March Madness and binge-drinking have long made for a dynamic duo in college sports, so it’s hardly surprising that a major beer brand would want to partner with a powerful social media influencer to get people talking about their particular brew. It’s a simple equation that has found success time and again in our TikTok-powered world. But, as John Oliver explained, Bud Light wasn’t banking on the extreme anti-trans backlash that followed their brand partnership with trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney.
On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host seemed truly flabbergasted that anyone could be more offended by Mulvaney’s innocuous promos than they are the taste of Bud Light itself, which Oliver described as “the beer you’d give a child to drink to teach it a lesson” and “a beer that asks the question: Are we allowed to call cat urine beer?’”
“But people on the right absolutely lost their shit over this, because Bud Light partnered with a trans woman,” Oliver explained. “There have been calls for boycotts and this incredibly stupid video from Kid Rock.”
Oliver took the opportunity to dissect Kid Rock’s video as if it were the Zapruder film, hypothesizing about just how many shooters there might have been in order to produce “Child Rock’s” intended result. While Oliver wrote off these stupid stunts as exactly that, he did not shy away from the “nastiness” in which these kinds of responses are rooted.
“It’s part of a general moral panic around trans rights, arriving at the same time as a rash of bills banning gender-affirming care for kids and, in some states, adults as well. And maddeningly, Anheuser-Busch’s response to that ugliness has been to equivocate in the face of it. Its CEO put out a statement that said, ‘We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.’ Which, sure. Though, again, not technically beer so much as it’s fizzy water swished around a dog’s mouth.”
Ultimately, Oliver concluded that “it’s pretty annoying to be both-sides’ing something that when the two sides are: ‘I am trans’ and ‘That makes me so mad, I’m going to shoot $65 worth of nonrefundable beer.’”
Even more baffling, however, might be the ad that the company quickly threw together in an attempt to assuage their pissed-off drinkers with utter unfathomability.
Oliver described the ad as a “huge misfire” for one very specific reason: “When bigots are loudly announcing they don’t like your beer because they are bigots, that is an opportunity to say ‘Then our beer is not for you.’ But if you’re going to cozy up to them with platitudes, stock footage, and frankly, distractingly fuckable horses, why not at least really go for it?”