Earlier this week I wrote an article explaining what Rainbow Capitalism is and why it’s problematic. In that article, I went fairly in-depth to what Rainbow Capitalism means, why we see it, and why it’s pretty exploitative to the queer community. On the very surface level, Rainbow Capitalism is the act of huge corporations appropriating queer liberation and gay culture and selling it back to the communities that founded the culture in the first place. Places like Walmart, Amazon, and Target will slap a rainbow on pretty much anything, sell it back to the gay community, and profit immensely from it.
In this article, I also talked about how buying pride merch is not the end of the world, as places that often sell pride merch are also very convenient shopping spots regarding both location and price. I indulge in rainbow capitalism, and so do many other queer people who just want a cute pride outfit that doesn’t break the bank, the lesson here is to be as thoughtful of a consumer as you can and that’s really it.
As a consumer who likes to be thoughtful, I also like to criticize and roast what these big corporations are trying to get me to spend my hard-earned money on. I mentioned in my last article that not every line of pride merch hits the mark—in fact, most of them don’t—so to show what I’m talking about, I decided to look into five different corporations and their pride lines and rank them from wouldn’t be caught dead into Absolute perfection. Enjoy!
***Disclaimer: my opinion on fashion and self-expression means nothing. This pride month, wear what you like and enjoy yourself! The only way to do Pride wrong is to be a homophobe. Be proud and wear what you feel good in regardless of what a mean bisexual on the internet has to say***
Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead in: Amazon
This one was difficult because from what I’ve seen Amazon hasn’t released a specific line for pride, but they do have an extensive list of pride items if you just Google search “Amazon Pride”. When I clicked the link I was immediately punched in the face by really cheap-looking surface level pride gear, and a lot of rainbow jewelry that is meant to look expensive but would definitely turn your skin green—which I guess is a part of the rainbow so maybe that would be a happy accident?
There was a lot of tacky nonsense like this rainbow fedora, a necklace pendant that looks like a razor blade (which seems super distasteful), and some rainbow clothing that looks like there was absolutely no effort put into it at all.
Amazon’s Pride collection is all tacky and made with no taste at all, but the reason that I put it at the very bottom is that I couldn’t even get through two pages of merchandise without seeing merch that is counter-intuitive to pride and queer liberation or simply homophobic! While looking through regular pride merch, I came across pride shirts and other apparels like this one with a pride flag mixed with the united states flag, even though historically the united states government has been very anti-gay, as well as military apparel (also a very historically anti-gay association). More egregiously, I found a “Straight Pride” flag on the third page of my search, and if you click on that link it suggests several pro-police and anti-LGBT merchandise.
Amazon is already a garbage company that exploits the labor of its workers and sells merch with questionable ideals. I didn’t really see a single non-tacky Amazon pride item, the best I could find were items that were just okay, but on top of that, how easy it is to get from pride merch to pro-homophobia and pro-police brutality made Amazon the worst on my list with the rating I Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead in This.
Meh, It’s Not the Worst: Walmart
Walmart was honestly pleasantly surprised because I expected it to be just as bad as Amazon, but it was definitely much better. Is it the best pride line I’ve ever seen? Obviously not, but there were some cute items, and it seems far more intentional than Amazon.
It looks like Walmart took the time to market properly for pride with a banner of Walmart associates (or models meant to look like associates) with the words “All People. All Love. All Pride.” and the iconic Walmart star in pride colors. I know this is a grab for money and I’m not allowing myself to be enchanted, but after looking at Amazon, Walmart looks great.
There were definitely some crappy items within the first few pages, like this shirt that has tacky font and is really hard to read from afar because of its black background, or this flag dress that’s cute in theory but mostly looks like it would trap in all your sweat and bake you like a casserole from the inside out. They also had a lot of American-flag Pride-flag crossover merch I think is somewhat distasteful, but I guess is more of a matter of opinion.
But, unlike Amazon, I can actually say there are some cute items as well, like this tasteful little rainbow pom-pom throw blanket by Drew Barrymore, and very reasonably priced pride flags for almost every letter of LGBT+. Honorable mention to this super cute rainbow garland because I’m a sucker for home decor.
Walmart’s biggest downfall is the lack of selection (which is where Amazon leads, of course). They trick you by putting over ten pages of merchandise but after the second page; you realize that they’re just putting anything colorful into their pride section, which is totally sneaky of them! Their real pride selection could probably fit in about two, or two-and-a-half pages.
Walmart’s selection is probably fifty-fifty regarding nice vs. tacky pride merch, which honestly is pretty impressive from such a huge company whose main demographic is just middle-aged women just trying to feed their kids something cheap and easy to make. Because of this, Walmart pride merch definitely has “mom’s first time at pride to support her child” energy. It’s not my first choice, but it’s not the worst so I give it the Meh, It’s Not the Worst rating (which is hard to do because I worked at Walmart when I was 17 and it was the worst 3 months of my life).
True Middle Ground: Target
Target in my mind is like classy Walmart, so I obviously expected their pride line to be a bit better, and it was. I think that Target’s pride collection should be the bare minimum of pride merchandise. If you’re going to exploit an entire community of people and their culture for money, then it’s best you at least put a little effort into it.
All jokes aside, I really don’t mind Target’s pride collection for the most part. It’s definitely a little dorky and a little chewy, but it’s better than Walmart and a hell of a lot better than Amazon.
Like Walmart, Target has specific branded pages for their pride merch, but they go a lot further with their imagery and marketing with several banners, LGBT+ imagery, and small spaces for brief LGBT+ history. We also see Target has a place to share Instagram images under the hashtag TakePride which, beyond being a great advertisement for themselves, also puts real LGBT+ faces on their page.
