Should a jewelry business be excused for gay erasure in order to promote gay love?
A new campaign from jewelry and ring company Cartier for its Trinity ring is in controversy over the portrayal of gay couples. According to the Guardian, the minute-long video, which celebrates the “bond of love,” shows several couples enjoying moments of bliss and intimacy. In the ad, which was released a few weeks before a romantic Chinese holiday, a straight couple is seen dancing on a rooftop, two women play musical instruments before walking down a street while holding hands, and two men ride bicycles before embracing while staring off into the horizon. The video itself, which was promoted to Cartier’s Chinese market, seems progressive as it includes same-sex couples. But that’s not the end of this campaign or story.
Along with the video came print and digital sides of the marketing campaign, and this is where the problem begins. According to the Deccan Chronicle, Cartier included images of the campaign in its online store on Alibaba’s Tmall platform, a popular store that’s somewhat like Amazon. In those images, Cartier included a caption of the gay male couple stating, “father and son, bound by love, enjoying life’s journey.” A second caption then said, “Father and son are like brothers.” After those ads were published, Chinese citizens called Cartier out on Weibo, a Chinese equivalent to Twitter, for the inconsistent messaging and gay erasure.
“If they’re father and son, why are they buying matching rings?” one user asked.
“They look three years apart in age at most. Also, I’ve never heard of fathers and sons wearing matching rings,” said another on Weibo.
“So unnecessary!” wrote another.
But was Cartier’s “blunder” a strategic move? For several years now, China has blocked or banned gay content on its digital spaces. Could Cartier have created the ad and then rebranded the couple as a way to get around Chinese censors? That’s what Yanzi Peng, the director of the China Rainbow media awards, told CNN.
“Some may believe [Cartier] is just trying to make some ‘pink dollars,’ but I’m inclined to be more positive in thinking that they are supporting gay rights in a way … by raising our visibility through this kind of ads,” said Peng before noting, “Of course supporting gay rights will also bring these companies economic benefits — it is a win-win scenario. Businesses should be more courageous and take another step forward,” he added.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Cartier said the depicted stories were “inspired by love.”
“Each tells the story of romantic, friendship, or family love … As such, one of the stories features the unique bond between a father and his son, enjoying a joyful and playful bike ride together, symbolizing the journey of life when there will be moments of parting ways.”