Media Cover-Up of the Harsh Realities of the Chocolate Industry

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The commercial depicted above was created as an advertisement for the Turkish chocolate biscuit brand, “Biscolata Starz”. The initial concept to note is the existence of a cultural ideology influencing the audience’s appeal to the commercial. Alongside with the language and song choice, there is a clear indication the Turkish public (particularly women) seems to be the targeted audience. However, the advertisement does manage to maintain a universal notion of sexual appeal, thus allowing for it to become applicable to a broader audience. Immediately, the portrayal of highly sexualized and idealized nature of the men carrying out the different stages of the chocolate production should raise red alarms to the audience, particularly in a western culture where men are similarly portrayed in Hollywood movies. The advertisement glorifies the task of cacao processing and chocolate manufacturing, challenging the disputed racial, gender, and socioeconomic challenges historically and currently faced by the workers in the different stages of the chocolate production chain. In response to this preposterously glamorized portrayal of the industry’s supply chain, I have selected images of two women working in more realistic, not so idealized stages of the cacao collection and chocolate manufacturing processes. The highly idealized and sexual portrayal of the men in the commercial glorifies the harsh realities of the chocolate industry, while the images of the workingwomen challenge the racial and social disparities so commonly shielded by westernized forms of advertisement.

My initial reaction to the commercial was laughter, simply due to the comical nature of the over-exaggerated, sexual portrayal of the men. The advertisement also symbolizes a disparity in the common portrayals of sexualized women and laborious men. From the initial stages of picking the cacao pods from the trees, to the final stages of chocolate making, the advertisement shoots different angles in which the men ardently, and seductively gaze into the camera, and thus at the viewer, forming a three-way connection with the media and public. The men work in in paradise-like scenery, surrounded by a beautifully rich jungle, with a backdrop of a spectacularly refreshing waterfall. I argue that this glorified portrayal of the men working aims at shaping the public’s image on the realities of the un-luxurious chocolate industry, challenged by the two images of the workingwomen. This comparison also raises the gender related tension present in the industry. Jane Guyer wrote a book titled “Food, Cocoa, and the Division of Labor by Sex in two West African Societies,” in which she argues how the arrival of the cocoa industry to West Africa shifted the role of women as housewives as they began working in the production of cocoa (Guyer, 1980). This however, presented a problem since women were now expected to labor under a patriarchal system that failed to establish any protection of women’s rights. They further shine light on the lack of empowerment that emerged from women working in this industry. The scene in the two pictures is not quite so idealized, with the women depicted in a frail manner when compared to the lean, muscular figures of the men in the commercial. Furthermore, the powerlessness of the women is revealed in the clothing they wear. While the men are shirtless in all stages of the process, the women are fully covered wearing hairnets, long sleeves, and gloves, thus removing any hint of the sexualized nature typically used as a selling point to consumers in chocolate commercials. Moreover, images of workingwomen like these serve to challenge the commercials attempt of portraying the luxurious nature of chocolate to the public, which has been historically romanticized in narratives like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Robertson).

The juxtaposition of the commercial with the two images also raises racial and social implications about the realities of this industry. It is important to note this commercial was intended for Turkish audiences, who consist of a reasonably homogenous society that has historically discriminated against minorities. The commercial creates a western twist as it portrays solely white men, challenging the popular association of cacao production with indigenous/ethnic populations. This notion emphasizing the purity of chocolate to the public can also seen in Cadbury’s campaign, aimed at showing the highly qualified environment in which their workforce labored, thus emphasizing the qualities of their products (Robertson). While the advertisement aims at emphasizing the pureness in the chocolate produced, the images of the women blending into their natural environment create a greater sense of purity in the origins of the product, shining light on the modern day chocolate industry that has been tainted by infiltration of western culture. The women laboring in the two images physically appear of an ethnicity associated with lower socioeconomic standards, thus challenging the commercials aim of removing the sense of consumer responsibility for the conditions under which commodities such as chocolate are produced, which Robertson advocates in his writing (Robertson). There is a clear cat and mouse game unfolding between the commercial and images portrayed, in which the roles of the cat and mouse are constantly shifted as a result of media manipulation.

Works Cited

“Biscolata Starz – Turkish Chocolate Biscuits TV Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=20&v=DAesQfnvzd4&gt;.

Guyer, Jane I. “Food, cocoa, and the division of labour by sex in two West African societies.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22.03 (1980): 355-373.

N.p., n.d. Web. <http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/host.madison.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/d4/ad4c44b6-f012-5d5e-862d-0104f7cd3518/5334e3b3dc8c1.preview-620.jpg&gt;.

N.d. Web. <http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1250592!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/chocolate30n-2-web.jpg&gt;.

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