Alibaba, one of China’s biggest tech companies, created a commercial for Chinese New Year featuring a gay couple. The Chinese LGBTQ community applauded the commercial as a rare instance of media representation.
In the 23-second commercial for Alibaba’s online retail website Tmall, a man brings his male friend Kelvin home to his parents for Chinese New Year. The man introduces the friend, and then the dad looks at them suspiciously while two girls laugh from the table. It’s clear that everyone knows the two men are a couple. At the end of the ad, Kelvin addresses the father as “Dad,” implying that he is soon to be a son-in-law.
While the commercial doesn’t explicitly mention gayness or queerness, it is definitely a subtle nod to the LGBTQ community.
Alibaba has a history of supporting the LGBTQ community in China. The company explained the commercial in a statement: “Chinese New Year is a time for family reunion and inclusion, and the ad is a creative expression to celebrate such an occasion.”
On Weibo (a Chinese website similar to Twitter), users praised the ad for being inclusive while also being subtle. In a country that has often censored same-sex representation in the media, even this low-key inclusion is a major step.
“Tmall is taking a smart stance by avoiding saying directly that it’s supportive [of gay couples] or not,” one user wrote on Weibo. “But it’s already a great step forward.”
Homosexuality is not illegal in China. Still, LGBTQ people face discrimination throughout the country. Chinese censors often ban so-called “abnormal sexual behaviors” from TV and online shows, CNN reports.
Things are slowly beginning to change, however. Chinese censors have recently become less strict about censoring queer content. In December, a minor lesbian kiss scene in the latest “Star Wars” film made it through Chinese censors.
Also, while marriage equality is far from a reality, the government is finally willing to address the issue; the National People’s Congress publicly acknowledged proposals to legalize same-sex marriage last month. Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage in 2019.
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
— Tony Lin 林東尼 (@tony_zy) January 8, 2020