One of the integral elements by which chocolate has deeply embedded itself into marketplaces worldwide is advertisements. However, advertisements produced by the chocolate industry are conspicuously laden with ill-founded, problematic ideas or stereotypes in regard to sex, gender, race, and ethnicity. Specifically, through an analysis of a Rajhans Group advertisement of its chocolate brand Schmitten, it is evident that issues regarding at least gender and sexuality are heinously implemented as mere marketing tools for the advancement of the industry, regardless of the underlying negative and confused messages that are being propagated and broadcasted to chocolate consumers in India and beyond.
Priyanka Chopra, Indian film actress and singer and former Miss World, takes the stage as the featured figure in an advertisement for Schmitten chocolate. The advertisement aired in India in 2014, the same year that the brand launched in India.
In this video advertisement, with a Schmitten chocolate bar in her purse and dressed in a cheongsam made to flatter her body shape, Chopra plays the role of a coy temptress who seductively flits around full ballroom. As she moves throughout the ballroom singing about the grievousness one can make by taking or even asking for her Schmitten chocolate bar, she flirtatiously flaunts her chocolate bar before the eyes of the men, all of whom appear interested in taking the chocolate bar. Chopra even baits a seated man by enticingly dangling her purse containing the Schmitten bar and then aggressively and suddenly jerking it away from his reaching grasp. While singing her ballad of criminality of chocolate-snatching, she is then hoisted up onto a stage full of dancing men who are originally dressed as prisoners and later transformed to appear as criminals dressed in black attire.
Upon initial viewings of the advertisements, it is appears odd as to why Chopra is frivolously tempting the present men to take what she does not want them to have; but with an understanding of the relevant Indian sociohistorical background, the advertisement quickly becomes insidiously sinister. With only about 1% of cases of rape reported to the police by victims, rape in India has been a problem continually on the rise that has bolstered a culture of sexual violence in India (Raj & McDougal). Indian society and the judicial system maintain negative views toward rape victim, even sometimes blaming the victim for the incidence of crime due to how the victim dressed or acted as deserving of rape. Such attitudes that pervades and strengthen the rape culture is entrenched by the misogynist social structure in India in which women are necessarily inferior to men (Pandey).
Conducting a semiotic analysis on this advertisement, one could easily perceive the coveted chocolate bar that she possesses as sexual consent; this connection can be easily and quickly constructed in the light of the history of chocolate being heavily associated with sex and desire. As Chopra continually sings, “Taking my Schmitten, let’s make it a crime,” a man filches the bar of chocolate while Chopra is being hoisted away to stage by a band of men dressed as criminals, which is interestingly suggestive of gang rape which is actually becoming a commonality within India as reported by New Internationalist blog correspondent Thekaekara (1, 2).The ballad ends with the man who ate the Schmitten enjoying the Schmitten bar with no consequence. The conclusion would seem to be that due to her own flashy and lewd behavior, she was captured by the gang of men and stripped of her chocolate, or consent. Unfortunately, this embodies a fallacious narrative of victim-induced rape that is held as accurate in the eyes of not a few within Indian government. However, this generalized depiction is largely incongruous with reality.
To respond to the Schmitten advertisement in a way more in keeping with reality, I along with a couple of peers created an advertisement challenging the video advertisement and its respective still image advertisement illustrated above. The response advertisement shown below depicts a man offering his Schmitten chocolate bar to an uninterested woman with the overhead caption “Taking my Schmitten, just give it a try.” This response advertisement is in direct contrast to the original Schmitten still image advertisement because instead of a featured woman dissuading others from taking her chocolate, this one features a man persuading a woman to try his chocolate.
This response advertisement is largely characteristic of the situation that is presented in a typical rape case, namely that despite the woman’s disinterest, resistance, or reserved dress, the man is the primary actor imposing coercive influences on a woman that can result in rape. This advertisement aims at highlighting the ludicrousness and danger of victim-blaming that is prevalent in Indian society. Though this post only inspects the situation of a man perpetrating rape on a woman, it is well-known that this is not the only configuration of rape case that need be addressed at large.
In sum, the advertisement is insensitive to the plight of women all across India and trivializes their collective predicament. Whether unintentional or not, Rajhans Group is culpable for this contribution to the reinforcement of rape culture in India. For a company like Rajhans Group newly launching its brand into the Indian market, it would be in its best interest to more critically vet its output to minimize backlash and accusations of insensitivity in the eyes of the public. Even so, such companies and their generated advertisements must be continually challenged and held liable if there is any hope for the securement of respect and adequate justice for rape victims.
ACTFAQs Channel. “Priyanka Chopra in Schmitten TVC.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 24 Sept 2014. Web. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
Pandey, Rajendra. “Rape crimes and victimization of rape victim in free India.”Indian Journal of Social Work (1986).
Raj, Anita, and Lotus McDougal. “Sexual violence and rape in India.” Women 2001 (2014): 124.
Thekaekara, Mari. “Defending the right to watch violent porn- how can that be justice for April Jones?” New Internationalist Blog. April 10, 2015. Accessed on April 12, 2015.
Thekaekara, Mari. “The hypocrisy of sexism in India.” New Internationalist Blog. June 14, 2013. Accessed on April 12, 2015.