Television adverts and LGBT representation

Imagine the scenario … you are sat on the sofa with your partner, relaxing after a hard days work and watching some television.  A typical evening for most, I would say.  However, there is something about this evening that is different for members of the LGBT community.  When we watch the television we see disproportionately fewer examples of our lifestyles and relationships, not just on programmes but also in television adverts.  Most people would not notice this or, in many cases, see this as an issue.  However, this lack of representation in advertisement can have a negative impact on our ability to feel fully integrated and respected in society.

On the occasions when LGBT relationships are portrayed in television adverts they can often lead to complaints.  The third most complained about advert of 2016 was a Match.com advert in which a woman returns home to her female partner who removes her top and passionately kisses her.  This was first aired in January 2016 and received a total of 810 complaints questioning whether the advert was sexually explicit and inappropriately scheduled.  I am certain that if this advert was a woman returning home to her boyfriend that there would have been very few, if any, complaints.  What is so offensive about a lesbian couple showing affection?  This is something that should be celebrated and examples of same sex couples in everyday situations should be included more often in television adverts.  Fortunately the Advertising Standards Agency did not uphold the complaints.

These complaints aren’t just seen in the UK.  In Australia a mother complained about a Kellogs advert that included a brief kiss between two women stating that she didn’t want the lesbian message shoved in her face and that her seven year old son did not need to see that behaviour.  More recently an advert for Dunlop trainers has sparked huge controversy in Australia as it contains people of different sexual orientations, wearing minimal clothing, kissing.  Christian groups have said this is wrong as Dunlop produces shoes for children; there is outcry because they believe the innocence of children should be protected.

The 2016 Sainsbury’s Christmas advert has been praised for reflecting modern Britain for its inclusion of different types of families, one of those being a lesbian couple with a child.  Thomas Cook’s most recent set of campaigns includes a gay kiss and gay parents.  Lloyds Bank has included a same sex marriage proposal.  Lastly, Lush’s Valentines Day advertising campaign includes both male and female same sex couples sharing baths. These examples are positive steps  to improving the amount of LGBT representation but companies need to be braver and bolder in their portrayal of the variety of relationships that make up modern Britain. All members of the LGBT community wanted to feel included and represented; marketing aimed at us which depicts our lifestyles is one way of this happening.  It is also important that young people who may be questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation see examples of their thoughts and feelings in everyday situations. With rising mental health problems amongst young members of the LGBT community improved visibility of different relationships is one way to help with self acceptance. Finally, it is important for all members of society to regularly see same sex couples and families being portrayed in everyday situations. Everybody in society is a consumer and everybody deserves to feel represented on our television screens.

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