Coca-Cola Just Made a Powerful Statement About the Gay Community

August 21st 2015

Laura Donovan

Coca-Cola has teamed up with "Milk" screenwriter and LGBT activist Dustin Lance Black to produce a powerful short film about a young boy who realizes his friend is gay.

At nearly eight minutes long, "El SMS" ("The Text") follows a group of young men in Latin America as they navigate through school, social events, and teenage milestones. Ad agency Pereira & O'Dell approached Black to direct three short films for Coca-Cola in Latin America that would encourage young people to show acceptance and love over bullying. "The Text" is the third film in Coca-Cola's "Crossroads" campaign with Pereira & O'Dell.

Black told Adweek in a recent interview that this project was appealing as it's important to him to create art that has a social impact.

"I'm drawn to making films that in some way move the social conversation," Black told Adweek. "I want them to entertain, but for me, I can't really get up in the morning and do all the hard work and keep pushing if I don't feel like in some way it moves the needle."

The video, which has English subtitles, opens with a young man named Rafael smiling at text messages of heart emojis before hiding the phone as his friend Diego approaches. Throughout the film, these two talk about asking girls out, play video games together, and leer at a young woman as they're running along the track. All the while, Felipe, another boy in their social circle, keeps a short distance from them and always looks sad.

When the big group of boys is hanging out one day, Rafael briefly leaves his phone unattended to grab some Cokes from the fridge. His phone dings, and Diego sees Rafael has received several heart emoji texts from Felipe, who is also in the room. The other boys try to crowd around Diego to see the screen, but Diego hides the phone and does not reveal his friend's secret in front of the others. When Rafael returns with the beverages, he realizes Diego has seen his texts, but Diego makes no mention of them out loud. He merely jokes that Rafael has too many photos of his dog on his phone. Relieved, Rafael laughs.

The video concludes with Rafael telling Diego that he can help him court a pretty girl their age, as gay men are often good friends with straight women. The final shot shows Diego walking next to the girl and Felipe and Rafael walking side by side.

During his interview with Adweek, Black said "El SMS" creates a powerful, telling moment for Diego when he learns Rafael is gay. The positive reaction, Black said, shows Diego is a good friend.

"Are you going to go the way of kindness, or are you going to go for the easy joke when someone's having a tough time?" Black said. "If you do something with acceptance and kindness, you can create a true friendship."

In a statement, Black praised Coca-Cola for elevating the LGBT community with this movie.

“‘The Text’ was perhaps the most personal for me to direct," he said. "As an artist, I feel I have a responsibility to share the stories of who LGBT people truly are in order to dispel any atmosphere of fear that might prevent LGBT people from sharing their lives openly. For Coca-Cola to take a pro-diversity, pro-equality stance creates a lot of goodwill in the LGBT community.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the U.S., gave the Coca-Cola Company a 100 on HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a "national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees," according to HRC's website.

"As a national corporate sponsor of HRC, Coca-Cola has generously supported HRC’s work and has continually demonstrated a high level of commitment to equality," HRC senior digital media associate Hayley Miller wrote on Friday. "Commercials and stories like these in the media are powerful tools to inspire acceptance and understanding for LGBTQ youth around the world."

This is not the first time Coca-Cola has shown respect for the LGBT community. At the 2014 Super Bowl, the company released a commercial about two gay dads who roller skate with their daughter. The move reflected the reality that families are diverse and that many parents are gay.

"Including a gay family in this ad is not only a step forward for the advertising industry, but a reflection of the growing majority of Americans who proudly support their LGBT friends, family and neighbors as integral parts of 'America the Beautiful,'" GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. "Coca-Cola has demonstrated to corporate America that being LGBT-inclusive is good business, but as the world turns its attention to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, it's time for sponsors of the Olympics like Coca-Cola to show the whole world how beautiful LGBT families are."