35 Ads, Movies That Changed Our Attitudes Against Gays And Lesbians


June 12th, 2015   |   Updated on February 20th, 2024

A commercial created for Anouk Ethnic apparel (retailed on fashion portal Myntra),  featuring two women preparing to meet the parents of one to introduce themselves as a couple(a lesbian couple), has gone viral and may finally change the way mainstream commercials talk about homosexuality in India.

This is not the first time that an Indian ad has tried to change prevalent ossified attitudes. A couple of years back, Hindustan Times commercial took on homophobia in a commercial for the newspaper.

Later, Fastrack came up with a commercial featuring a lesbian encounter as a apart of its quirky series of ‘Move On’ ads.

A growing number of governments around the world are considering whether to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages.  More than a dozen countries currently have national laws allowing gays and lesbians to marry, mostly in Europe and the Americas.

Recently in the month of May, 2015, Ireland just became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by a national vote—rather than through legislation or the courts.

Here is a list of other countries where same-sex marriage is legal nationwide

Legal Marriage

Source: Pew Research Center

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In the backdrop, let’s have a look at 30+ Ads, Movies that changed our ossified attitudes against Gays and Lesbians.

1. Princess Cyd (2017)

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Eager to escape life with her depressive single father, 16-year-old athlete Cyd Loughlin visits her novelist aunt in Chicago over the summer. While there, she falls for a girl in the neighbourhood, even as she and her aunt gently challenge each other in the realms of sex and spirit.



2.  Keep The Lights On (2012)

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In Manhattan, film-maker Erik bonds with closeted lawyer Paul after a fling. As their relationship becomes one fueled by highs, lows, and dysfunctional patterns, Erik struggles to negotiate his own boundaries while being true to himself.


3. Stay Hilton. Go Out (2012)

In 2012, Hotel Chain Hilton created an LGBT-friendly campaign Stay Hilton. Go Out. Its marketing campaign targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender also featured wedding reception for Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.


4. #andproud (2015)

In 2015, Google kickstarted a hashtag campaign — #andproud for fellow LGBT Googlers to socialize. Big names like Conchita Wurst, Kylie Minogue, and Tom Daley took to Twitter with the #andproud tag, announcing their support for the campaign showing off their custom Androidify characters.


5. McDonald’s Come As You Are (2010)

In 2010, McDonald launched a commercial in France with the slogan “Come as You Are”. It featured a teenager sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant gazing at a photo of his boyfriend in a class photo, then phoning to say he ‘misses him’.


6. 1940’s: Jester Wools, “I’ve Robbed The Rainbow.” At The Time, The Word “Gay” Solely Acted As A Substitution For “Happy.”


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7. Homosexuality Wasn’t A Part Of Mainstream Media, So Potentially Homoerotic Scenes Were Published In Entirely Innocent Contexts.



8. 1961: The Inglewood, California Police Department And School District’s “Boys Beware” Ad.

Homosexuality was only referred to in the context of anti-gay public service announcements. This PSA warned, “be careful when you meet a stranger, one never knows when the homosexual is about.” Gay men were said to be sick, and stereotyped with creepy facial hair.


9. Happy Together (1997)

This film is about two Hong Kong men who emigrate to Argentina, after the handover of Hong Kong to China, fearing persecuting from the new authority. Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing arrive in Argentina from Hong Kong and take to the road for a holiday. Something is wrong and their relationship goes adrift.


10. 1995: Guinness, “Men And Women Shouldn’t Live Together.”

Society was certainly evolving around the issues of gay rights, but we still had a long way to go. Guinness made an ad featuring a co-habitating gay couple, via agency Ogilvy & Mather. Even though it only showed a small peck on the cheek, the ad was never aired as a result of an aggressive backlash by anti-gay groups.


11. 1995: Solo Orange Juice.

In Norway, audiences were a bit easier going. This ad for an orange juice company, created by JBW, shows a woman and man in a restaurant making eye-contact from across the room. Oops! The woman is disappointed when the man’s boyfriend shows up.

