Stephen W. sent in a link to a music video promoting the National Guard.   He saw the video before a screening of Taken in Sioux Falls, SD. At the moment, the National Guard website (warning: noisy) features Kid Rock and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  The opening graphics, set to a snippet of Rock’s Warrior, feature a military helicopter followed by a race car and then a picture of an anonymous African-American National Guard member with the rock star and car star:


A few clicks into the website leads you to this music video:


In the photographs made available, pictures of Kid Rock’s life as a rock star are mixed with pictures of people in the National Guard, and the lines between the two blur:





Some observations on the marketing of military service:

First, the glorification of military service is an American phenomenon.  (See this post which features an American and a Swedish military recruitment commercial back-to-back.  The difference is quite amazing.)  In this video, the glorification is particularly acute when the light-skinned driver of the Hummer manages to avoid hitting the blue-eyed, olive-skinned, dark-haired boy and then comes out with his giant gun to kick the ball back to him, inspiring a look of awe from the child who’s country he is likely (given the politics in the last 8 years) invading.  We’re left, assured, that the U.S. military are all around good folk.

Second, in this case we have military service being marketed with celebrity tie-ins.  The website deliberately blurs the line between being a famous rock star, a celebrated race car driver, and a member of the National Guard.  Similarly, this Air Force recruitment ad blurs the line between various extreme sports and military service:

These links between military service, skateboarding, and being a rock star are disingenuous, to say the least.  And it reminds me of a series of recruitment ads I’ve been seeing lately that highlight the super cool jobs you could end up doing in the Air Force (like being a fighter pilot). I don’t know about you, but both of my family members who joined the military (in their cases, the Army) ended up being bus drivers.

Third, which celebrities are being used to market the National Guard tells us something about who they are trying to recruit.  Clearly, they are reaching out to young, working class, perhaps rural, white men.  This is not part of the National Guard marketing aimed specifically at this group, the entire National Guard website (warning: noisy), at this time, is entirely devoted to this theme. It speaks to who fights American wars?  Studies have shown that, while once military service was required of elites, this changed during Vietnam.  Today military service is overwhelmingly performed by working- and middle-class men.

Finally, the re-framing of the role from “soldier” to “warrior,” one who wages war, is very interesting.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

More fodder for discussion, if you need it:

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

A Cracked article compiled their candidates for the Nine Most Racist Disney Characters. Select stolen clips and liberal quoting below:

American Indians in Peter Pan:

Why do Native Americans ask you “how?” According to the song, it’s because the Native American always thirsts for knowledge. OK, that’s not so bad, we guess. What gives the Native Americans their distinctive coloring? The song says a long time ago, a Native American blushed red when he kissed a girl, and, as science dictates, it’s been part of their race’s genetic make up since. You see, there had to be some kind of event to change their skin from the normal, human color of “white.”

The bad guys in Alladin:

“Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face” is the offending line, which was changed on the DVD to the much less provocative “Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.”

In a city full of Arabic men and women, where the hell does a midwestern-accented, white piece of cornbread like Aladdin come from? Here he is next to the more, um, ethnic looking villain, Jafar.

NEW: Miguel (of El Forastero) sent in a post from El Blog Ausente that compares an image of Goofy, a character generally portrayed as sort of dumb and lazy, to a traditional Sambo-type image:



The post suggests that Goofy is a racial archetype, built on stereotypical African American caricatures. I can’t remember ever seeing anything that suggested this, but that doesn’t mean much, and I certainly don’t put it past Disney to do so. Does anyone know of any other examples of Goofy supposedly being based on African American stereotypes? On the other hand, is it possible to depict a character eating watermelon in an exuberant manner without drawing on those racist images? When I look at the image of Goofy above, I have to say…that’s pretty much what it looks like when my (mostly White) family cuts a watermelon open out on the picnic table in the summer and everybody gets a piece and they all have ridiculous looks on their faces as they dribble juice all down themselves eating big chunks (I say “they” because I’m a weirdo who doesn’t really care for watermelon, so I rarely eat any, and even then only if I can put salt on it). I’m fairly certain that I couldn’t put up a photo of my family eating watermelon like that without it seeming, to many people, to draw on the Sambo-type imagery. It brings up some interesting thoughts about cultural and historical contexts, and how and in what circumstances you can (or can’t) escape them, regardless of your intent.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

I saw this bumper sticker yesterday:


If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier.

It reminded me of when Lisa and I visited the Atomic Testing Museum here in Vegas last year (inspired posts here and here). There was a video about atomic testing in Nevada with a lot of scientists who took part talking about it. Several of them said things to the effect of, “Yeah, ok, so it turns out testing nuclear bombs had some negative effects for people, and we’re sorry about that. But we had to do it, and if we didn’t, you’d be living in the Soviet Union right now!”

I understand that the point of the bumper sticker is that speaking English means we haven’t been taken over by some other country that doesn’t speak English (apparently we don’t have to worry about Britain, Canada, or the many former colonies where at least a large minority speak English or where it is the language used for official government matters) and haven’t been forced to adopt their culture. But I have to say, when I think of things that would worry me if some other country took over the U.S., whether we’d continue to speak English wouldn’t be my top concern.

Ben O. sent in this poster (from Found in Mom’s Basement), which uses images of Native Americans (or First Peoples) to encourage Canadians to contribute to the Canadian Patriotic Fund, which was set up during World War I to support wives and children of enlisted men:

It’s a great example of the white/non-white dichotomy, where whiteness implies morality while darkness/blackness is associated with evil or immorality. In this case, his heart is “white” (i.e., he’s a good, moral being) because he does the right thing by caring for war widows. I guess the morality of his act overpowers the misfortune of his skin tone.

