Chinese retail giant Alibaba has drawn widespread praise for airing a gay-themed ad to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
LGBTQ communities are celebrating the subtle, 20-second commercial, Reuters reports, which aired despite China’s government censoring or advocating against representation of LGBTQ people and same-sex couples in media.
The ad, for Alibaba subsidiary Tmall, follows a young man returning home and introducing his male companion “Kelvin” to his mother.
The man’s father looks over suspiciously, as two girls laugh at a nearby table, with one offering the other popcorn to eat — presumably anticipating drama over the relationship being hidden in plain sight.
The ad ends on a humorously awkward silence when Kelvin refers to his partner’s father as “Dad.”
Alibaba's Tmall promo subtly shows gay and lesbian couples celebrating new year with their families. The ad doesn't explicitly mention LGBTQ but it's a rare representation done by a big Chinese company. pic.twitter.com/SxBYR4ekym
— Toni (but what’s your *real* name?) (@tony_zy) January 8, 2020
Per Reuters, the ad’s narrator mentions Tmall’s discounts on dried seeds and nuts, apparently a reference to a Chinese expression for unfolding drama.
Much like the ad itself, which doesn’t outright state the gay relationship at its center, Alibaba’s statement promoted “inclusion” without being overt.
“Chinese New Year is a time for family reunion and inclusion,” the company said, “and the ad is a creative expression to celebrate such an occasion.”
LGBTQ people have been taking to social media to praise the ad, with one account on Weibo, China’s homegrown version of Twitter, writing, “The support of large companies for sexual minorities is one of the important factors for sexual minorities to gain visibility and be seen and recognized by the public. Thank you Tmall!”
Another wrote that the commercial “doesn’t directly support or not support [same-sex couples], but the fact that we can see it is already an amazing step.”
Alibaba is no stranger to supporting the LGBTQ community in China. Its subsidiary Taobao previously paired with gay dating app Blued to launch the “We Do” contest, which in 2017 flew 10 same-sex couples to Los Angeles for an all-expenses-paid weeklong wedding celebration.
The couples married in a group ceremony attended by the mayor of West Hollywood, and Taobao said in a statement at the time that it wanted to “demonstrate our respect toward the aspirations and dreams of same-sex couples.”
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