Tag Archives: Commodity Racism

Making Makeup Sweet

Warmth, indulgence, luxury – chocolate evokes many images as a sinfully sweet treat. Commodifying these fantasies is profitable because consumers long to be associated “with the romantic construction of chocolate” despite the fact that “systematic exploitation” and manipulative advertisements usually lurk behind chocolate (Robertson 5). In this modern age of cosmetic beauty standards and visually driven social media, the euphoric emotions associated with edible cacao products has spread to a form of non-edible chocolate consumption: chocolate infused makeup. Since chocolate products allow consumers to “express our own sense of identity” while offering ways “to say things about ourselves, our families, [and] our social world,” I situate the marketing of chocolate based makeup products in the same trajectory as the gendered, classed, and raced advertisements of edible chocolate (Robertson 19). This entails comparing a chocolate cosmetic line (Too Faced) from Sephora, a leading beauty retailer chain, to a chocolate bar sold at department stores containing Sephora outlets in order to capture the differences and similarities found when advertising chocolate and chocolate makeup. While both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate advertisements separate Westerners from chocolate’s problematic origins and perpetuate gendered, elitist Western beauty standards, the racism present in the presentation of chocolate infused makeup is more noticeable because it is an object applied to the skin rather than ingested within the body.

Cocoa Cosmetics at Sephora

Sephora is a beauty and fragrance chain founded in France in 1970 (the first U.S. store opened in 1998) under the international luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Sephora offers an array of makeup, perfume, skin care, beauty tools, and body pampering items from different brands, including its own original Sephora line, in large stores complete with mirrors, makeup counters, and tester products to try on for free. Sephora believes that “every stroke, swipe and dab reveals possibility” and the company shares their “client’s love for the confidence that our products … bring to their life every day” (Sephora.com). The store oozes sophistication and style with extensive displays and its connection to the parent company’s elite Louis Vuitton brand. In 2006, J.C. Penney, a large American department store chain, began an exclusive agreement to feature Sephora outlet stores inside many of its locations in order to attract spendthrift younger crowds. In addition to home goods, clothes, and accessories, J.C. Penney also sells an assortment of Lindt chocolates including Lindor truffles, Cioccolata, and Hello chocolate. I will use an advertisement from Lindt Dark Chocolate Excellence, the main type of traditional chocolate candy bar sold in J.C. Penney according to their online inventory, as a lens for critiquing the marketing of chocolate-infused makeup.

The aisle of Sephora stores in Hawaii (left) and Minnesota (right) stocked with Too Faced products (the only cosmetics brand Sephora sells that contains cacao). These images are indicative of Sephora stores everywhere; they capture Sephora’s extravagance and its impeccably clean, classy makeup displays. 

With “about 706 stores in the United States” (both outlets inside J.C. Penney and stand-alone stores) attracting consumers hoping to align themselves with a certain image, Sephora has stores in every inhabitable continent except for one – Africa (Forbes.com). Despite selling chocolate cosmetics through Too Faced, Sephora – one of the world’s most popular makeup retailers – has no stores in the continent that produces 70% of the world’s chocolate (Wessel 2016). Consumers of chocolate infused makeup are divorced from the bean’s origins yet, in the case of makeup and edible chocolate, buy cacao to be associated with its symbolic meanings.

