In our first installment in this series on the representation of lesbians and bisexual women in commercials, we looked at some of the best, worst, and weirdest commercials we could find.
As we delve further into the subject, we continue to see certain trends. One is that alcohol companies and clothiers have some of the most (and sometimes best) ads featuring queer women. Another is that as rare as representations of lesbian and bisexual women in commercials are, the representation of lesbian and bisexual women of color are even more rare. Ads typically feature young, thin, Caucasian lesbians and bisexual women (if they represent us at all). And it is still uncommon to find ads that feature bisexuality without falling into the trap of associating it with promiscuity.
That being said, in this second installment, we’ve found that these ads more favorably represent queer women than our first batch of ads. Sexy, smart and defiant, many of these ads were welcome additions to the small but growing number of commercials that attempt to include us and depict our lives.
We received many duplicate suggestions from a multitude of readers (thanks to all the readers who tipped us off to some great commercials!), which is proof that 1) there aren’t nearly enough commercials to choose from and 2) AfterEllen.com readers know pretty much everything there is to know about queer women in pop culture.
As in the first installment, we’re using a rating system based on the 2003 Miller Lite “Catfight” commercial (in it, the “perfect” beer commercial naturally devolves into a lesbian mud-wrestling and make-out extravaganza). We’ve scored the commercials below on a scale of zero to five mud-wrestling lesbians for their ability to positively represent us and our lives.
Commercial: “Fashion Versus Style” (UK)
Analysis: French designer Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal,” and this 2005 commercial from the UK brought his quote to vivid life by using women to represent “Style” and “Fashion” and then having them square off in a fight to the death. Or, more accurately, a fight to the kiss.
The two opponents are gradually disrobed as they throw, punch, and kick one another across the room. Their choreographed fight is part <emXena: Warrior Princess, part Kill Bill, and part Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, complete with whip-like sound effects for every head turn and come-and-get-it gesture.
The fight gets progressively more violent, culminating in one woman shoving the other’s face into her breasts (how is that a form of punishment?) and the time-honored head-dunking in a toilet, before the women slam into a chain link fence (echoes of Gia) and kiss each other hungrily.
We get it: Style and Fashion are One! That is, until the next head-butt is delivered.
The ad caused a controversy when it originally aired, with some claiming that it promoted violence against women, and others crying foul over its exploitive use of lesbianism. But many queer women took delight in seeing the rare (in the land of commercials) sight of women doing martial arts and making out with each other.
It’s hard to believe that it caused such a fuss only five years ago. Today, it simply looks like an out take from Bitch Slap.
Score: For great choreography, a truly passionate kiss, and for the unironic use of motor boating, this ad gets four out of five mud-wrestling lesbians.
Commercial: “Tinkoff Beer” (Russia)
Analysis: This highly Russian commercial is, upon first viewing, a bit of a puzzle.
Two scantily-clad young women park their convertible and walk together into a clothing store. Along the way, they stretch, toss their hair and caress their flashy little sports car. Are they selling hair care products? Dresses? The convertible? They enter a dressing room and try on lingerie, but are soon swept into a passionate frenzy by all the nylon, lace and operatic music. The camera circles them as they kiss. And kiss. And keep kissing. No, seriously, they kiss for 20 seconds (we counted).
Are the selling lingerie? Lip gloss? At this point, does anyone really care about what they’re selling anymore?
The shot fades and we’re left with the image of an overflowing bottle of Tinkoff beer. Oh, that’s what they’re selling!
And yes, it is a cheap shot to use a phallic bottle bubbling over with a frothy liquid to signify male sexual gratification. But there’s no rule that we have see it that way. Sometimes a bottle of beer is just bottle of beer, and just because queer women might not be the target audience for this advertisement doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. A lot.
Score:Sensual, unflinching display of a prolonged and passionate lesbian kiss? Great. Heavy-handed bottle symbolism and the fact that this scene has absolutely nothing to do with the product being sold? Not so great. We give this ad three out of five mud-wrestling lesbians.