Chocolate Edible Bodies

The fetishization of Black people, particularly their skin, in cocoa advertising has been posited to relates to the peculiar historical relationships founded on the commodification of both. [1] According to Silke Hackensech, a German scholar, chocolate is  “a commodity that has historically been produced, in the first stage of the production process, on cocoa farms by enslaved Africans, or people working under conditions akin to slavery.”[2]   Through historical and complex systems of global trade, labour, and production, chocolate and Blackness have been linked together, particularly as it relates to the marketing of and advertisements for chocolate whereas the “usage of the chocolate signifier . . . illustrates how configurations of vision and visuality invest the body with social meaning.”[3] 

In the first four chocolate advertisement provided, the adverts reenact colonial fantasies through its representation of the Black body, particularly the skin, as something produced and to be consumed for a mainstream mass market audiences. These marketing images perpetuate “[W]estern sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” [4] and symbolically fetishize the Black bodies (as proxy for chocolate) as a consumable commodity.

This is exemplified in Figure 1, 2 and 3, whereas the subjects are disembodied and dominate the adverts with very little reference to the actual product itself. In both of these adverts the subjects are Black but shown only in pieces as if not human and their skin is meant to visually allude to chocolate.

 

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Figure 1. Dove Chocolate (2007)
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Figure 2. Magnum Chocolate (2012)
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Figure 3. An Unknown Brazilian Chocolate Company’s Ad

By visually alluding to these images as chocolate, these ads seem to invite consumers to consume these black bodies. In the essay “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance”, Bell Hooks examines how racial difference is commodified and represented as the “Other” for the figurative consumption of white audiences and further explain that as “cultural, ethnic, and racial differences will be continually commodified and offered up as new dishes to enhance the white palate–that the Others will be eaten, consumed, and forgotten.” [5] In all of the example adverts provided, they demonstrate a dehumanizing effect by showing the photo subjects as dismembered black bodies with eyes that cannot be met by the viewer.

Essentially, these adverts invoke the trope of the eroticized “edible black body” explained as “a devouring cultural connections between black bodies and food objects . . . bring to the forefront the violence and ambivalence of American racial politics in which desire and disgust for black bodies.” [6] Moreover, images like the examples shown visually “produce representations of market, parlor, and kitchen cannibalism”[7] and “at its most extreme . . . the representation of the black body as food itself.”[8] The representation of Black bodies as consumable is troublesome as it harkens back to the tendency for the humanity of Black people to be diminished due to the racial stereotype of them being not quite human.

While the linkages between women, chocolate, and sex are common themes found in cocoa advertising [9], Figure 4. Is racially problematic in a different way found through its use of Blackface minstrelsy.

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Figure 4. Magnum Chocolate Ad (2012)

In this instance, the advertisement showcases a model painted brown evoking images of not only being covered in chocolate but Blackface. What is striking is the contrasted poses of the subject  without Blackface and with Blackface. When unpainted, she strikes a  direct pose which is contained and features her thoughtful gaze into the camera. However, once painted, she is posed in a sexualized and oddly disjointed manner that is completely divorced and seemingly oblivious of the camera in what is assumed to be due to her being in some sort of sexual ecstasy.  This advert comes to  represent what scholar Michael Pickering termed commodity racism, which is the selling of not only what is produced but racial stereotypes as well for consumers.[10]

In all of examples of Figures 1-4,  a theme is repeated where the subject is presented as a sexualized objects with that sexuality seemingly imbued in the festishization of Black skin. Moreover, these images engages in the harmful reproduction of the harmful racial stereotypes that Black people are hypersexual and subhuman. [11] This is meaningful to analyze as scholars like Robertson recognize that the “textual analysis of chocolate advertising has, then, been useful in illuminating contemporary understandings of gender, race and the nation.”[12]

After analysing many of the themes I found problematic in several chocolate advert examples, I decided to try my hand at creating an advert that is able to subvert the racially discursive content found above while featuring a Black person enjoying chocolate shown in figure 5.

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Figure 5. My Chocolate Ad

 

For instance, in my reimagined chocolate ad, like all of the others, this ad focuses on the visual. However, unlike the other examples, the subject of my photo is fully-dressed, stands in a non-sexualized pose, and stares straight into the camera, her gaze meeting with her audience easily. This photo exhibits strength, agency, and the subject as an individual  human being that can be related to by  the audience. Most importantly, this ad is clearly showing what is to be consumed as food, chocolate bar, and the subject as the consumer rather than the consumable. 

Footnotes

  1. Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  5. Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  6. Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 34)
  10. Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  11. Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)
  12. Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 20)

Sources

  • Hackensesch, S. (2015). ‘To Highlight My Beautiful Chocolate Skin’: On the Cultural Politics of the Racialised Epidermis. In C. Rosenthal & D. Vanderbeke (Eds.), Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone (pp. 73-91). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (Pg. 88)
  • Hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (pp. 21-39). South End Press. (Pg. 39)
  • Pickering, M. (2013). Commodity Racism and the Promotion of Blackface Fantasies. Colonial Advertising & Commodity Racism, 4, (Pg. 119)
  • Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. (Pg. 10)
  • Tompkins, K. W. (2007). ” Everything ‘Cept Eat Us”: The Antebellum Black Body Portrayed as Edible Body. Callaloo, 30(1), 201-224. (Pg. 201)
  • Yancy, G. (2008). Black bodies, white gazes: The continuing significance of race. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (Pg, 144)

Images

 

 

 

 

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