12. 1997: Johnny Walker, “Marriage.”

Things seemed to be looking up. This ad for Johnny Walker, by Leo Burnett, first appears to be a quiet montage of a man and woman on their wedding day, but turns out to be a father happily taking his daughter to marry her girlfriend.

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13. 2004: Virgin Atlantic.

There were a couple of bumps along the way. While Virgin Atlantic is known as a supporter of the LGBT community, this hilarious ad for Virgin Atlantic, created by BBDO South Africa, seems to have a bit of a homophobic undertone.

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14. 2006: Toyota, “One Thing You Can Count On.”

The positive dialogue continued into 2006 with this ad, created by Saatchi & Saatchi. A father begrudgingly waits to meet his daughter’s date, asking “Is this one like all the others?” Her response is a knowing, “not exactly.” Once he sees the Toyota park in front, he is satisfied enough to walk back inside, at which point the daughter leaps into the car to kiss her new girlfriend.

15. 2010:, “Prop 8.”

By 2010, pro-gay rights ads were common on primetime television and across the internet. Justin Long starred in this cheeky ad, created by Saatchi & Saatchi, to support the overturn of California’s Prop 8, a ballot proposition that made same-sex marriage illegal.

16. 2010: Mcdonald’s, “Come As You Are.”

In the same year, McDonald’s ran this ad in France, in which a teenager struggles to come out to his father. The company declined to run the ad in the U.S. Why? Because the company’s COO, Don Thompson is a Christian, reported CBS News, noting he only allowed it to air in France because homosexuality is a “cultural norm” there.

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17. 2011: Absolut, “Outrageous.” Absolute Is Still At It.

The brand created this ad in celebration of 30 years of the company’s support of the LGBT community. This ad was part of a $4 million dollar campaign, from TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York.


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18. 2012: Chevy Volt, “Mom, Dad, I’m Electric.”

A major supporter of Pride Week, General Motors released this ad in celebration of Motor City Pride weekend, in Detroit.
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19. 2012: Amtrak, “Ride With Pride.” Brands Now See Equal Rights As More Than Just Charitable Moments, And The Gay Community Is Just One More Target Market.

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20. 2012: JC Penney, “Father’s Day.” It’s Not All Smooth Waters.

JC Penney stirred up controversy over this Father’s Day ad featuring two real-life dads and their kids. The anti-gay group One Million Moms boycotted JCPenney after it ran a similar ad featuring a lesbian couple.



21. 2012: Ray Ban, “Never Hide.” While There Are Still Battles To Be Fought, The LGBT Community Is Mostly Represented Positively In Advertising These Days.

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We look back through film history with some of the greatest movies about lesbians.


22. The Killing Of Sister George (1968)


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Childie: Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know.
George: That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!

The Killing of Sister George is one of the greatest and most grotesque of all lesbian crossover films. Life B.G. (before George) held little hope for cinema-loving lesbians. Pre-decriminalisation dramas included 1967’s The Fox, which has the basic premise that all a lesbian needs is a man, and 1963’s The World Ten Times Over, which is possibly the first British lesbian film but was heavily censored before its release.

All hail Beryl Reid, magnetic in her portrayal of George, a loud, aggressive, cigar-chomping dyke who loses her job and her young lover. It has the mother of all lesbian love triangles: butch girl-chasing George; the predatory, sophisticated middle-class dyke (Coral Brown), and Childie, the coquettish neurotic femme (Susannah York). Rated X for its explicit sex scene, the film tanked at the box office but remains an era-defining cult classic. Significantly, some scenes were shot in an actual London lesbian bar, The Gateways Club, giving audiences a rare on-screen glimpse of London lesbian culture.


