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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Why Do Smiling Black Faces Make White Folks Feel So Good?

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Very Left Reverend astutely observed that the Coke and Frito Lay ads during the Super Bowl were likely aimed less at African Americans themselves than they were at do-gooder white people with a collective guilty conscience. NPH thinks Doug Rushkoff's key questions are instructive here: 1) how does this ad make me feel? And 2) who wants me to feel this way?

In other words, what's my reaction and who stands to benefit from it.

In this case, NPH has to admit that the Coke and Frito Lay ads made him feel warm on the inside. "Yes," he thought, "I believe lifting up the Black Experience in America is important too." So who benefits from that swell of misplaced, surrogate racial pride? Coke and Frito Lay of course. Because NPH is now associating those brands with these good feelings about himself--NPH is racially sensitive; NPH empathizes with black people; NPH believes we can all get along; NPH is, obviously, not a racist.

But it's an illusion. The ad is lying. It's telling NPH things about himself that are not totally true; it's pumping up his sense of self-worth while simultaneously ringing a bell that's shaped like a coke bottle and smells like Cool Ranch Doritos.

But NPH can think racist thoughts; given the choice between a documentary on the Black Experience and The West Wing, he'll take the West Wing (no, Dule Hill doesn't make up for it); NPH doesn't really empathize with people who don't look like him and who aren't from places like the place he's from.

The ads are lies. They're lying about the companies who paid from them, telling us that those companies care deeply about something they most certainly would abandon if not for the prospect of profit. But, worst, they're lying about the consumer, the YOU watching the ad. They're telling you things about yourself that, in your most honest moments, you simply know are not true. You might wish they were true, but they're not and it pains you that they're not. So when a soda or chip company can make you believe for a moment that they are, well then that brand becomes the salve to your guilty conscience. So you'll reach for it next time you're in the store.

Rule one of media literacy: know thyself.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:56 PM


Solid my friend. Very well analyzed. Its not just your standard manipulation to make you eat more it's truly a manipulation that could have deeper social impacts.
commented by Blogger Ryan, 4:27 PM  

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