Latisha J. sent us this Evian commercial in which animated babies roller skate and break dance to Rapper’s Delight.

Latisha points out that it’s a great example of how “white washed” many originally black art forms have become.  There’s a nod to diversity in the commercial, but it is, indeed, overwhelmingly white.

This raises the question: Would it have been better if it had been mostly black infants?  Or would we here at SocImages have called out the commercial for trafficking in stereotypes?

We probably would have called it out.  This isn’t because we hate everything and can’t be pleased, it’s because cultural products are being produced in a racist society that creates a double bind. Because people of color are always seen as representatives of their group, first and foremost, while white people are seen as generic “humans,” every time a person of color is included in an ad, it can be expected to carry a particular meaning for most viewers.  Most of the time, then, people of color are left out so as to avoid importing the racial connotations that most viewers (racist or not) bring.  Alternatively, specific measures can be taken to make them seem as white as possible, therefore combating the importation of racial meaning.  Of course, many cultural products just traffic in stereotypes, including people of color so as to link a product with whatever meaning viewers attribute to the group.  To repeat: because we live in a racist society, including people of color in a non-problematic way is extremely challenging.

I did a whole series of posts on how and why people of color are included in advertising aimed primarily at white people.  You can read them starting here.

Oh, and here’s a few things we like, just for fun: Skittles reminds us that stereotyping is wrong, Pyrex degenders the kitchen, Lego lets girls be kids, the Geico caveman commercials, and the EU sells science careers with sex, I mean, chemistry(sorry, old habit).


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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