23. Dyketactics (1974)


Born in Los Angeles but a New Yorker by choice, Barbara Hammer is a whole genre unto herself. Her pioneering 1974 short film Dyketactics, a four-minute, hippie wonder consisting of frolicking naked women in the countryside, broke new ground for its exploration of lesbian identity, desire and aesthetic. Abdellatif Kechiche, director of last year’s sexually sensationalist Blue Is the Warmest Colour, might have done better if he had taken a leaf out of Hammer’s book. Hammer calls the film her ‘lesbian commercial’.

She went on to become one of the brightest and most significant lesbian avant-garde filmmaking voices of the past 40 years, whose work includes over 80 film and video works covering lesbian love and sex, women’s spirituality, radical feminist politics, the figure of the goddess, and lesbian/queer film history. Without Barbara there would be no Born in Flames (1983), no Desert Hearts (1985), no Go Fish (1994). Her influence can also be seen in the new film Concussion, screening at BFI Flare.


24. Another Way (1982)


At time of writing, Ukraine is going through a 21st-century revolution and if the geopolitical land grab ends in victory for Russia, with its anti-gay laws, then the future for Ukraine’s LGBT community will be uncertain.

Another Way is set in another eastern European country dealing with its own revolution: Hungary immediately after the failed 1956 uprising against communism. The film details a courageous and intelligent love story between two pro-democracy journalists. The topic was a double taboo because it was the first Hungarian film to deal with homosexuality as well as a controversial look back at the consequences of the revolution. Director Károly Makk sensitively juxtaposes this tender but doomed love affair with the high hopes and bitter suppression of the Budapest Spring. It’s clear that Makk was not especially interested in homosexual rights in 1950s Hungary; nevertheless his portrayal of lesbianism is neither exploitative nor melodramatic.


25. Paris Was A Woman (1996)

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Oh la la! C’est Paris, c’est magnifique! Well it would have been magic if you happened to be a boho creative woman living on the city’s Left Bank in the early decades of the 20th century. Greta Schiller’s absorbing investigative documentary could have been called Paris Was a Lesbian for the amount of Sapphos living, working and loving together. Writers Collette, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, poets H.D. and Natalie Clifford Barney, booksellers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier… the list goes on and on.

Schiller (Before Stonewall, 1984), together with her long-term collaborator Andrea Weiss, rewrites (her)story with unseen home movies and new research to create a magical film about this most original of women’s artistic communities. Weiss’ British queer film history documentary A Bit of Scarlet (1997) is also worth a look and can be watched on the BFI Player.


26. Bound (1996)


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No lesbian film list is complete without the Wachowski siblings’ dazzling sexy noir/crime caper/slapstick comedy Bound. It was their pre-Matrix breakout film, a titillating Playboy hybrid thriller mashed up into a lesbian feminist love story. The Wachowskis don’t just play with the male gaze, they flip it sunny side up and get feminist writer Susie Bright in as their lesbian ‘sexpert’.

The story concerns a mobster’s girlfriend falling in love with the ex-con dyke next door. Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon positively sizzle as couple on the run, Violet and Corky, giving audiences plenty of girl-on-girl action. Taking inspiration from Billy Wilder and their love of comics, Bound completed a 90s trilogy of (in critic B. Ruby Rich’s phrase) ‘Lethal Lesbians’ films (beginning with Thelma & Louise, 1991, and Basic Instinct, 1992) – a cinematic expression of lesbian feminist desire.



27. Stranger Inside (2001)


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US indie writer/director/educator Cheryl Dunye burst onto the New Queer Cinema scene in 1996 with The Watermelon Woman, an audacious, self-styled ‘Dunyementary’. However, it’s her rarely screened follow-up film, Stranger Inside, which really impresses. Made for HBO and produced by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, it’s set within the US women’s prison system and tells the story of an incarcerated young African-American woman who goes in search of her biological mother.

Based on four years of research into the lives of women inside, the drama is a powerful study of prison life in the 21st century. Far away from the piss and vinegar of Scrubbers (1982) and Prisoner Cell Block H (1979-86), Dunye’s film makes a potent case for how race and class have created a new caste system behind bars.


