Calvin Klein is in some hot water after the brand released an ad portraying a queer relationship between two women: Bella Hadid, a woman who has never said she is queer, and Lil Miquela, a robot. Yes, you read that correctly. The two women kiss in the ad, sparking controversy from the LGBTQ+ community. Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela's kiss in Calvin Klein's campaign has got queer people accusing the brand of queer-baiting, and the brand has responded to the backlash. But let's talk about how bizarre this ad is first.
For starters, Lil Miquela is a robot that has 1.5 million followers on Instagram. She was created to imitate the lives of influencers, and clearly, given the fact that she was booked on a Calvin Klein ad, she has been successful. Her Instagram often advocates for LQBTQ+ causes and other social justice groups like Black Lives Matter. But she's never identified herself to be a queer person (read: robot), and neither has Bella Hadid, who is dating The Weeknd.
The ad itself featured Miquela saying, "Life is about opening doors, creating new dreams you never knew could exist," as she walks up to Hadid and they kiss. The ad, according to a statement from Calvin Klein, was supposed to "promote freedom of expression for a wide range of identities." So the ad portrayed a queer relationship between two female-identifying women, but didn't actually include any queer women. Given the fact that his is an ad for a fashion brand, people online have labeled it as queer-baiting.
Queer-baiting is a marketing technique where creators hint at a queer storyline to reel in queer viewers without actually following through with depicting a queer storyline. It can also refer to instances where the people portraying queer storylines do not identify as queer themselves, or when no actual queer person was brought in for the project or got a paycheck for it.
Many feel that's what this ad was doing when it brought in Bella Hadid, a straight cis woman, and Lil Miquela, who is not a real person.
To me, an actual queer person, this looks like classic queer-baiting. Even if unintentional (which I find doubtful), it appears as if Calvin Klein wanted the viewer bump it would get from having an ad where Bella Hadid kisses a girl. And even if Lil Miquela does identify as queer, she is not a real person! You don't get queer points for casting a robot to kiss a woman. Calvin Klein should have cast a queer woman if they really wanted Lil Miquela to have a queer storyline on-screen.
On top of all of this, the ad is honestly just dumb, in my opinion — because the writing is cheesy and it just missed every mark.
Here's what Twitter had to say about it.
Calvin Klein released a statement on May 17 apologizing for the ad, but the brand has not yet taken it down.
“The concept for our latest #MYCALVINS campaign is to promote freedom of expression for a wide range of identities, including a spectrum of gender and sexual identities,” the statement said. "This specific campaign was created to challenge conventional norms and stereotypes in advertising. In this particular video, we explored the blurred lines between reality and imagination."
So, they wanted to challenge stereotypes in advertising by... playing into advertising stereotypes? Cute!
“We understand and acknowledge how featuring someone who identifies as heterosexual in a same-sex kiss could be perceived as queerbaiting," the statement continued. "As a company with a longstanding tradition of advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, it was certainly not our intention to misrepresent the LGBTQ+ community. We sincerely regret any offence we caused.”
Sincere enough apology, but critics feel the right move would be to take down the ad, and then create a new one with actual queer representation. Not Bella Hadid pretending to be queer by kissing a robot.