Activism, Pop Culture, Televison

Pride and Prejudice… and the Peaky Blinders? The DeSantis Campaign’s Latest Controversy

Ron DeSantis ad

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern PJ Cunningham. Find him on Instagram at @peachycunningham. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

TW: Mentions of politicians using homophobic dog whistles and reporting focused on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and media.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is no stranger to controversy. As both a Governor and a presidential candidate, his policies, rhetoric and social media presence are among the highest profile and often most intentionally polarizing in American politics. On June 30, his campaign team retweeted a promotional video that did nothing to refute that divisive reputation.

It is the norm for political campaigns, particularly those in large-scale races like presidential elections, to appeal to median voters, as they tend to be less extreme on partisan issues and therefore considered potential tossups that could put a certain party or candidate into a more winnable position. In recent years however, many candidates, particularly those on the right such as former President Donald Trump and Gov. DeSantis, now engage in campaigning aimed at bolstering and reinforcing support from those already deeply invested in their policy goals and political personas, no matter how extreme. Some of the many examples of this include Trump denying the 2020 presidential election results despite nearly all 50 states and nearly 60 lawsuits proving the contrary and DeSantis’s policy of ending COVID-19 management policies despite expert virologists and the rest of the nation urging continuation of preventative measures. The latest controversy for DeSantis shows how this ‘base-first’ campaigning approach looks in the age of social media campaigning, as well as how it can and will backfire.

On June 30, the campaign Twitter for DeSantis re-tweeted a video made by a conservative fan account that essentially served as an ad highlighting and celebrating the Florida Governor’s infamously hostile approach towards LGBTQ+ individuals in contrast to a speech made by Trump in which he appeared to promote his administration’s achievements in protecting LGBTQ+ Americans. While this may sound like run-of-the mill intra-party GOP primary beef, this video is anything but normal. When one gets into its details, one can see how this Ron DeSantis ad represents something larger, scarier and most profoundly, weirder, than what we have seen before in U.S. politics.

The video, which appears to be removed from Twitter, is linked below.

Both liberals and, more notably some conservatives, were quick to criticize the video, accusing it of being homophobic and divisive. Even when one removes any potential anti-DeSantis bias, it is hard to call the video anything but homophobic. From its sarcastic mentioning of Pride Month (which it was posted on the last day of) to its montage of newspaper and broadcast media clips apparently showcasing Florida’s controversial anti-LGBTQ+ policies, the ad is little more than a blatant affront to the notion of LGBTQ+ freedoms and expression. Even in an age where the existence of LGBTQ+ people is still somehow a political talking point, Ron Desantis’s ad was incredibly extreme.

I found it personally disgusting. I am not alone in this view, at my side I have the… PEAKY BLINDERS?!

Peaky Blinders Shelby GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In what is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this entire story, though certainly not its most important, the detractors of this ad received some star power from across the pond. The ad featured multiple pop culture figures that colloquially represent strength, masculinity and, well, quite frankly chauvinistic toxicity to the online generation. This lineup of unsavory, though iconic, characters include American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), The Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort (Leo DeCaprio) and gangster Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) of hit series The Peaky Blinders. While all these characters are meant to be either satirical or contemplative takes on sin, crime, villainy, greed and other universally condemned behaviors, they are all quite popular and sometimes idolized either ironically or by those who fail to understand their narrative purpose. Characters like this aren’t meant to be good, so putting them in a political ad can only send one of two messages, either the DeSantis campaign team has an elementary-level of media literacy or more likely, they intended to offend, troll and send a message to their opposition that they mean serious business. Either of these alternatives present a terrifying approach for a presidential candidate, even in the post-Trump era where anything goes.

With this scary prospect in mind, it was incredibly refreshing to see not only broad political condemnation of this ill-conceived and prejudiced ad, but celebrity condemnation as well. Cillian Murphy and the Blinders cast showed they aren’t only willing to stake out territory and pick fights on TV, as the show made an official statement condemning the ad.

While DeSantis and his team already characterized the ad as “fair game,” influential voices across the board are sending a powerful and necessary message that I can only hope receives more airtime and plaudits. By condemning this Ron DeSantis ad, detractors, though they may not know it, are putting up a very important social guard rail. Essentially, by rightfully fighting back against rhetoric and political content like this, we are saying that even in the age of social media and troll-driven campaigning, human decency and tolerance should and still do matter.

This is larger than any ad, any candidate, or any nation. This is about respecting humanity and marginalized peoples’ right to exist and live freely. Therefore, whether its our next door neighbor or a Ron DeSantis ad, it is imperative that we show we have the power as media consumers and more importantly, as voters.

Glow Up Make-Up GIF by BBC Three - Find & Share on GIPHY

By order of the Peaky Blinders!

The Ron DeSantis ad is being talked about everywhere. What do you think about it? Let us know below!

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