Starbucks has recently begun distributing its holiday cups at stores globally, continuing the tradition of specialized seasonal cups for the past 20 years. Taking great precautions with their design each year, Starbucks aims to create an inclusive product that can spread the holiday spirit for each individual's practices.
Riding off of the 2016 “red cup” controversy that the design wasn’t festive enough, Starbucks is hoping to please their customers with a creative way to celebrate the holiday season, as well as provide some free advertisements through various social media posts.
In a video released on YouTube by Starbucks announcing their 2017 holiday cup the words, “the holidays mean something different to everyone” are displayed. However, the company's broad-brush approach did little to deter critics from claiming Starbucks is using their cups to promote homosexuality.
In the online video ad there are two women seen holding hands, yet their relationship is unknown. Interpretation has led LGBTQ groups to celebrate lesbian inclusion, while certain conservative groups believe Starbucks is promoting a “gay agenda.”
Following the release of the design, many users took to social media to voice both their support and outrage. Some tweets praised Starbucks while Fox News reports others called for a boycott saying, “This Year's Starbucks Holiday Campaign Features a Lesbian Couple,” followed by the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks.
According to the New York Times, “This year’s hand-drawn cup features scenes of celebrating with loved ones — whoever they may be,” said Sanja Gould, a company spokeswoman. “We intentionally designed the cup so our customers can interpret it in their own way.”
The holiday cup art selected by Starbucks is festive and left to personal interpretation like any piece of artwork. Two androgynous hands can be perceived as a couple, friendship or even a paternal relationship. There is no reason to be offended or celebrate when the artist is leaving portrayal up to the consumer.
One major issue regarding opinionated journalism is that it allows news outlets like Buzzfeed to release an article claiming that the two women in the Starbucks ad video are “a same-sex couple holding hands,” when it has yet to be confirmed by the company.
Reaction to the design has been exaggerated by both parties voicing their opinions, with LGBTQ groups jumping to claim their own interpretation as fact and a victory, neglecting the inclusivity that Starbucks aimed to provide. On the other hand, conservatives took the ambiguity as an attack on their beliefs.
Turning opinion into fact is what leads to the yearly Starbucks debate, which I would predict has become an increasingly effective profit campaign. Controversy sells more cups, putting more money into the global company. Capital has no affiliation.
The holiday season should be about commonality and love. It should be a time where coffee drinkers alike can put aside their differences to enjoy overpriced peppermint beverages. And if you have a real problem with the cup, Dunkin Donuts would love your business.