Is Beauty Always White?

Imagine the first time your heart was broken, the pain and anguish you felt when the love of your life left you. Alone you sat thinking, racking your brain around all the things that could have gone wrong, struggling to find a reason, a reason why he or she left you. You needed a reason because without one you were lost, confused, and hopeless. When out of nowhere a reason pops up and it was not your personality, hair colour, lack of humor, or even your crazy family driving him or her away, but it was the colour of your skin. The pigment forced on you at birth, the pigment that represents your genes and culture, the pigment that determines your self-worth. All that confusion and hopelessness you were feeling before is now replaced by hatred, hatred for the colour of your skin and dreams that you could change it. You need to change it to win him or her back, but what can you do? It’s impossible.  When BAM out pops a magical cream that can change your skin colour, making it lighter and “more attractive”. A cream that can single handedly wash away all of your genes and culture showcased by your skin colour and make a brand new ‘better’ you.

Ridiculous right? Well that is not what the advertising agency of Ponds cream thought when they were creating a commercial (Ponds advertisement). They believed that the fictional scenario I described to you earlier was the perfect way to manipulate and convince viewers that Ponds Cream is desirable. In the ad there is what appears to be a South Asian couple breaking up in an airport, the male is clearly leaving the female and not the other way around.  The ad then goes forward into the future by 3 years when the female from earlier sees her old boyfriend in a magazine with his new girlfriend (who is white). Later in the advertisement the male and female form earlier pass each other on the street, with the males new love on his arm. The South Asian female looks longingly at the couple as they pass. We then see the South Asian female looking at a television screen in a window that is displaying the product, and the tag line is said “new ponds white beauty gives you a radiant pinkish white glow, pale white or pinkish white, ponds, white beauty” (Ponds Commercial). After seeing that ad the South Asian women grabs the necklace that was given to her by her Ex-boyfriend and has a look of determination in her eyes. It is implied that with the knowledge of this new cream, that can help to make her skin whiter she can get he loved one back. The ad ends with “to be continued…” (Ponds Commercial), this is because this commercial is not that only to the story, in fact the company made a whole story using this idea. Without getting into to much detail, the ads all put together make a love story about how the South Asian woman used the Ponds cream to make her skin white and she was able to win her boyfriend back.

Here are all of the ads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgx6xrc0gBs

 

I have many problems with this advertisement, the main one being how openly racist it is. Of course the ad never clearly states that the only way to be beautiful is if you are white, however the implication is there and visible. It is clear when looking at the first commercial and comparing it to the last, the South Asian woman is a lot lighter and almost white when she wins back her old boyfriend. The message given to viewers is that the only way to be beautiful is if you become white and if you do not then you will lose your man and he will go to a woman that is lighter. What kind of message are we sending to society? Especially when children can access televisions so easily. Simple advertisements like these are going to be the cause of our population taking many steps back and becoming racist again. The reason for that is because children can access the media much easier nowadays, now that the Internet is available. The problem with this is that although some adults can see the problems with these ads, children cannot and they are learning from them.

This is evident in the studies done by Anderson Cooper and Bridgit Vanhoult called Black or White colour chart and Black doll vs. White doll. The first study is done by having two identical dolls beside each other the one difference between them is that one is black and one is white. They gather kids of a wide variety of culture and ethnic groups (black, white, Mexican, etc.) and ask them a series of questions.

1)   Which doll is the black doll?

2)   Which doll is the white doll?

3)   Which doll is the pretty doll? Why?

4)   Which doll is the nice doll? Why?

5)   Which doll is the bad doll? Why?

6)   Which doll do you like to play with? Why?

7)   Which doll looks most like you?

 

We as a society would like to believe that the answer for questions 2-6 would be neither they are both the same. However this study showed that that was not the case. The majority of children when asked which doll was bad and ugly would reply that the black doll was and the reason for that was plane and simple “because it’s black” (Black doll vs. White doll). That was even the majority answer when black children were asked about the dolls. I blame the media for this. The media constantly portrays beauty and niceness with white people in books, movies, tv shows, and advertisements, because of this they have put a stigma on races that are not white and that stigma is not good. There was also a shocking percentage of kids who preferred the white doll to the black, “15 out of 21 children chose the white doll over the black” (Vanhoult). This is very alarming because this could be a representation of picking significant others in the future based off of their skin colour.

Some argued that maybe it was just this study that showed this outcome, so CNN and Anderson Cooper came up with another test. This study again was with a mixture of different races and culture but instead of dolls they used a sheet of paper showing the different colours of race, starting at one end with black and ending with white. The questions they asked were:

1)   What skin colour do you want? Why?

2)   What colours do adults not like? Why?

3)   What colour do adults like? Why?

4)   What colour do you look like?

5)   Which is the ugly child?

6)   Which is the smart child?

7)   What is the good child?

8)   What is the bad child?

 

Some of the answers gathered from the study were:

“I just don’t like the way brown looks because brown looks nasty for some reason

She’s ugly because she’s a lot darker

She’s bad because she’s black black

He’s dumb because he has dark brown skin

He’s the mean child because he’s brown” (CNN)

 

The clear racism is not what breaks my heart in this study, what breaks my heart is the look on the children of colours face’s when they are asked at the end which doll or which picture looks most like them. The sadness that shows on their face when they realize that all the stereotypes they just placed upon the doll (being dumb, ugly, not wanted, etc.) are what stereotypes are on themselves.

You can watch the studies here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-CWKCwrbwc

 

This study alone shows the impact advertisements like Ponds cream makes on children in todays society and if we do not put an end to them and try to show children that beauty, intelligence, and worth fullness are not dependent on ones skin colour. Then society will spiral back into what it was like before, when racism was so open and accepted.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Wow, I am also surprised of how openly racist this commercial is. I have a friend from India who talked about how I am very privileged for my lighter skin. And by hearing her stories, it was very disappointing of how many people from other cultures were trying to whitewash themselves to fit into the beauty standards of white society. In India, I heard that it was common to get a surgery that brightens up the skin to be more beautiful. And by hearing this, I thought that the western beauty standard applies everywhere no matter where you go. I believe this is showing how powerful western media is.

    No one is born racist, but it is interesting how even little children are brainwashed with these stereotypes on race and skin color. Even entertainment for children portray a lot of racial stereotypes which could eventually lead to having solid racial stereotypes in the future. And I hope there would be an end to these racial media soon because when these media combines to grow a racist child, it becomes a big problem.

  2. I love the fact that you pointed out the influence that this advertisement will have on children. It’s so true that they are naive and vulnerable, therefore these advertisements will have such a strong impact on them. I also really enjoy the study that you related this advertisement to. Anderson Cooper is a lovely person, and does a great job focusing on major societal issues such as the racism that we teach our children. It’s so interesting that these children were predisposed to racism in our society, as I believe we teach our children racism through advertisement such as these.

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