're layin' on the floor
Did you want some more? I didn't think so
Just got whipped, like a faggot in the clink.

Here the speaker threatens his enemy with violence and beats him down, then equates him to a man who is not only effeminized by society for being homosexual, but also effeminizes him as the receiver of forceful anal penetration by a dominant male. The effeminizing, violent imagery in Brand Nubian’s song is highly reminiscent of Nike’s ad image in the rape-like homosexual contact that is being forced upon the enemy/opponent of the dominant dunking male. This image is one of few in Nike’s Hyperdunk campaign that shows the face of a “player,” though the face of the dunkee shown here is visible likely due to the relevant facial cue that accentuates his victimization and failure to represent dominant masculinity. His face is contorted as though he about to cry, a level of emotionality that represents the antithesis of masculinity—as does having another man’s genitals in one’s face. It can be seen by his body language that he is attempting to shield or protect himself from forced sexual contact by the dunker. It is important to note that both the dunker and dunkee’s hands are in the dunker’s genital area, further insinuating a relationship of force and reactive resistance to the dunker’s dominant masculinity. This, too, relates back to the relationship of dominant victor and submissive victim voiced in Brand Nubian’s song, in which unwanted homosexual contact is forced upon an individual who is not in a victorious power position. This ad evokes imagery of homophobia and rape veiled in the context of a purportedly innocent game of basketball in its focus upon force of and attempted self-protection from a sexualized action between men.

Nike's 2008 Hyperdunk // Historical Context // "That Ain't Right" // "Say Hello"
"Punks Jump Up" // Further Information // Sexism and Racism in Advertising Homepage