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The Worst Cases of ‘Rainbow Capitalism’ in Pride Month 2022

Make it Rain(bow)!

Burger King

Another Pride month, another month of companies pretending to support LGBTQIA+ rights.

In a trend that has now been dubbed “Rainbow Capitalism,” hundreds of corporations, from entertainment companies to airlines and even the U.S. Marines, will slap some rainbows on their merch and give 2% of their sales to the Trevor Project and call it another year of progress. This, of course, undercuts a lot of the real progress made by grassroots organizers and activists, made even worse by the fact that these companies appropriate LGBTQIA+ Pride rhetoric in order to make money. They don’t actually care about helping queer youth feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin; they only care about squeezing every cent possible out of gay people, and a lot of them, either directly or through their richest executives, support politicians that fight against LGBTQIA+ rights.

Some past examples of this include AmericanAirlines and AT&T both having Pride banners on Twitter while giving money to Mitch McConnel, despite him actively blocking the Equality Act that would protect LGBTQIA+ people, and millions more to other anti-gay politicians. The Pharmaceutical company Gilead may sponsor NYC’s Pride parade, but they do so with money they took from people who desperately need Truvada, their HIV-prevention medication, which can cost hundreds of dollars per pill.

And June 2022 was no different.

This month didn’t get off to a great start with Jill Biden announcing a Nancy Reagan stamp. Nancy and her husband were, of course, massive homophobes whose homophobia actively aggravated the AIDS crisis, and then, when their inaction led to straight people getting sick, they put the blame on gay and bisexual people.

From there, Burger King Austria also did a truly baffling PR stunt where they advertised burgers with two tops and two bottom—which is not how that works. At all. (I personally prefer the chopstick metaphor for queer couples.)

Disney Pride month Instagram post, showcasing GLEE, Love Victor, Proud Family Louder and Prouder, Marvel's Jessica Jones, Better Nate than Ever, Pixar Sparkshort, Out.

Disney+’s lackluster pride collection also highlighted how little the company is actually doing in terms of representation, especially considering they denied The Owl House another season for featuring a bisexual main character, only to now advertise it in the LGBTQ collection. Netflix similarly tried pretending like their platform isn’t filled with anti-LGBTQ content, special emphasis on the transphobia, like the recent Ricky Gervais ‘comedy’ special and Dave Chapelle’s special that Netflix collaborators openly protested with donations and even outright leaving the service.

Black demonstrators march in the streets during a Pride rally

Police at Pride is always going to feel a little gross to me, considering Stonewall was a riot protesting the police harassment of LGBTQ folk, but the fact that some San Francisco police felt that Pride discriminated against them was particularly laughable. In a similar poorly planned fashion, the U.S. Marines put out a tweet that featured a helmet adorned with rainbow bullets, I guess because they’re proud of all the racist, xenophobic wars for oil?

Perhaps the most cringe of all was Donald Trump Jr.’s attempt at “gay merch”: turning the LGBTQ acronym into “Let’s Get Joe Biden To Quit.” I’m not going to pretend that Biden is amazing, but at least he isn’t actively dismantling protections for LGBTQIA+ people like Donald Trump did.

There’s also been an unprecedented amount of backsliding, with bills such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and with Ohio passing a law subjecting female student athletes to mandatory genital checks to prove they’re cisgender, which is an attack on women as much as trans people. (Hey, remember when they said that LGBT people wanted to look at kids’ genitals? I think they were speaking for themselves.)

Blackbeard gazes adoringly at Stede Bonnet on 'Our Flag Means Death' after they kiss
(HBO Max)

That’s not to say it was all bad: Our Flag Means Death is a wonderful show that puts the queerness back into piracy and First Kill is the lesbian vampire vs. vampire-hunter romance that I have been waiting for. Some communities got to hold their first pride events since 2019 this year, and many of these parades were as joyful and colorful as ever:

And despite governments doing their best to take us back to the turn of the twentieth century, queer communities are standing strong and standing together. It won’t be easy (it never has been), but we’ll take care of each other. When corporations bleed you dry and governments try to deny your rights, the queer community will take care of its own because that’s what true activism is: caring for each other.

For more info on Rainbow Capitalism, take a look at these videos below.

(featured image: Burger King)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.