28. Do I Love You? (2002)

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In 2002, when Lisa Gornick’s debut feature premiered at the BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (now BFI Flare), it was a significant moment because the film was the first British lesbian feature in 10 years. As such, the film and director attracted considerable attention both at home and abroad. Gornick wrote, directed and starred in this breezy, urbane comedy, which she described as “a thesis on love and its labels”.

The life and loves of thirtysomething Marina are explored as she searches for answers to the big questions in her life. Made two years before the internationally successful TV series The L Word (2004-09), Do I Love You? deftly captures the zeitgeist with its investigation of lesbian identity and sexual mores in the 21st century. It’s like a lesbian Annie Hall (1977) or Frances Ha (2012), with Gornick (who recently starred in The Owls) cornering the market as the thinking woman’s favourite dyke.


29. The Kids Are All Right (2010)

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Lesbian cinema finally hits the big ‘O’ time with Lisa Cholodenko’s (High Art, 1998) family-friendly comedy The Kids Are All Right ratcheting up four Oscar nominations in 2011, including best picture. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore tear up the straights-can’t-play-gay rulebook as long-term married couple Nic and Jules, who hit midlife parenting and partnership problems.

The mainstream press went nuts, joyful that they had a homosexual film they could write about without unsettling their more conservative readers – though Cholodenko suffered a backlash from some queer corners for her inclusion of hetero sex (with beefcake Mark Ruffalo), and for her film’s apparent advocacy of traditional family values.


30. Tomboy (2011)

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The French term for tomboy is ‘garçon manqué’, which translates literally as ‘failed boy’. “I don’t need to comment, you can see how bad it is”, said writer/director Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, 2007) on the phrase, preferring to give this honest little film about gender confusion an English title.

Laure/Mikael is 10 years old, her/his family has moved to a new town and we follow her/his adventures over one summer as s/he negotiates the early complexities of selfhood: playing a game of football, finding s/he is attracting the attention of local girls and facing the ultimate test of wearing a bathing suit. In France, the film was received as a family film and went on to be shown in primary and secondary schools as part of classes about cinema.


31. Break My Fall (2011)


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The second British lesbian film to be included on the list, Break My Fall is the story of the painful end of a one-time loving relationship. A previous BAFTA nominee for best short with 1999’s Travelling Light, writer/director Kanchi Wichmann made this feature debut shooting on 16mm on the streets of east London. (Campbell X’s East End-set Stud Life, made a few years later, is also worth a peek)

Influenced by the formalism of early Chantal Akerman films such Je tu il elle (1975), it boasts music from local bands (Wet Dog, Peggy Sue) and the kind of realistic characterisation of people and city that can be found in Bette Gordon’s cinema (eg Variety, 1983). Released in 2012, Break My Fall (together with Weekend and others) was identified as part of a new wave of queer cinema, charting queer experience in all its complexities.


32. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

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After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.


33. Weekend (2011)

29.Weekend (2011)

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After a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what’s expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special.


34. Young Soul Rebels (1991)

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If My Beautiful Laundrette offered a snapshot of 80s Britain, Isaac Julien takes on the late 70s, a time when punk rebelled against the jubilee and right-wing extremism was on the rise. Julien, the director of a number of excellent short films, including Looking for Langston (1989), stated his intention as creating a “black independent cinema which deals with questions of sexuality, gender and national identity”, all of which are explored in Young Soul Rebels. The murder of a gay man triggers an avalanche of trouble for two black pirate radio DJs, one of whom starts a relationship with a white, gay punk.

It’s not quite a British Do the Right Thing (1989), but it’s an energetic and atmospheric piece with strong performances and a marvellous soundtrack. Although it’s his only fiction feature, Julien has continued to make short films and documentaries, including Derek (2008), a moving portrait of Derek Jarman.


35. Brokeback Mountain


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The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the years!The film is based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx and adapted for the screen by the team of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. Set against the sweeping vistas of Wyoming and Texas, the film tells the story of two young men – a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy – who meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys, and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.

Source: BusinessInsider; BFI

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