Separating Fact From Fiction

The majority of chocolate sold in America is from bulk cacao of the sturdy Forastero variety produced in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Since lesser developed areas in the global south have an abundance of unskilled labor, they rely on exporting primary products to the global market. Because colonization, slavery, and forced migration disrupted social connections, destroyed culture, and decimated the population, developing countries lack the infrastructure and capital needed to compete with developed places. Neoliberal policies of privatized industries, few regulations, and free trade instead divert international trade profits away from chocolate producing countries, which affects the modern-day chocolate industry. Commodities such as cacao are subject to extreme fluctuations in price because “price evolution is less and less dictated by changes in … supply and demand” and more determined by others in the supply chain (Sylla 40). Market volatility means that cacao farmers are mired in intergenerational debt, since relatives often work on family-owned western African cacao plantations to lower costs. However, consumers are far removed from the instability and inequality facing cacao farmers. Companies use advertisements that reinforce local cultural norms to sell chocolate so that they can entice consumers who want to satisfy and promote certain social standards. Doing so is a long-established tradition; once “chocolate became available for the working classes [in] the nineteenth century, … women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption within the family,” as intimated by chocolate advertisements (Robertson 20). In a feminization of chocolate consumption, doting housewives and loving mothers provided their families with nutritious chocolate milk or sweetened their children’s day with chocolate candies. Chocolate marketing eventually progressed from idealizing familial love to idealizing heterosexual courtship by the mid-twentieth century through a focus on “light-hearted but respectable” stories of “young white couples” with female characters that were “irrational narcissistic consumers … seduced by the chocolate themselves” (Robertson 31, 33-34).

A commercial from 2016 for Lindt Dark Chocolate, which is sold in the same department store (J.C. Penney) that contains Sephora outlets selling chocolate makeup.

In a modern-day example, the commercial for Lindt Excellence dark chocolate (sold at J.C. Penney), hints at chocolate induced female “orgasmic pleasure” (Robertson 35). A woman’s silky voice encourages consumers to “experience the ultimate pleasure with Lindt,” as the chocolate is “luxurious” and “so intense.” She truly is seduced by cacao. These types of advertisements, where women feel “orgasmic pleasure” after eating chocolate, ultimately suggest “how women should project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (35). The dripping chocolate, the chocolatier caressing cacao beans, and the passionate fire add to this sexualized setting while the main character lustfully sniffs a chocolate piece. These sexual, romantic insinuations increase chocolate’s profitability as the fruit growing on cacao plantations in the global south has become fictionalized into a commodity that promises happiness and sensuality in the global north.

Chocolate Bar Palettes

Promises of happiness and feminine sensuality found in modern-day chocolate advertisements have been easily transferred to non-edible chocolate products. Through chocolate, women are encouraged to “project their heterosexual yearnings;” through makeup, women can project related fantasies involved in heterosexual courtship, such as female beauty, wealth, and seductiveness, onto cosmetic products that will allow them to be recognized as such (Robertson 35). In cacao-based makeup, chocolate, an edible item that promises pleasure, becomes a part of the user’s appearance in way that commodifies the body as a physical manifestation of chocolate’s symbolism. Chocolate makeup thereby transfers notions of female sensuality, sweetness, and lusciousness to the body, a reality that cacao cosmetic advertisements subtly emphasize.

Sephora sells a range of chocolate related facial cosmetics through two makeup brands (Bobbi Brown and Too Faced), though only the Too Faced chocolate makeup line lists cacao as an ingredient in the product. Beyond powdered bronzer and foundation, Too Faced offers a range of popular eyeshadow palettes that will be the focus of this analysis because they are packaged to look like traditional chocolate bars. For $49.00, consumers can buy Too Faced’s most reviewed, top rated eyeshadow collection that is “formulated using real cocoa powder” (Sephora).  

Marketed as a “A sweetly tempting array of 16 matte and shimmer shadows,” the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette is shaped, named, scented (with Theobroma cacao fruit powder), and colored (on the outside) like chocolate to attract consumers who want to embody chocolate’s sexy sweetness (Sephora.com). 

The shadow palette comes in a “playful chocolate bar tin,” complete with colors like “gilded ganache,” “black forrest truffle,” “triple fudge,” “haute chocolate,” and “white chocolate,” which evoke chocolate-related feelings of sumptuousness and opulence (Sephora.com). Subtle details, like pink cursive on the outside, cue consumers to the feminized image they are taking part of by using the product, but the wording and visuals are not as overtly sexual as the edible chocolate bar commercial. Edible chocolate like Lindt has been stripped of its physical reality, allowing non-edible products to draw from the sensual fantasy chocolate stirs. Too Faced also offers a Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar with slightly lighter colors and a Chocolate Bon Bons Palette with heart-shaped bright and neutral colors for the same steep price, as well as a smaller White Chocolate Chip Palette with metallic shadows for $26.00.

