Even with their newest white, color-it-in-yourself holiday cups, Starbucks is still receiving backlash and hearing complaints.
This year’s cup features many of the usual holiday traditions, like a decorated Christmas tree, and two people holding hands. The cups were introduced earlier this month in an online video advertisement that stated “the holidays mean something different to everyone.”
But that approach wasn’t enough to avoid the annual controversy. This year, critics are wondering if Starbucks is using its holiday cups to promote homosexuality over heterosexuality.
The video features multi-cultural customers in Starbucks, including a pair of cartoon women who are shown holding hands. It wasn’t specifically identified as a gay/lesbian relationship, but some people consider it a “nod towards the inclusion of gay and transgender customers,” the New York Times reports.
The advertisement didn’t receive an enormous amount of backlash for that, though. Instead, critics are highlighting the pair of gender-neutral hands holding each other on the side of the cup itself.
The hands gained media attention after Buzzfeed brought the idea to the forefront in a recently published article, claiming the hands to be “totally gay.”
“While people who follow both Starbucks holiday cup news and L.G.B.T. issues celebrated the video, the ordinary Starbucks customer probably didn’t realize the cup might have a gay agenda,” BuzzFeed said.
Fox News then picked up the story, calling the hands “androgynous” and criticizing BuzzFeed, saying they “asserted the hypothesis is fact.”
In an email to The Times, Starbucks said it would let customers decide for themselves what the cup was all about.
“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, adding their own color and illustrations.”
Gould also stressed that each customer’s experience is “intensely personal,” and said the company was “humbled by how passionate customers are about our holiday cups.”