The Importance of Queer Representation in Popular Culture
By Olivia Shrager
Recently, Bud Light collaborated with Dylan Mulvaney, a highly regarded transgender actor known for her performance in The Book of Mormon, as part of their marketing campaign. In the sponsorship, Mulvaney showcases a Bud Light beer can with her face on it in celebration of her one year anniversary of girlhood. However, this partnership was met with a barrage of backlash from right-wing individuals who targeted Mulvaney with harassment, misgendering, and demeaning comments. A vocal few, such as celebrity Kid Rock, went as far as to take videos of themselves shooting a pack of Bud Light beer cans while exclaiming,"F— Bud Light. F— Anheuser-Busch. Have a terrific day."
Despite the backlash, the LGBT+ community has come together to support Mulvaney and Bud Light. Fellow Book of Mormon star PJ Adzima went on social media with a supportive jingle.
“Bud Light: The liberal beer, so drink it if you’re cis or if you’re queer, baby!” he sings.
“Baby! Bud Light, so painfully gay, now I’m gonna chug one for the LGBTQIA.”
In spite of the uproar of hateful comments, many individuals, like Adzima, have come together to shed light on the absurdity of the controversy and to show Mulvaney public support.
While Dylan Mulvaney's experience in the Bud Light scandal is disheartening, it is a reminder of the importance of having trans figures, such as Mulvaney, in the mainstream media in the wake of a plethora of anti-trans legislation. These bills, commonly referred to as "Don't Say Gay" bills, are designed to restrict the rights and visibility of transgender and non-binary individuals, perpetuating discrimination and marginalization. For example, one bill in Oklahoma recently passed which criminalizes healthcare professionals who knowingly refer for or provide gender transition procedures to individuals under the age of 26. Such laws not only pose a threat to the physical and mental well-being of transgender youth, but also hinder access to necessary medical care and support.
Similarly, in Arizona, Senate Bill 1001 prohibits employees of schools from using pronouns that differ from a student's biological sex unless explicit permission is granted by the student's parent. This erases the identities of transgender students, denying them the respect and acknowledgment they deserve within educational institutions. These bills, alongside numerous others across the United States, restrict gender-affirming healthcare, misgender individuals, and reinforce harmful stereotypes, creating an environment that fosters discrimination and intolerance.
In the face of these discriminatory bills, the role of queer representation in popular culture becomes even more crucial. Positive portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals in movies, TV shows, music, and literature can challenge stereotypes, educate the public, and foster acceptance and understanding. Struggling young trans teens who are also experiencing transphobia in their personal lives now have Mulvaney as a role model to show them how to overcome discrimination with grace and strength.
Mulvaney’s story also has the power to humanize the LGBTQ+ community, breaking down preconceived notions and fostering empathy among those who may not have direct exposure to transgender individuals.
By witnessing the triumphs, struggles, and complexities of queer icons like Mulvaney, society can develop a deeper understanding of LGBTQ+ struggles in an attempt to better support queer Americans in their struggle against the rise of anti-queer legislation.