The three additional types of cocoa powder infused eyeshadow palettes sold at Sephora through Too Faced. All are shaped like chocolate bars and have colors written under each eyeshadow that are named for chocolate-related products.

Norton’s Tasting Empire mentions Bourdieu’s theory that “social subjects classified by their classifications distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make” in a way that is in “accord with social hierarchies” (Norton 663). Those reaching for Too Faced’s cocoa cosmetics are choosing to be recognized as tasteful consumers with a fondness for chocolate and all of its figurative images. The product’s high price and link with Sephora, a high-end makeup retailer, implies an elite status shared by those who use the Chocolate Bar palettes. Lindt chocolate uses similar, but more noticeable tactics beyond price and image to clue consumers in on their chocolate’s elite qualities. The chocolate is from the “Excellence” line and has the “richest flavors” from the “finest cocoa” according to the commercial’s narrator. The chocolate bar is a “thin masterpiece,” and Lindt prides itself on being known as a “Master Swiss Chocolatier since 1845.” These descriptions, plus the logo’s embossed gold, make the chocolate deluxe and top-tier, enticing consumers who seek to embed themselves in a particular class. Consumers play an active role in their product selection, using both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate as a “cultural mode” to express themselves or to “acquire social meaning” (Robertson 19). People aspire to be associated with chocolate whose presentation represents their values.

Race and Chocolate Advertisements

Besides attracting consumers with a promise of beauty and lavishness, the Chocolate Bar line sells racialized femininity and wealth, much like traditional chocolate bars.

This makeup tutorial uses the Chocolate Bar and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from Too Faced to create a completed look on a white woman who embodies Western standards of beauty and class.

Similar to the woman in the Lindt commercial, the women featured in the makeup tutorials for Too Faced’s collection are white and well-dressed, positioning shoppers “in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (Robertson 19). Racism has permeated advertising for edible chocolate throughout history. Though falling prices and diverse products theoretically brought chocolate into the hands of the masses during the 1800s, only certain people were shown as deserving access to the goods. Wholesome, “sugary-sweet white boys and girls” in white families were the idealized consumers who grew “stronger through drinking cocoa;” blacks were often stereotyped in advertisements, depicted as cartoons, “supervis[ed]” by whites, or displayed as a combination of all three trends to support socially constructed racial hierarchies (Robertson 39).

In order to “reinforc[e] dominant contemporary ideologies,” chocolate “adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely” (54). Though Robertson is referring to the connection between Chocolate, Women, and Empire with respect to Rowntree and Cadbury, these prominent chocolate companies (founded in 1862 and 1824, respectively) successfully influenced other companies’ cocoa ads. Similar to Lindt’s chocolate advertisements, Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes also pander to white consumers, but in a more significant and noticeable way. Those with darker skin tones, for example, must guess how the shades show up on their skin, for the fair-skinned woman in the makeup tutorial is the stand-in for Too Faced’s average consumer. Reviews for the palettes are overall very high, but filtering the thousands of reviews by skin type reveals dissatisfaction from women of color. In reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette, many mention that “a few of the colors are too close for distinction on my deep dark skin” and “they tend to blend together into a muddy mess on my lids” (Sephora.com). Ironically,  once a user “tried the [colors] that were lacking over a white base … then [she] was able to see them” better (Sephora.com). A comprehensive review of the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette from a female user with a dark skin tone claims: 

This is an adorable palette. Pretty colors and it actually smells like chocolate. However, what’s disappointing is that it’s only suitable for lighter skin tones. The colors were pretty on my fair-skined best friend but I found that on me, they were just dull. For you girls with darker skin tones, 90% of the shadows in this palette will just look chalky when applied. Not at all a high end look (Sephora.com).

