Christians and transgender activists alike are upset about a new road-safety campaign by the South Australian government featuring a so-called “hairy fairy.”
The ads feature the Hairy Fairy, “a fictional character who helps drivers recognize moments when they may be tempted to speed and encourages the avoidance of situations that could ‘get hairy,’” according to the Motor Accident Commission’s website.
The ad begins with a hirsute, long-haired man sitting on a fallen tree in a misty forest grove, wearing only a tutu and caressing a white rabbit. “Oh, hello, I’m the Hairy Fairy from Speedalot,” he says. The Hair Fairy then magically appears in various drivers’ backseats while instructing viewers on the dangers of speeding.
Critics are outraged. “Apart from the tutu and work boots,” the Hairy Fairy bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus, says one Change.org petition decrying the campaign as offensive.
“This represents a gross misappropriation of a revered religious figure of western civilization, a person of significance to practicing and non-practicing Christians in Australia,” the petition continues.
The ad also drew criticism on the Motor Accident Commission’s Facebook page.
“Imagine if these morons used an image of Mohammed,” one Facebook commenter complained. “If you’re white, though, and follow any other religion, they you’re fair game.”
Another commenter also offered that comparison, writing, “I wonder what outrage would be caused if we chose to dress Muhammad in a pink tutu and plaster him all over our advertising media.”
It’s not just religious people who have been offended by the ad. Other Australians complained that it’s not gender-inclusive or sensitive to the trans community.
On Facebook, one user bemoaned how the ads “denigrate men who display feminine characteristics… using the word ‘fairy,’ which is an old-fashioned slur.”
“Wow, I love how transphobic this is,” another commenter wrote. “I wish there was nothing normal about using a cheap gender gag to make a point, but unfortunately I appear to be wrong.”
Other commenters described it as “the worst campaign ever,” “strange and confusing,” “offensive to my religion,” “disgusting and totally inappropriate,” “fecking stupid” and “a waste of taxpayer money.”
Several people submitted formal complaints about the Hairy Fairy to the Advertising Standards Bureau, the self-regulation system for Australian advertisers.
One complaint said the ad relied “on the trope of a man wearing a skirt as a point of absurdity [and] encourages the audience to laugh at this image and in turn belittles, and encourages discrimination against, gender diverse people, particularly transwomen and trans feminine people.” Another said the ad “normalizes trans-misogynistic discrimination in the community.”
Others thought it was gender-discriminatory “against men by only depicting males as bad drivers.”
So serious were many of the complaints that the Advertising Standards Bureau examined whether the Hairy Fairy ads constituted discrimination.
In a nine-page decision released earlier this month, the Board concluded that the Hairy Fairy “was most likely to be seen as a humorous depiction of a hairy man in an unusual fantasy situation,” concluding that the ad did not discriminate against or vilify anyone based on religion, gender or physical characteristics.