The above clip is an advertisement from India created by the Schmitten Chocolate Company. The video features Priyanka Chopra, a famous Indian actress and vocalist, singing in a Broadway-style performance with the catch-phrase, “Taking my Schmitten, let’s make it a crime.” The ad’s goal is to portray Schmitten chocolate as a luxury, the stealing of which would be a major, crime-worthy offense. This is again highlighted in the still-image advertisement below.
While the advertisement seems light-hearted and well-intentioned, there are several layers of problems relating to gender and sexuality associated with it. At surface level, there is the certain degree of sexism seen in many chocolate ads; the common stereotype used here is that of a woman who is overly protective of her chocolate and will get hysterical if it is taken from her. However, there also exists a deeper-seeded offense. This advertisement presents a problematic depiction of the fabled “tease” or “jailbait” in a culture with a history of victim-blaming and passive attitudes toward rape; however, through the utilization of parody, we can attempt to expose the ad and shift its focus toward the predators that propagate this culture.
The nation of India is one with an unfortunate history of allowing rape culture to persist in many areas of life. Throughout the world, women are view by men as sources of entertainment. In a rape culture environment like the one that exists in India, men are allowed to believe that women’s presence in a space comes for the purpose of serving them, and this power dynamic leads to a belief that men have the right to sexually harass women in their space (Argiero 33). In India specifically, there is a distinct problem of victim blaming-women who have been raped. For example, if a woman accuses a man of sexual violence, some of the first questions she is asked are, “what were you wearing?” or “what were you doing?” These questions put the onus on the victim, implying negligence in the crime committed against her. Ruchira Gupta writes, “The desire to blame women is fed by a cult of masculinity promoted by corporate and political leaders who serve as role models for the rest of society.” This culture is endemic in India and its effects are seen in the above advertisement.
The Schmitten advertisement uses chocolate as a metaphor for sexual activity. Here, the only woman in a room full of men waves here chocolate around in a teasing and highly sexualized manner. Robertson writes, “Whilst men may be the bearers of chocolate, women are positioned as consumers early in the narratives [of chocolate advertising]” (68). Similarly, here, the woman is the owner of the heavily desired chocolate and uses it to tempt the men in the room. This plays into the trope of the female temptress who draws in the men, only to deny them at the last minute. In India, this is exactly the type of victim that is blamed when sexual violence occurs; men feel that if they were led on too heavily, they deserve some sort of sexual activity and use this as a defense against their crime. Thus it is problematic to portray Priyanka Chopra in this way, as it reinforced the rape culture that exists around “teases.”
In order to counter the problems embedded in this advertisement, we have created a parody of the ad that, instead of portraying the woman as a temptress, shows a man engaging in predatory behavior. The man in this image is trying to force his “chocolate” onto a woman that clearly is not interested. It is this type of behavior that needs to be highlighted and fought against if India’s culture around rape is to change, not the behavior of the victims involved. The suggestion of “just give it a try” is held in contrast to the woman who wants to criminalize the taking of her chocolate and highlights the lopsided gender dynamic of this culture and many cultures around the world.
The Schmitten advertisement presents a significant problem in the way women are represented in chocolate advertising and Indian culture, and exacerbates a pervasive and poisonous culture around rape and victim blaming. Through the use of parody, our advertisement attempts to shift the conversation toward the male predators, wherein the true solution to preventing rape lies.
Argiero, Sarah J. et al. “A Cultural Perspective for Understanding How Campus Environments Perpetuate Rape-Supportive Culture.” Journal of the Indiana University Student Personnel Association. (2010): 26-40. Print.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.
Gupta, Ruchira. “Victims Blamed in India’s Rape Culture.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 August 2013. 7 April 2015.