modern/primitive


MissCegenation (see her take over at Reciprocal Crap Exchange), Miguel E. (of El Forastero), Breck C. (also of Reciprocal Crap Exchange), Rachel N., Laura M.D., and Z. (of It’s the Thought that Counts) all sent in links to Burger King’s “Whopper Virgins” viral video campaign (we’ve never had so many people send in the same thing; clearly it touched a nerve):

There are several interesting things going on here. One is the exoticization of the “whopper virgins.” The taste tests were conducted in Thailand, Romania, and Greenland. We’re clearly supposed to find it charmingly cute that they’re unfamiliar with hamburgers. They don’t even know how to eat them! We get to see people taking their “first bite of a hamburger,” and wonder at their unfamiliarity with how to pick one up and eat it. This short video about the Thailand taste tests illustrates this with the dramatic voiceover about people who have “never even seen a burger. Who don’t even have a word for burger.”

There’s also a certain level of ethnocentrism here; note the comment that these are people who “really live outside of things.” That all depends on what you mean by “things,” which here seems to be defined by exposure to TV and hamburgers. The implicit understanding, of course, is that these are people who live in a backward, “traditional” culture, which is fascinating to outsiders but, ultimately, very bizarre. However, I am sure that if asked these people would feel they live “inside of” many things, just not the things considered important to this marketing team.

You might also use this to talk about the pervasiveness of advertising. As the video makes clear, they went to Thailand, Romania, and Greenland in hopes of finding people who hadn’t been exposed to Burger King or McDonald’s advertising, since it would be “impossible” to find such people in the U.S.

I also think the documentary element to the video is fascinating. I’m assuming the teams did travel to these areas, and the video claims they are all “real people,” not actors (who are, apparently, imaginary). But I have a suspicion that some elements were staged. Of course the taste-tests were staged, but I notice that almost everyone in the videos is wearing “traditional” clothing. I might be wrong, but it doesn’t strike me as the type of clothing people would wear every day–they seem like pretty fancy clothes that you’d wear for special occasions, but maybe I’m wrong. If anybody knows more about how people in these areas usually dress, let me know. Of course, it’s entirely possible that people dressed up in their fancier clothes entirely on their own because they wanted to look nice when being filmed. But I wonder if they were encouraged to dress in clothing that would make them seem more exotic, rather than showing up in a t-shirt (which is, by now, fairly universal, though I’m certain there are still groups who have not adopted t-shirts).

The second half of the video, where the Burger Team goes to villages in each country and makes them Whoppers, is also interesting in the way it portrays the team as philanthropists giving these communities a unique cultural experience. I mean, I guess they are, and I don’t want to fall into the trap of romanticizing “traditional” groups and implying that they should be shielded from “modern” innovations because it would ruin their culture. And it doesn’t seem like the marketing team is really trying to build brand loyalty, since it’s unlikely they’re going to be opening stores in any of these areas (although they do make sure to wrap the burgers in Burger King wrappers). It does, on the other hand, make the video seem more like a documentary and less obviously like a commercial, which adds to its effectiveness as a viral ad. I dunno. Maybe this is just an example of a corporation doing something nice, and I can’t get over my general distrust of marketers.

Another interesting angle you might bring up in discussion is the spread of fast-food culture and standardized, relatively cheap production processes in general, often referred to as “McDonaldization.” There’s also an entire book on the subject of McDonald’s in Asia, called Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia (edited by James L. Watson). I sometimes assign the chapter “McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture” in my intro classes to talk about cultural change; it’s fascinating how McDonald’s is to some degree undermining parental authority by appealing directly to children and empowering them to demand their favorite meals.

Laura sent us a link to a story about criticism of the campaign, found here.

And just an aside here: What’s the difference between a “village” and a “small town”? The word village seems to bring up certain assumptions about both quaintness and backwardness (and cultural isolation). I grew up in a town of slightly less than 300 people. Nobody ever called it a village. Is it a village if you don’t have paved roads, and a small town if you do? I’m just askin’.

Thanks to everybody who sent the video in!

