Bud Light wants to pretend that nothing is happening. On its Twitter account, though, it’s impossible to hide the backlash that the most-sold beer brand in the United States has been trying to control since April 14, when trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney announced her collaboration with the company. In a video, Mulvaney showed a can with an image of her face that Bud Light sent her to celebrate the first anniversary of her gender transition, which she documented on TikTok, bringing her fame on the platform.
Social media users were quick to respond. Most of them mocked the transgender community and said they would no longer buy the beer. But others, like Kid Rock, went further. The singer posted a video in which he is seen shooting dozens of Bud Light beer cans with a semiautomatic weapon. He then looks into the camera and curses Bud Light. Country singer Travis Tritt said he would ban the consumption of the brand on his next tour. Republican congresspeople like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dan Crenshaw have also criticized the company.
Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, responded by doing nothing. The company has not commented on the controversy, and it does not seem like they will. In an official statement, the general manager, Brendan Whitworth, emphasized the beer’s American values and said that it was never their intention to get into “divisive discussions.” The company doubled-down on their patriotism with a new ad for Budweiser beer, another one of their products, which shows a horse running through the United States countryside, while a voice-over talks up the company’s American values.
Sergio García, strategy director at the marketing agency PS21, thinks the Bud Light case is a perfect example of how some companies back social causes, without really believing in them. “The fact that they don’t even refer to the issue later shows that it was something one-off, without commitment. If you’re really taking a stance, when critiqued, you should reinforce your position and say you will defend trans people. By acting like nothing has happened, you piss off everyone and lose credibility,” García says.
The wave of hate messages against Mulvaney is not an isolated phenomenon. Last year saw an offensive policy campaign against the LGBTQ+ community. Conservative sectors have sought to eliminate any trace of the community from advertising, education and sports, arguing that they represent “woke” propaganda. One of the most radical cases is in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis proposed the “Don’t Say Gay” law to prohibit any discussion of gender in school curricula.
Mulvaney, who has 10.8 million followers on TikTok and 1.8 on Instagram, has remained silent. She has not released any statements on her social networks since the Bud Light ad. In the past, she has collaborated with brands such as Nike, which also resulted in her receiving hate messages, insults and threats, but with Bud Light the situation escalated even more. For many consumers of the beer, it was unthinkable to see the image of a trans woman on the can of a quintessentially American beer brand.
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