A fitness center in Dubai took down a video advertisement that suggested overweight women push their men to become gay after hearing complaints that it was offensive.
The 12-minute video, called “Bent: Getting Our Priority Straight,” reportedly showed the British founder of the Circuit Factory chain of gyms Phil Parkinson acting out a scenario in which his relationship became stale after his girlfriend gained weight.
According to Gay Star News which saw the ad before it was taken down, “Parkinson is seen watching 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger as a gay cowboy couple…”
He was also reportedly seen showing interest in other men’s Facebook accounts.
“Mr Parkinson’s acting partner catches him in precarious situations and discovers phone calls to him from men she does not know, which he attempts to hide. Every scene clearly indicates the man’s attraction to the same sex and disinterest in his female partner,” writes the United Arab Emirates publication The National.
The girlfriend then joins the Circuit Factory gym, gets herself into shape and wins back his affections.
“I’m outraged and disgusted,” Khaled Akbik, 34, a former Circuit Factory customer told The National.
Another woman told The National that she quit the fitness center, accusing it of sexism and of shaming the overweight.
“I don’t agree with the fat-shaming they use in a lot of their marketing materials,” said Annie Meikle.
Comments on the chain’s Facebook page ranged from those who found it offensive to others who thought it was funny. Several expressed the opinion that the gym was being insensitive to the local culture of the United Arab Emirates where homosexuality is a punishable crime.
The Circuit Factory explained its decision to remove the video from its Facebook page and from YouTube, posting this statement on Facebook: “We took the video down because of the press coverage and negative sentiments. This was a major compromise. We weren’t going to remove it. It didn’t feel like our convictions led our hearts there.”
“But, in the end looking upon it as a whole our sole purpose is to deliver weight loss results in people’s lives. If we can improve their lives in some way beyond that it’s a privilege. And, not having this campaign doesn’t detract from that core purpose,” it said.
Before it took down the video, Circuit Factory posted this statement on Facebook: “Freedom is a big part of The Circuit Factory’s culture. We aren’t advocating anything with our video. It’s just us being ridiculous. We don’t take ourselves that seriously. We believe in freedom, and our video is an expression of that.”
This is not the first time the British-owned chain has released a controversial advertisement. It apologized last year after running a photo ad campaign featuring a photo of the train tracks leading to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp to try to motivate clients to lose weight.
The fitness chain later removed that ad which included the phrase “Kiss Your Calories Goodbye” after a torrent of complaints.
(H/T: Al Arabiya)