Call up the Academy; forget the Call Me By Your Name sequel and tell the cast of the L Word that the new show is cancelled – the Renault advert has arrived and surprisingly, it’s the queer love story that the world needs.
For those who don’t want to risk sobbing while watching the advert – which celebrates 30 years since the first Renault Clio hit the road – it tells the story of a same-sex relationship taking shape over three decades. A British girl embarks on a foreign exchange trip to France and meets her match in the girl she stays with.
A beautiful relationship blossoms over the years resulting in snogging in cars, frolicking in the sea and exchanging passionate love letters as the pair grow older. After a heartbreaking reaction from the British girl’s father, an emotional wedding and through-the-night drive through the Channel Tunnel, we see the lovers reunite and drive off (in a Clio, obvs) with a daughter of their own.
It’s beautiful, it’s romantic and it’s perfectly queer; but when the two-minute film came to an emotional end and revealed itself to be an advert for the All-New Renault, I was aghast. I’m a lesbian, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that representation of queer relationships is limited and frail; often inaccurate and oversexualised, lacking nuance and understanding. So how did a Renault advert featuring a whiny, melancholy cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall manage to reduce me to tears in seconds?
Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to being misrepresented and enraged by the popular media’s portrayals of queer people that my instinct is to launch into a rainbow capitalism debate – horrified that brands would consider my sexuality fair game to sell irrelevant products. We’re so used to wannabe-woke brands fighting to prove themselves to be inclusive while alienating the community they set out to capture; and it’s exhausting.
Representation is so important, how hard can it be to get it right? Changing your logo to a rainbow flag during Pride month but doing nothing else to support the community: wrong. Using Pride month as a hook to donate money to local LGBTQ+ causes a la Co-Op: right. Having Mr T throw Snickers bars and yelling “run like a real man!”: wrong. Creating a tasteful two-minute advert featuring a loving same-sex relationship without making the product the star of the show: absolutely, 100% right.
While I’m not suggesting that a single car advert (however magnificent) is going to be the trigger for radical social change; I do believe that for every LGBTQ+ love story we see on TV, we’re taking a step in the right direction. Growing up gay, closeted and frightened is isolating; and seeing people like you on TV – even just for two-minutes – is enough to let you know that you’re not alone.
And it’s not just important for us – it’s a stark reminder for everyone else that a world exists outside their own – one with little representation, and without the same love stories that dominate hetero-heavy popular media. It’s imperative that everyone is able to see queer relationships in all their glory.
It’s rare to find a representation so accurate, warm and emotional; one that doesn’t attempt to commodify LGBTQ+ people and profit from our culture, but rather to embrace and champion us in a love story that’s relatable – and that is truly something to be lauded.
Renault has managed to hit the sweet spot in advertising – managing to create a seriously beautiful, emotive and sensitive LGBTQ+ love story that doesn’t focus on product, but equally doesn’t leave it behind. The same-sex relationship in the ad isn’t there to sell cars, but rather to sell societal change and brand heritage with a beautiful subtlety that – unlike other brand’s ‘inclusive’ advertising – doesn’t make me insane with anger.
Renault have shown a beaming example of how sensitivity, respect and romanticism can be used not just to sell cars, but to sell the idea of real and emotive queer relationships to an audience who might not have seen that representation before. Other brands should take note and follow suit, or prepare to be left behind.
Sophie Brown is a freelance journalist.