Images Demeaning to Men Of No Color
A good example of PC’s hypocrisy is evident throughout the world of Advertising. In any ad featuring an assemblage of business people, whether print or video, the mix is certain to include both genders and at least one person each of Asian and African American extraction. If the group exceeds six, you can count on someone suggesting Hispanic origins as well. Such a mix is factually accurate and representative of society. It also reflects a Politically Correct image of diversity in the workplace--unless, of course, the protagonists are to be portrayed in a negative light. Then the group will, as a matter of certainty, be comprised exclusively of white males. A couple years ago, there was a public service anti-smoking ad directed at young smokers that portrayed “big tobacco” as a police line-up of impeccably pinstriped, white shirted, power tied, middle aged white men. No women, no Blacks, no Asians, no evident Hispanics. Was this an aberration, or may we suspect that Political Correctness is not consistently and equally applied? Let us look further.
Washington Mutual, prior to its meltdown, had an excellent, highly memorable campaign featuring a corral of two dozen “traditional” bankers, similarly dressed in black pinstripe suits, white shirts, and power ties. The spokesman for WaMu was a pleasant young Black male in the traditional open collared blue shirt that had become WaMu’s uniform. The bankers were all moronic, bumbling, greedy, foolish, old and middle-aged men--all white, hardly reflective of the politically correct image of diversity among an executive group.
In the course of an unrelated conversation with a WaMu executive from their corporate office in Seattle, I mentioned this ad campaign and its obvious departure from the standard PC composition of an executive team that has ruled Madison Avenue since the seventies. Her response was, “We thought it was kind of humorous because it fits the stereotype image of the stodgy old banker.” I had to agree with her, but it’s a blatantly obvious example of the hypocrisy in the application of politically correct standards.
Let’s imagine how “kind of humorous” we might find a mobile security equipment commercial that featured the stereotype image of the carjacker with a corral of two dozen young Black males dressed in baggy crack pants, oversized athletic jerseys, knit caps, sideways trucker hats, hoodies, and untied sneakers. We’ll never know how “kind of humorous” it might be because we’ll never see it. Political Correctness is alive and well, so long as the target is not a white guy.
The facts are that white men don’t command exclusivity in the world of stupid, traditional bankers any more than African American men command exclusivity in the practice of car jacking. But it is also a fact that whenever a criminal, moron, buffoon, or villain is portrayed in TV advertising, it WILL be a white male.
Brinks Home Security has a series of TV spots, very effective in their execution, that play upon the fears of law-abiding homeowners, particularly women. If you watch mainstream cable TV, you’ve probably seen the ads. There’s the young couple in bed, their first night in their new home. There’s the woman at the kitchen sink shortly after her husband leaves for work. As he drives away, he nods a friendly hello to the hooded jogger who stooped to tie his shoe in front of the home, then runs up the front walk and kicks in the front door. Then there’s the young woman getting ready for a date, in her bathrobe, sorting through the closet, deciding what to wear. There’s the single mom, who thinks the rattling at the front door is her teenage daughter coming home, until her daughter appears at the top of the stairs, at which point, the hooded intruder bursts through the front door. There’s the teenage girl left home alone, who, after seeing her parents to the door, hears a few moments later the rattle of the doorknob and assumes her folks had forgotten something. Then there’s the turbo version, where TWO villains are scoping out a young professional on a treadmill through the glass patio door of her upscale home. In every case, the surly intruder gains entry by splintering the woodwork, which immediately triggers the alarm klaxon. The perp exchanges a dark, panicked stare with the terrified female, does an abrupt about-face, and scurries off into the night as the phone rings. It’s the Brinks Security guy, ever vigilant, inquiring as to the well being of his subscriber and promising to “send help right away.” A highly predictable scenario, clichéd in every aspect but one. It is patently inaccurate and misrepresentative of reality. Seven of all seven burglars in these commercials are white men. This is no less ludicrous a departure from the truth than if the perps had all been characterized as Asian women. A recent Department of Justice report on the demographics of felony defendants in large urban counties found that black males accounted for seventy-one percent of all felons charged with robbery. Truth has taken its departure because of Political Correctness and fear of intimidation. Let’s imagine if even only two or three of the seven perps had been African American. My guess is that whiners and crybabies, probably lined up behind The Reverends Jesse and Al, would have called for a boycott and created enough drama to sink the whole campaign if not the company. Bernard Goldberg says it well. Everybody is terrified of being labeled racist, regardless of how overwhelmingly inaccurate the label may be. So we have companies and organizations and even journalists who are afraid to simply tell the truth.
The purpose of advertising is to draw attention to your product, create brand awareness, and achieve memorability among the target audience. Just don’t try to attract attention by representing any group, accurately or otherwise, with any common stereotype—unless, of course, the group is white and male.
The story repeats itself for the mugger of the fur-clad diva in the PETA spot, the bank robber in the eTrade spot, all six drunk drivers in the public service spots with the cars, beer to the window sills, sloshing up to a DUI checkpoint: all white males. Look at the historical proliferation of “stupid husband” commercials. It’s become its own genre. Cheerios recently fielded its latest.
Empowered wife: "What else does the box say?"
Browbeaten husband: "The box says shut up, Steve."
Has anybody ever seen a “stupid wife” commercial?
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