Geico is responsible for the Cavemen advertisements, the Taste Test series, and spots featuring the Geico Gecko. The latest series of advertisements shows people having fun, and proclaims that Geico insurance will make you happier than _____.
The first one we saw proclaimed Geico customers would be happier than a bodybuilder directing traffic. The one below Geico customers will be happier than “Columbus with speedboats.”
The advertisement was posted to Geico’s Facebook page, and commenters are outraged—but only some of them because of Columbus’ genocidal legacy. The majority are reacting to a Fox News story (via TMZ) about R. Lee Erney claiming he was let go by Geico for criticizing President Obama.
Geico's own explanation of the ad from ouTube):
All that really matters is that switching to GEICO could make you happier than Christopher Columbus with speedboats. That's happy.
Here are some comments from the Facebook posting in question:
Anyone who likes this despite columbus is portrayed is a ($%*@($%@5 hole. You may like cheering on a mass murderer...thats because you have no ($@%)@#$852 soul. Justice for you war criminals is coming...so party like its 1999...your day is coming...monsters.
The commercial should have ended with the Native Americans standing on shore with machine guns firing rapidly....The those two losers could have said "Happier than machine gun toting Natives when Columbus showed up!"
I'm a liberal and I am also Native American....Geico is known for being rather idiotic at times, but on what planet is glorifying a man who initiated the genocide of MILLIONS of Native peoples a good business move? Your company perpetuates the ignorant and FALSE idea of this man as a hero. What next? A "funny" commercial about Hitler on World Holocaust Day?
Hi Geico folks, I've had insurance with you for years, but if you keep being dorks it won't be for much longer. Christopher Columbus in a speed boat is not funny and actually offensive. Columbus was a genocidal thug whose real idea of a good time was slaughtering indigenous peoples. Please take this ad down. And BTW, canning an actor because of his politics is really quite un-American. Shame on you.
Recall that Columbus didn't commit genocide himself. He certainly didn't bring smallpox to the Indians--at least not intentionally. But he did enslave Indians and order them mutilated or killed when they didn't obey him. He indeed may have been personally responsible for thousands of Native deaths.
Of course, that applies to George Washington and Andrew Jackson too. And Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt had genocidal or at least anti-Indian philosophies.
And they're everywhere: in monuments, on currency, as place names, etc. We'll never scrub them from America's popular culture despite their crimes against Indians.
An alternative ad
The ad doesn't make Columbus a hero. The way he cackles, he seems a bit mad. But the ad does "normalize" him. By not mentioning his faults, it suggests they don't exist or aren't important.
I dunno. Rather than using this ad unchanged or banning Columbus from ads altogether, I'd suggest a middle approach. Something along the lines of the machine-gun-toting Indians suggested by one commenter.
No violence, of course, but perhaps two Indians on shore could say, "We're happy because we just punched holes in Columbus's ships." Or, "We're happy because we gave Columbus a map with the wrong directions on it." Then the Geico guys could finish with "Geico makes you happier than Indians without Columbus."
Geico would never do that, of course. It would be too controversial. By the same token, though, the present Columbus ad should be controversial too. We shouldn't accept the mainstreaming of Columbus without debate and criticism.
For more on Columbus, see Saving Columbus in Infinity Ring and Hopkins on Conan's Syphilis Skit.