Listen, this viral whiskey ad may be old-ish, at least in terms of the internet, but it’s significant for a few reasons:
- The company that made it apparently has a history of supporting LGBTQ initiatives (hey, support AS!),
- It came out for the holigays of 2022 after a year of devastating anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans legislation in the US and around the world, and
- It made everyone on the Autostraddle team cry when they saw it.
Okay so first, before we get to the analysis, go watch the ad!
It’s also, being a largely wordless advert, up to some interpretation. I feel like it can go one of two ways. For one, there is the idea that the grandpa, aware his grandkid will be arriving, sets out on a quest to ensure that his trans grandchild will be welcome and accepted. In this interpretation, obviously, the grandfather has heard anything from a whisper to something more explicit through the family grapevine about the trans grandchild. So, he sets out on a quest to learn the ways of femme makeup and presentation. When his grandkid arrives for a holiday family gathering, a beautiful warm dinner with a table set with candles and plenty of food, he beckons the grandkid into a bathroom where he helps the grandkid to do their makeup. You might think, then, that this grandfather has been practicing, all this time, after all, not because he is trans himself, but because he wanted to show his grandkid love and acceptance. It is an important moment, in either interpretation, when the patriarch of the family emerges with the grandkid and stands with them (or maybe her?) in front of the family, in full support. In the parents’ eyes, I don’t see understanding for the first time, but relief and love, because they know. They know their kid is trans, but now they know the whole family stands with their kid. Now, everyone can have a beautiful holiday.
In the other interpretation, it is not just an altruistic act, but one of seeking connection. In this version, the grandparent is transfem and is learning to apply makeup not just so she can be a supportive grandparent to her grandkid, but for herself. There are many small choices that support this, from the minute acting decisions where the expressions of the actor show a poignant longing, disappointment at less practiced lipstick application and deep satisfaction at more adept application of eye shadow. Then, there is the final moment, when the grandparent(transparent?) is applying makeup to her grandkid and you realize that there is just a touch of glitter on her eyelids. Perhaps she is not quite ready to shine, but she’ll allow herself a little sparkle while she supports her grandkid.
And that’s important, too, and something that I very much feel as a queer person in my thirties sometimes, that as an older person, maybe you are more tired, more set in your ways, but that doesn’t mean you can’t clear the heck out of a path, and support the heck out of queer and trans youth. Maybe the grandparent wants to take her time exploring her gender identity, but she is ready to support her grandkid who is ready, and the complexity in this representation, if this is the intent, is a really beautiful sentiment.
And, because I paused, because I think I saw the glitter, I am willing to believe that’s the real message, that this is a commercial, of all things, about inter-generational, intra-familial queer and trans connection, in 2022, in a hostile political environment for trans people, just ahead of when family will be coming together for the holidays. It’s made by a company, a commercial entity, but in a world where just anyone might see this ad on TV, I’ll take it.