Thanks, Ben O.!

On a side note, I’m off to Oklahoma for the next 12 days. I’ll still be posting–Verizon’s internet access program means I can get a weak signal even at the farm–but I won’t be able to check in on comments as often as usual or update posts with information commenters or readers send in.

You will most likely not notice any difference. Just be aware that when you insult me, it’ll take a little longer before I know about it.


Here are some great World War II-era comic book (graphic novels! Whatever!) covers and/or posters (all found at Superdickery’s Propaganda Extravaganza page, thanks to Krystal-lynn M.). They all combine patriotism, pro-war sentiment, and racist images:

The Black kid on this next cover is named Whitewash:

Thanks, Krystal-lynn!

English First is an organization advocating the adoption of English-only laws in the U.S., which would mean government agencies and officials would not be allowed to conduct any type of business in a language other than English. They also oppose bilingual education and bilingual ballots. Here is a screenshot of their homepage’s banner; perhaps you will note a small irony, coming from an organization concerned about people being unable to use the English language:

There is a very clear anti-immigrant stance, which in some cases bleeds over into a general anti-Latino perspective. For instance, the website has a link to a letter sent to Attorney General Mukasey, expressing concern over Department of Justice statements about plans to crack down on voter intimidation:

Yet under the new DOJ policies as we understand them, anyone who dares complain when they see a busload of illegal aliens pulling up to a polling place could be arrested on the spot by agents of their own government.

What’s interesting here is the idea that you could immediately spot “a busload of illegal aliens.” I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing that to at least some members of the organization, any vehicle with Latinos (or other brown-skinned people) in it might be targeted as full of “illegal aliens.”

The organization also blames Hispanic legislators for the failure of the original financial bailout bill.

One of English First’s projects is No Statehood for Puerto Rico. Technically speaking, the population of Puerto Rico has the right to become a state, should a majority ever vote to do so. All Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and can travel freely between the island and the mainland, with no need for a passport or visa. Here are some images from the homepage:

I think the hand at the bottom of that last image is supposed to be begging for a handout.

All of these images portray Puerto Rico as a money-sucking burden on the rest of the U.S. The website questions Puerto Ricans’ patriotism (because they protest military training at Vieques, unlike the good people of Oklahoma, who do not protest military training at Ft. Sill), links Puerto Rico to terrorism, and argues that Puerto Rico is a “proud, Spanish-speaking nation” and thus wouldn’t want to be a state anyway (leading to questions of why any of this is an issue, since the population would presumably never vote for statehood anyway). I am unclear whether English First advocates total Puerto Rican independence from the U.S., or just keeping it from becoming a state.

English First has a handy list of states that have English-Only laws, as well as which ones have been overturned.

You might also check out Lisa’s recent post on an organization that linked anti-immigration and pro-environment stances.

During WWII, many companies stopped producing the civilian goods that they were best known for. Instead, these companies contributed to the war effort by making products necessary for American soldiers. Scranton Craftspun Curtains, for example, switched from making lace curtains to camouflage covers, mosquito nets and parachutes. By touting their wartime conversions, companies kept their brands in the public’s mind, while achieving patriotic cachet.

Here’s a WWII-era ad for Scranton Craftspun Curtains. Click on the thumbnail to see it larger and read the narrative.

Scranton Craftspun curtains.
Scranton Craftspun curtains. Ad from Better Homes and Gardens, October, 1943.

The copy is written from the point of view of a trench soldier somewhere in Japan:

“Have you ever sat, inches from death, not daring to move a muscle, while Zeros zoomed overhead — looking for you — personally?

“Well — that’s my act out here. And it might be a whole lot worse, ’cause, you see, in between Tojo and me there’s a magic veil that even those dirty little squint-eyes can’t penetrate — a couple of yards of lace net that remind me of —

“Say, isn’t it the darndest thing what a fellow thinks of out here? Lace Curtains! Female stuff!

“Maybe. But, to me, Mom’s lace net curtains always spell home. Whenever it was curtain-washing time, round our house, it was like being caught with your camouflage down!

“And Mom loved her net curtains, too. Never forget her working on Pop for new ones for the living room. She, allowing that hers were five years old and completely out of style … and Pop telling her they were as good as new! That made her boil! She’d claim she’d never buy Scranton Craftspun ones again — they lasted too long, with their tied-in-place weave.

“I don’t guess Mom’s think much of my new net ‘curtains’ — and I’m sure she’d never go for swapping her window screens for my Scranton mosquito netting. But I have a hunch that this year she’ll be humming as she washes those old Scranton jobs — happy she’s helping keep that little extra something between Tojo and me.”
* * *

Right now, the great looms that gave you exquisite Scranton Craftspun* Curtains and Lace Dinner Cloths are weaving weapons of war for the boys out there … camouflage nets and mosquito netting. Skilled workers, who sewed in hems and headings, are building parachutes. For, Scranton’s new line is the front line. So why not hang up a couple of Bonds instead — just between Tojo and you.

You could spend a few hours talking about all the subjects and rhetorical devices brought up by this ad. The phenomenon of advertising without a product to sell is interesting, but you could go beyond that. You could talk about the gendering of war vs. housework, the racist characterization of the Japanese, the appeals to patriotism, the construction of a personalized, in-your-face theater of battle where homefront=front line, etc.

Real Americans are white people and we shouldn’t forget it. 

Fox News Anchor Jane Skinner called a woman on the U.S. Olympic softball team a “great representative” because she was “blonde” and “blue-eyed.”  See it here

Thanks to Caroline H. for the link!