Target is celebrating ten years of collaboration with LGBT+ organization GLSEN and is also partnering with Daniel Quasar (the creator of the progressive pride flag). On top of everything else, all of Target’s pride merch is modeled by BIPOC and LGBT+ people. Although Target is doing great with all the bells and whistles, I put them above Walmart specifically because of their collaboration with actual LGBTQIA+ organizations and activists, which makes their brand of activism a little bit more authentic.
Of course, there are some tacky pieces like this “Proud 365” jersey that has a good message but looks like it’s made of some of the stickiest and most uncomfortable material, this awful skirt that makes the under-layer darken the colors of the rainbow flag or this RuPaul shirt that doesn’t really belong at pride considering RuPaul’s transphobic history. I also wrote in my article about Rainbow Capitalism about how Target printed black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson on a t-shirt, and that feels super yucky to me considering how serious and essential of a figure she was for queer liberation. I don’t think Marsha P. Johnson’s face should be used for profit from queer people.
But what did I like from their collection? Good question. They had some awesome pieces, from apparel to home decor. I love these little rainbow strap jean overalls, they have bandanas and socks for many pride flags (more so than Walmart); they had the sweetest little accessories for pets, pride welcome mats for your home, and even a rainbow swirls ice cream scented candle!
I’m genuinely pretty satisfied with Target’s Pride collection, and that worries me a bit. I think Target is doing what should be considered the bare minimum for pride collections from big companies, and they shouldn’t be celebrated for it, but when your competition has a straight-pride flag in their collection, it’s not hard to be better. Target’s pride stuff is mostly tasteful, inexpensive, and accessible, and they partner with real LGBT+ people and organizations, but I place them as the middle of the road because this should be the unspoken standard for pride collections, not anything revolutionary.
Good job Target, I see you doing your due diligence and I appreciate that, but there’s nothing crazy special here, which is why I rate Target’s Pride collection True Middle Ground.
I’ll admit I do have a bit of a special place in my heart for Disney; nothing crazy but I have a lot of lovely family memories at Disney world as a kid, and I enjoy the odd Disney Princess movie. I’m a little biased, but when I say that I love the Disney Pride collection, it comes from a place of genuine appreciation for how Disney created it, marketed it, and collaborated with several LGBT+ organizations.
Like Target, Disney used proper Pride imagery and marketing and made a very specific effort to have its pride line stand on its own instead of just compiling all of their already-rainbow things. They used queer couples for their pages and included children in the selling to show that pride is for everyone. Proceeds from this collection and throughout the month of June will also be donated to several LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups across the world (see the full list here), and because of the charity and advocacy within several organizations involved, I’m putting Disney ahead of Target. I commend Disney for being unapologetic in supporting the LGBTQ+ community, as we know Disney has been fairly conservative in the past and still has quite a conservative fan base.
They had some pieces that weren’t exactly to my taste, but they weren’t bad either, like this rainbow Pixar shirt, or this faux-leather fanny pack, but for the most part, I thought the collection was really cute and that I would totally wear most of it. I love that they have Mickey Mouse pride pins, including the intersectional flag, the rainbow Mickey is super cute, and I would totally drink out of this rainbow Mickey Mug!
I think Disney’s stuff is super cute, inclusive of different ages and sizes, and they’ve definitely put their money where their mouth is by donating throughout June. A bit of a downside is that Disney merch (as always) is a bit pricey and not accessible to everyone. Am I going to pay American dollars and shipping and duties to get a beautiful mug? No. But I have to say, I love what Disney is doing and I hope they keep it up, that’s why I’m giving them the Enchanted rating!
Perfection: The Teletubbies
Okay, the Teletubbies pride collection is basically the whole reason I wrote this article, I just want to talk about it! If you’re not familiar, Teletubbies was a show about four colorful creatures who lived on a hillside and ate toast all day, and their pet was a vacuum cleaner…also the sun was a baby. It was a colorful kids show for toddlers and I absolutely loved it as a kid. My first ever strung-together sentence was one of the Teletubbies catchphrases, and the tubbies hold a very special place in my heart. Well, apparently the Teletubbies decided they needed more adoration and came through with the best Pride collection of 2021—or maybe of all time.
The homepage of this pride collection has a drawing of each of the Teletubbies in very dramatic and stylish sunglasses, and the tagline is “Big Hugs, Big Love” (which totally makes me want to cry). The description for the collection talks about loving and embracing oneself, and like Disney, a portion of the proceeds go to GLAAD, and LGBTQ+ organizations.
The reason I’m rating the Teletubbies collection higher than the Disney collection is two-fold. Firstly, there isn’t one item in this collection that I don’t think is amazing; the design is beautiful. The clothing is just nostalgic enough while still being super trendy. Secondly, the prices are pretty reasonable for Pride merch. I think the collection is versatile enough to use most of the items all year round, which also makes the pieces less niche to one part of the year or one event.
While I liked about 75% of the Disney merchandise, every piece in the Teletubbies collection was great, and where I’d shy from Disney prices, the Teletubbies prices seem appropriate for the quality. Look at this shirt! Look at these Shorts! Look at this COW PRINT BUCKET HAT! You can’t tell me this isn’t absolutely amazing. This is why I’m rating this collection Perfection!
There you have it, some of my most bitchy pride merch opinions that absolutely no one asked for! Do you agree with me? What are your favorite Pride looks? No matter how you celebrate pride this year, I hope you’re wearing something that makes you feel beautiful and I hope you’re with some people who you love!