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The passion of Dylan Mulvaney

The American right has managed to get Dylan Mulvaney—“the face of Bud Light”—off the corporation’s advertisements. Mulvaney is a very camp classic transsexual—really, a transvestite almost; he’s not akin to many drag acts, where the drag queen bears little relation to how an actual woman looks (with twigs in their hair, as I saw once—more like a gorgon than a woman).

This is a success because it’s always positive to damage your opponent’s icons. Politics is about thymos in the end—not material status; so it’s about who is a hero and who has status markers. That’s why the left pulls down statues of “dead old white men” and pairs white women with black men in ads—it’s to punish the nation’s core, that which has been considered high-status for many centuries. It feels like an attack because it is—it damages your reproductive potential, if you’re a white man, so it’s an existential threat.

The status that comes with being from “the country that landed on the moon” or “the country of Newton and Darwin” is conferred on you indirectly—and women like that status, it’s why they want to have a child with an American or an Englishman and not a Thai or a Turk (people go on and on about how many countries Britain has invaded because it shows Englishmen are real killers, big-time killers—and that gets women wet).

The problem for the right is that the boycott is a leftist measure—it was invented in Ireland, in its modern iteration, in the 19th century to help tenants avoid rent payments (it’s named after a “Captain Boycott”—upon whom the first boycott was enacted). There’s an asymmetry in this deployment that favours the left, because when the right boycotts the left can interpret that as “oppression”—and they can turn that chaotic energy into fuel for further political action.

So, as regards Mulvaney, this is the heteronormative white supremacist system at its most “hateful”—hateful populist commentators like Matt Walsh have riled up the most smelly reactionary elements in the country (pew).

In other words, in a few years trans “spokespeople” will appear in almost all corporate advertisements, at least in part, and the time when the “transphobes banned Dylan” will be interpreted as a seminal moment in the struggle against oppression, just like the Stonewall riots—a time when everyone rallied round and overcame vicious and hateful discrimination.

It doesn’t work the other way. The right can’t use the energy from a leftist boycott because, in general, they hold the fort—they don’t want to pull down, if they’re conservatives they’re satisfied with the situation. It’s not like the energy can fuel “a new assault” with righteous indignation.

The right creates value, the left parasites it—hence the right can never utilise boycotts and leftist tactics in an effective manner (partly, rightists just don’t understand what it means to be “an activist”—a “socially concerned person”, they just think people should be left alone to get on with it; so they rarely get into boycotts, anyway). If the left boycotts the right, it just seems as socially disruptive behaviour to tut-tut at—it’s not fuel for further action.

It was an odd campaign in a way because Bud Light is a pure progressive brand anyway, not like Bud. It’s a diet brand—so I presume it’s aimed at women, like Diet Coke. How many men think, “I should watch my weight when I drink beer, I’ll select a diet brand.”? None—unless they’re gay (okay—Trump drinks Diet Coke, some people like the taste; but you see my point).

So, in a sense, Dylan was an appropriate choice if your target market is women and fags—and that’s the target market for Bud Light, no wonder it was marketed in a progressive way (women love to feel they’re inclusive—gays love gay things, perhaps).

So this is just an apparent victory—in the long run, it provides more fuel for the left to work with. Because, basically, a bona fide just-graduated graduate of theatre school has been battered down for being camp by some big-name media bullies—and that just makes us feel very upset about how cruel the system is to trans people…


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