Miguel E. sent us a link to a story about Natural High, a Japanese company that reportedly makes “extreme” pornography.   The producer, Sakkun, felt bad that many children in Africa live in poverty and so he sent a porn star to Kenya to have sex with African men (on film, of course).  The company gave a Kenyan aid organization one million yen (around $10, 800 U.S.) and 1,000 more (currently about $10.77 U.S.) is donated for every DVD sold (story here).  Images and discussion after the jump:

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Recently I saw this wood sign for sale in a catalog (available here, if you really want one):

Looking around online I found this t-shirt here, which combines the “My Indian name is” element with a twist on “kicks like a girl”:

I have seen things like this before, and they always irritate me (and I blame the movie “Dances with Wolves” for the whole “Indian names always follow the pattern ‘Present-Tense Singular Verb + With + Noun'” idea). There’s an element of othering here–the idea that American Indian names are funny or weird. Part of what I think is considered funny is that the names are presumably tied to actual activities or things (for example, Mankiller or Redbird). Of course, many European surnames originated the same way (for instance, “Smith” was a surname often used to indicate the person was a blacksmith, silversmith, etc.), but they now hold the status of “normal” surnames that are unremarkable (although Smith has become somewhat remarkable as a symbol of White non-ethnic normality, such that it is often used in movies and TV shows as an alias by spies and others wishing to avoid attention).

That website led me to this one, where there were lots of “Native American” t-shirts. As far as I can tell, it’s not a Native-owned company, it’s just a bunch of shirts with Native people or themes on them. Some, like these, associate American Indians with animals:

Whereas the t-shirts with men on them tend to show them in battle or hunting, those with women generally have romanticized, sometimes vaguely sexualized images. I noticed several have a common element: the upturned face, often with closed eyes, as well as stereotypically “Caucasian” features, except with darker skin and hair. This one is called “Purity”:

You might use these in a discussion of representations of Native Americans, particularly how they continue to be worn as symbols by other groups. The things associated with American Indians–wildlife (particularly wolves), nature, and the warrior tradition–tend to romanticize their connection to the natural environment and even portray them as part of nature themselves, able to communicate with the other “wild things.”

It’s a weird double bind: on the one hand, presumably American Indians are more “noble” than other groups–surely they wouldn’t have driven wolves, bald eagles, and bison to the verge of extinction, given their close connection to nature. But at the same time, they are depicted as relics of the past, brave fighters from the glory days. American Indians who drive cars and wear t-shirts and blue jeans (and have last names like Smith and Thomas) don’t have a place in our romanticized images of Native groups.

NEW! D. Cho sent in three more t-shirts that draw on Native American icons or images. Here is Spirit Happy Fox:

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Chief Many Feathers:

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How the West Was Fun:

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Tourism ad for Australia:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQGMuxJ0vCc[/youtube]

Found here.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Even though I can’t read the text, I thought this ad was worth putting up.  I think I get the gist of it just fine.

Via Vintage Ads.

Vintage Ads put up another example of an ad, this one from 1931, using the idea of the “savage.”  In this one, her “impossible” behavior is compared to an Electrolux refridgerator.

 NEW!  Vintage Ads offered us another on this theme.  The text reads: “make like a medicine man in Voodoo Shorts.”  Don’t miss the spear.

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In this ad for Union Carbide is an excellent example of the dichotomization of “tradition” and “modernity” and the conflation of “modernity” with the West.  Text:

Science helps build a new India.

Oxen working the fields . . . the eternal river Ganges . . . jeweled elephants on parade.  Today these symbols of ancient India exist side by side with a new sight–modern industry.  India has developed bold new plans to build its economy and bring the promise of a bright future to its more than 400,000,000 poeple.  But India needs the technical knowledge of the western world.  For example, working with Indian engineers and technicians, Union Carbide recently made available its vast scientific resources to help build a major chemicals and plastics plant near Bombay.  Throughout the free world, Union Carbide has been actively engaged in building plants for the manufacture of chemicals, plastics, carbons, gases, and metals.  The people of Union Carbide welcome the opportunity to use their knowledge and sills in partnership with the citizens of so many great countries.

UPDATE:  In the comments, Village Idiot mentioned the imagery which I, ironically, lost sight of in favor of the text.  The great white hand (of God?) pouring what looks like blood out of a scientific beaker onto a scene of dark figures!  Wow!

Found at Vintage Ads thanks to Ben O.

Ghanimah A. sent us these images for Cordaid, an “international development organisation” that specializes in “emergency aid and structural poverty eradication.”  We would love to know what you think.

The image below is from the latest episode of Britain’s Next Top Model (image found here).  I would comment, except I just recently wrote almost exactly what I would write for this post here.  You might also want to look here and here and here and also here for historical context.

Dude, we are so not making this stuff up.

Thanks to an anonymous tipster in our comments!  Don’t forget you can always email us tips at socimages@thesocietypages.org.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.