This week, the Infiniti car company released a shitty new ad that equated changing car brands to coming out to your parents — ugh, fail. Luckily, their horrid ad was matched by a far better one from Absolut Vodka featuring a cis man’s memorable night with his newly transitioned friend, Darla. The ad’s not perfect, but it’s one of the few from a major company that even acknowledges trans existence, and is thus a step in the right direction, even if it is just to hawk booze.
So we’ll get into specifics in a bit. But for now, watch it above and read its script below:
“You could feel the energy: the DJ, the parties, laughing, dancing.
Then I turned around and saw Dave; only it wasn’t the Dave I remember.
He told me his name was Darla now. I tried to make an excuse to get away, then she grabbed my hand.
The next thing I know, we’re running to see this DJ. Darla knew somebody and suddenly we’re backstage drinking Absolut Sea Breezes.
We went to this party and we watched the parade. We took a million pictures and this photo.
We walked and she told me she always felt this way. I just listened and somehow I understood.
Darla knew everybody — she was amazing!
Later, the two of us took a walk to watch the sun come up. She talked about her journey. She was my friend. The same person. The same heart. She hadn’t changed. I had.
Thanks for bringing me back, Darla.
That was my Absolut night.”
While Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and few other trans celebs have helped bring trans people into American homes, trans folks have remained largely absent from ads except as cruel punchlines — IKEA infamously made a series of transphobic and trans-positive ads back in 2013. So it’s nice to see a trans person in an ad that makes a larger plea for acceptance. Darla is the hero and you get the sense that she’s a million times cooler and more open-minded than her friend narrating it.
The problems: the ad centers on the typical cisgender redemption story (how cool and open-minded of him to accept his trans friend, eh?), part of the reason he accepts Darla is because she gets him backstage access and drinks (ie. she helps him access an exclusive and privileged space) and Darla conforms to traditional gender presentation rather than challenging the binary with genderfuck style (we’re not even sure if the actor who plays Darla is actually trans, though one would hope).
But as we said, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. In fact, it reminded us a bit of this 2008 ad from an Argentinian bank showing an old man apologizing for behaving like a dick to his trans neighbor. See? Progress!
Now if only we could get a major mainstream ad from a trans person’s point of view.
Oh, and if you’re interested, the #AbsolutNight campaign also released a lesbian ad with interracial kissing, though lesbian kissing has long been used to as a guaranteed way to grab eyes.