The eyeshadow pigments were not vibrant enough to be seen properly on darker skinned women, but on lighter women the colors look wonderful.

makeupusage
An excerpt from the how-to glamour guide that comes with the Chocolate Bon Bons Palette from Too Faced, which features only light-skinned women.

Reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar palette when filtered by users with “fair,” “light,” “medium,” and “olive” skin tones are more glowing: “the eye shadows are pigmented, creamy and blend like a dream” raves a fair-skinned woman (Sephora.com). A paper glamour guide comes with the Bon Bons Palette to show consumers possible looks they can create with the shadows, but each eye makeup example comes from the face of a light woman. Despite the fact that the colors in these eyeshadow palettes contain cacao and are named after cacao products, women with brown skin tones are disregarded in the advertisement and testing of this product the way chocolate’s true origins are disregarded by the fictionalized symbolism of chocolate (and chocolate-based makeup). This exclusion mirrors the way female cacao farmers and black women who enjoy chocolate are purposefully left out of chocolate ads.

Conclusion

Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes and Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate both use similar racialized, gendered, and classist advertising strategies that fictionalize chocolate’s reality and continue the separation between cacao producer and cacao consumer. Though the two items analyzed are sold in J.C. Penney department stores, they have different uses. Lindt Excellence’s commercial focuses on the physical pleasure chocolate brings, while Too Faced’s chocolate line plays into aesthetic beauty standards that exclude people with dark skin. Edible and non-edible chocolate products alike market values that consumers identify with and want to promote. 

Works Cited:

Multimedia Sources

“Chocolate Bar Eye Shadow Collection.” Eyes/Eye Shadow Palettes. Too Faced, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Lindt Excellence Cocoa 70%.” YouTube. Lindt Chocolate World, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Bronze Smokey Eye with a Pop of Color Tutorial featuring Daniel Chinchilla.” YouTube. Sephora, 10 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced The Chocolate Bar Eye Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced White Chocolate Chip Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Scholarly Sources

Loeb, Walter. “Sephora: Department Stores Cannot Stop Its Global Growth.” Retail. Forbes, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journal. Web.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester U Press, 2013. Print.

Wessel, Marius, and P.M. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 74-75 (2015): 1-7. ScienceDirect. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

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.

 

dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-small-500651
Figure 1. Dove Chocolate (2007)
magnum-ice-cream-cracking-small-66364-1
Figure 2. Magnum Chocolate (2012)
sweet-br2_25
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.

magnum-chocolate-possession
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.

stock-video-73729883-attractive-african-american-woman-eating-chocolate-bar
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

 

 

 

 

The Fetishizing of Women in Contemporary Chocolate Advertisments

In contemporary advertisements, misogyny and the sexualizing of chocolate to appeal to women is rampant. These ads are born out of the societal stereotype that women are easily appeased and are simply objects of men’s desire. There is also the implication that they can be manipulated easily by chocolate, and therefore are the weaker sex. I will argue that one company, Magnum Ice Cream, especially uses these stereotypes in their advertisements and fetishize women as sexual objects.

But first, to illustrate some of society’s misogynistic views, here is a shocking quote from a radical member of the British National Party in 2008:

“To suggest that rape (when conducted without violence) is a serious crime is like suggesting force-feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence” – Nick Eriksen (Hesser)

Although this statement is certainly not indicative of the majority view*, it does illustrate society’s common notion that women enjoy chocolate as much as they enjoy sex. Eriksen’s statement is upsetting on many levels (which I will not dig into here), but comparing being raped with being force-fed cake is a clear example of how sex and chocolate are seen as having power over women in equal measure, and how women are often perceived as the primary receivers of such “pleasures”.

