Lesbian Car Ad For Renault Shows Love Is Real, Also Capitalism

Probably should’ve seen that twist coming.

We know the classic story: girl meets girl, girl likes girl. They fall in love, grapple with coming out, grow apart, come out to their parents, reunite ... and also it’s a car ad?

That’s the case with a video from French automobile company Renault making the rounds on Twitter this week.

Without context, it seems like the sort of representative media queer folks like me have been clambering for. The two meet on what appears to be an exchange, with one girl helpfully handing the other a cassette tape labelled “MUSIC” — great flirting technique if you ask me. The video cuts forward to the two as young adults, frolicking in the rain and sharing a kiss inside a rain-soaked car as a soft and dramatic cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall” by British-Ethiopian singer Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne plays.

But by the time the happy couple is cruising down an empty road in a shiny new orange car — adorable daughter of their own in the back — I started to realize this treacly film that made me feel seen and openly weep in a coffee shop was actually a vessel of gasoline-chugging capitalism here to sell me cars.

And true to form, in an M. Night Shyamalan-worthy twist, text promoting the new Renault CLIO car comes up, alongside the message “30 years in the making” — a reference I assume to the car’s development, but also the epic multi-decade romance and also possibly the 30th anniversary of the founding of Stonewall U.K., one of the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organizations.

‘I’m weeping’

Regardless, everyone’s getting emotional over what some are calling the best short film of the year.

I’ll admit, as a queer woman, there’s something undeniable about seeing my lived experience on film — even if it is a car ad. Does this make me want to buy a car? Not really.

Does this ad give me hope that I, too, will one day reunite with my crush, who I sang Wicked show tunes with at art summer camp in the seventh grade, and we’ll drive off into the sunset together? You betcha.

Many people also pointed out that the ad has a better ending for the central couple than most film or television depictions of lesbian relationships. The “bury your gays” trope rose to prominence in 2016, where LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” report noted that 25 queer female characters died in 2016-17. In this year’s report, while GLAAD notes that things have improved, many key queer female characters still die at disporportionate rates onscreen.

And no one dies in the lesbian car ad, which a lot of people are seeing as a win. You know it’s bad for representation in media when that’s your metric.

Of course, many people are still pointing out that no matter how emotional or well-made, it is still a car ad.

An Oscar for ads?

This isn’t the first time an advertiser has tricked people into getting emotional over a well-produced film and then pulled back the curtain to sell them a product. In 2016, Subway aired a similarly epic and well-produced ad in Brazil. People were equally shook when they realized the short film was actually there to sell sandwiches.

Disguising ads as auteur-driven short films isn’t even a 21st century phenomenon. In 1984, director Ridley Scott of ‘Alien’ fame was brought in to direct an ad for a little old company called Apple. What resulted is one of the most famous tv ads of all-time.

In 2012, Johnny Kelly directed an adorable animated ad for Chipotle that preaches sustainable farming and includes a bangin’ Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”

The lesbian car ad isn’t even the first to use an epic queer love story to sell stuff. In 2018, Visit Las Vegas released an equally epic and equally heart-clenching ad featuring a queer female couple.

I know this ad was a success because this one also made me cry, and sort of made me want to go to Vegas, dance under lights, look at fountains and have a shotgun wedding with my yet-to-be-determined future spouse.

A girl can dream.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Renault is a British car company. It is in fact, French.

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