Representation thin on the ground in Super Bowl 2021 with only five LGBT+ ads – and that’s pushing it

Dan Levy M&Ms

In 2020, there was cause for quite a bit of celebration over what GLAAD summed up as “an unprecedented level of LGBT+ inclusion during Super Bowl LIV on FOX”.

At least nine brands featured either LGBT+ celebrities or themes in Super Bowl 2020, including advert appearances by Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Lil Nas X, Lilly Singh, Katie Sowers, Trace Lysette, Isis King, Jonathan Van Ness, Emily Hampshire, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, plus two former RuPaul’s Drag Race queens, Kim Chi and Miz Cracker, who featured in a Sabra hummus ad.

Unfortunately, this year’s Super Bowl adverts weren’t as LGBT+ inclusive, with only a handful featuring LGBT+ celebrities and two that – well, you’ll soon see, but basically “clutching at straws” pretty much sums up our approach.

This may, in part, be due to the ongoing pandemic. On 2 February 2020, COVID-19 didn’t yet have a name (that happened on 11 February 2020), and the Super Bowl ads were much more light-hearted as a result, and LGBT+ friendly.

This year, many companies chose to air more sombre or heartfelt ads, talking about how their businesses are a “family”, or how America would get through the current situation together: while sharing a beer, for example. Or by relying on gig economy workers to bring you things from the shops. Or by finishing your 9-5 job and then doing another, second job from 5-9 to top up your income.

Oops, it’s all getting a bit dystopian. Let’s head back to the topic of LGBT+ representation instead.

The highlight was, of course, Lil Nas X’s rainbow-coloured, delightfully queer commercial for technology company Logitech, which featured drag queens, rainbows, and almost enough sequins to make up for lack of representation elsewhere in this year’s Super Bowl (but not quite). 

“We defy expectations, perceptions, and misconceptions,” the openly queer artist says. “We defy what logic says we should look like, sound like, be like.” The ad then zips through a range of creators, makers and influencers who are all “defying expectations”.

The advert also features a preview for Lil Nas X’s upcoming single Montero (Call Me by Your Name), which is itself a reference to everyone’s favourite Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet movie.

After that, the next notable ad is a fleeting glimpse of international gay treasure Dan Levy in a M&Ms commercial, that actually managed to be funny: an impressive trick for any commercial.

Mars Wrigley says the spot “features a variety of relatable ‘wow, I really shouldn’t have done that’ scenarios and the people in them choosing to make it better with a bag of M&M’s”, including one woman apologising to another for calling her “Karen”. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a laugh.

The next LGBT+ celebrity to make an appearance is our bisexual queen Cardi B who features in a Wayne’s World-themed Uber Eats advert along with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. And yes it will make you feel a bit old. Mike “Wayne” Myers is now 57, and Dana “Garth” Carvey is 65.

It’s a cheerful hit of nostalgia, with Wayne and Garth encouraging people to support local restaurants. Cardi B shows up as their special celebrity guest and shouts, “Yeah, eat local!”

The other two aren’t really representative of the LGBT+ community, but they’re fun and queer-adjacent so we thought we’d highlight them too.

First up is a Cadillac commercial starring Timothée Call Me by Your Name Chalamet and Winona Ryder, where Chalamet plays the role of Edward’s brother Edgar Scissorhands. Winona Ryder is a magical gift in any scenario and she perfectly reprises her 1990 movie role here (how does she not age? Is she a witch?).

Also – and this is a bit of a reach to say the least – a Hellmann’s ad with LGBT+ ally Amy Schumer that features a hand-drawn Pride flag/rainbow stuck to the fridge. Schumer plays a “Fairy Godmayo”, who can turn leftover food into new meals with the addition of yes, you guessed it, a dollop of Hellmann’s.

Given the fact companies spend approximately twelve billion dollars a second on these ads, the decision to feature a rainbow on the fridge probably isn’t a casual decision, however, if they wanted our pink pounds, maybe choosing an actual LGBT+ celeb to play the Fairy Godmayo would have sent a clearer message.

And finally, we witnessed an all-too-brief cameo from RuPaul in a Paramount Plus ad, who seemed to have been spliced in from previous footage – so we’re not sure it counts. You can read more about it here.