To further demonstrate that this is a prevalent line of thought in our society, here is a 2006 ad for Magnum Ice Cream starring Rachel Bilson:

To begin with, this advertisement is clearly aimed at women, who have been considered the “boundary markers of empire” when it comes to selling chocolate since the 1800s (Robertson 68). First, the woman – who is attractive by society’s standards and wearing a very “feminine” dress – sees the Magnum ice cream truck and is compelled to run towards it on the roofs of other cars. This implies that a woman will behave ridiculously to eat chocolate, while men are not similarly portrayed.

Interestingly, even the “attractive” police men do not attempt to arrest this woman, but simply watch as she runs on other people’s cars. Had a man behaved similarly, would the male police officer have behaved differently?

Then, the driver of the Magnum truck, also an “attractive” male, confidently struts out and opens the truck, allowing the woman to eat a Magnum ice cream bar. This says to the viewer that men are the “bearers of chocolate” (Robertson 68) and are the ones in control of whether or not a woman will receive pleasure. This essentially suggests that women need men and are therefore the weaker sex.

Finally, when the woman bites down onto the ice cream with an audible crunch, she closes her eyes as if in ecstasy. This shot is followed by more women running toward the ice cream truck with reckless abandon, and the final scene is closed by their slogan, “for pleasure seekers”. This exemplifies the comparison being made between chocolate and sex, and suggests that women can be controlled by these cravings, whereas men are stronger and can resist. The slogan is especially telling: nothing about the ingredients, their production, or where they are sourced is included in the slogan – just a statement that shows how much their product and women are being sexualized.

"CRACKING" Print Ad for Magnum Ice Cream by Mccann-erickson

To the right is another example of a Magnum ad that ran in Spain in 2006, depicting a sensually posed black woman as the actual product being advertised.

Here, we see that this woman is nothing more than a product to be consumed – because she is black, she is used as synonymous with the chocolate coated product, thereby objectifying her because of her race. Here chocolate is used as it has sociohistorically been considered: associated with sin and sexuality (Martin). Not only is this ad disturbing because her skin is literally cracking off, but the woman’s face is not even fully included, which insinuates that her body is the object, and she is not valuable as a person. In all of Magnum’s advertisements, females are consistently depicted both as the main character experiencing pleasure and as the object itself – both of which are very flawed suggestions that show women as weak and consumable.

In response to these advertisements, I created my own photo ad that shows no specific gender or race (left). My intention was to steer clear of anything that could imply that women want chocolate more than men do, or that any race is discriminated against. I wanted to emphasize this wider target audience by paralleling Magnum’s diversity of flavors with the diversity of their consumer base. My ad also clearly shows the product, while explicitly expressing that their product is “for all”, as opposed to “for pleasure seekers”. I removed any reference to sex or to their product providing pleasure, because their image alone shows that the product is delicious, and in my opinion that is all that is necessary.

*Nick Eriksen was dismissed from the BNP after making several of these disturbing comments.

References

Hesser, Kira. “‘Rape Is Like Being Force-Fed Chocolate Cake’ Blogs BNP Official.” Londonist. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Issues in Advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Apr. 2015. Class Lecture.

Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History”. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.

http://blog.carneysandoe.com/what-do-you-mean-by-diversity/

http://whatever-you-want.wikia.com/wiki/File:Magnum-ice-cream-bar.png

http://www.polyvore.com/cracking_print_ad_for_magnum/thing?id=32552786

http://www.magnumicecream.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3oiZieTlI0

