Swedish vodka brand Absolut have released a new television advert that features a transgender woman, and has received a broad range of reactions.
The advert is narrated by a man who has attended a concert to meet an old friend of his, Dave. Instead of meeting Dave, however, he meets Darla, his friend who has now transitioned.
'I turned around and saw Dave. Only it wasn't the Dave I remembered. 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 the DJ. Darla knew somebody and suddenly we're back stage drinking Absolut Sea Breezes.'
The rest of the advert follows the two of them as they enjoy their night together and ends with the two of them talking about Darla's personal life and her transition. At the end the narrator talks about how meeting Darla had changed him. 'She was my friend, the same person, the same heart. She hadn't changed, I had.'
Whilst the advert has received a great deal of criticism from the anti-LGBT+ community it has also had mixed reviews from within the transgender community itself.
Some are criticising the advert for telling the story not from the perspective of a transgender character, but using the idea of a trans character to tell a story of how great the man is because he accepted his friend despite initially not wanting to do so.
Others have pointed out that the man in the advert only seems to want to spend any time with Darla after she is able to get him backstage using her connections, building the idea that he only accepts her because she's able to do things for him.
Ian Johnson of the LGBT+ marketing firm 'Out Now' spoke out about the advert. 'This advert could have been so much better. It had a good initial set up but the writing lets it down through being clumsily predictable from the outset. The really frustrating part here though is that the main point of the narrative ends up as not even being about Darla and her transition - it turns into a story about how impressed the cisgender character feels about himself.
'The Absolut ad is an example where an attempt at natural inclusion has tipped into something way too close to patronising. 10 out of 10 for their inclusion of a trans character but a pretty poor 3 out of 10 overall: for making the 'surprise acceptance' of a trans person the tale ultimately being told in the ad.'
Despite some criticisms many have praised the advert for its trans-inclusion and trying to spread the message that despite what some media and right wing propaganda have made out, transgender people are just regular people.
Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch has said, 'It's refreshing to see an ad which focuses on someone starting to understand trans issues. Adverts necessarily have to have simple story lines, so it's not surprising that some people may feel it's unnecessarily stereotypical. But there are some welcome messages for acceptance and understanding which this ad puts across.'
Whilst the advert seems to have divided a lot of people, there is at least one sentiment that we can all agree on, that despite how you feel the advert comes across, at least it was never made as a joke or to mock the transgender community. Something that so many other advertisements have done in the past.