Commodity Racism is Not Cute

“Why are black people always smiling in commercials, “ a rhetorical question my father use to pose with a tinge of disdain. Advertisement has a deep link with racism, in exploiting what cannot be explicitly said, but is commonly known. In the West ideas such as the noble savage have evolved under the selective pressures of capitalism into a more nuanced form known as commodity racism. The idea that race can be utilized as a means to push products and services through explicit or implicit messages to the consumer on the emphasis of a racial difference. Usually the ploy depicts black people as jovial, fun loving, irrational, limited in emotional range and with abnormal prowess in sexuality and strength. Rarely do we see black people as intelligent, calm, and average, that position is reserved for white privilege. Chocolate, being incredibly imbued with racial undertones, is a perfect marker for commodity racism. European chocolate makers, Marabou, successfully marketed their “Japp” chocolate bar in the mid 90s using stereotypical depictions of a Rastafarian in poorly developed storylines. In Marabou’s commercials, application of commodity racism to market their chocolate bar bolsters the racist sentiment of the ‘magical negro’, in which implicitly white normativity is promoted and explicitly black otherness is magnified.

The juxtaposition of caricatures in the Japp chocolate advert highlights the normativity of the white male. Opening the scene a white overweight male is seen jogging on a winding path along a seaboard. He is of poor physique so he decides to take a break and lean on a sports car due to his apparent back pain. For comical intent and to add a note of absurdity, a black male, capriciously driving a truck in Sweden to reggae like instrumentals, mindlessly stops to help the burdened white male. The black male without any forethought assumes the white male is pushing the car and with one arm the magically strong black male pushes the car of the cliff. The rational and present-minded white male is left stunned to watch the black male drive off only to wonder where such gifts were derived, obviously from the chocolate bar.

Note the subtle message the advertisement seeks to promulgate, that black and white people can cooperate, even with a black male at a presumed position of power. In doing so the marketers advance an agenda of post-racialism while paradoxically inflaming black otherness. The problem with such adverts comes in the inability of a black male to be whole, possessing faculties of the intellectual, the artistic and the physically capable. In this advert the black male is physically strong but mentally absent. These are the conditions of agreement in which the black body must comply in order to be palatable to white audiences. Media scholar Matthew W. Hughey aptly writes “today, media exercises no less an influence in promulgating and protecting de facto racism through the patterned combination of white normativity and antiblack stereotypes” in doings so “these onscreen depictions afford white people centrality, while marginalizing those seemingly progressive black characters” (Hughey 544). It’s easy to see how nefarious a commercial like this can be in Sweden, where the population is nearly homogenous and xenophobic sentiments towards immigrants of African descent across Europe is coalescing. Decidedly Europe has not had a cathartic movement against racism like the civil rights movement in America.

Chocolate Truffles for Dessert
Chocolate Truffles for Dessert

To take an inversion of the advertisement a step further, I decided to overstep the de facto demarcations drawn for black depiction. In this advert we see formally dressed black people seated at a grand table being served by austerely dressed white servants. When it comes to class black people cannot be greater than their white counterparts, especially not on the same screen. If one’s initial feeling is shock and discord, the message has achieved its intent. Rarely can blacks be depicted as having power, free from saving white people or soothing white guilt. There can never be an idea of black normativity that is not meant to specifically advertise to people of color. Even black people themselves cannot imagine this without the inevitable rush of feeling ‘uppity’. Chocolate scholar Emma Robertson remarks “adverts offer us ways of using commodities such as chocolate to say things about ourselves, our families, our social world” (Robertson 19). This hegemonic perception of race as it relates to intelligence and class is so entrenched in both white and black people that we cannot seriously imagine an inverted world without considering it an aberration or a fantasy.

The problem at hand is that commodity racism undermines all endeavors to reimagine the black self as normal and varied. The centrality of whiteness and the marginality of blackness is constantly being reaffirmed and repackaged to sell goods, especially like chocolate. Racism is evolving, becoming more nuanced, more inclusive but paradoxically more marginalizing. Therefore it is important to scrutinize what we see and question the under text of what is being sold.

Reference

Hughey, Matthew W. “Cinethetic Racism: White Redemption and Black Stereotypes in “Magical Negro” Films.” Social Problems (2009): 543-577.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009.