WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
We all know one. The “what would Jesus do?” individual, who would buck the tide of widespread outrage, take on the Devil’s defense pro bono. This individual is rational -hey there, Captain Obvious -and sympathetic by default to the target, say, when the Beyhive swarms out with stings.
They are not here for the drag and, with social media mobs, this person is very much the Veronica. Their idea of “victimisation” is surface and their reaction to it visceral, their motto, “turn the other cheek.”
This can be admirable, sort of. Until it’s not. And I would argue that, sometimes, the saints are with the mob and the answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?”, is whip out a switch and dispense holy rage.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s important to hang back and weigh the facts before one concludes and reacts, but this precept engenders exception. With some issues, the yarn has been dissected and stretched out in public consciousness such that any engagement preempts middle ground -you’re either in the red or in the clear. One of such issues is racial insensitivity in ads.
The internet went crazy when screen caps of a Dove ad surfaced, in which a black model, with what can be interpreted as shedding her skin, morphs into a white blonde.
Rightly, the reaction to this traversty was hard and swift. Dove took down the ad and issued a press release that posed as an apology but was really watery, worded with token care and a play at contrition that didn’t leave the shelf.
Then the calvary showed up, the WWJD clan, calling on the rest of us to hang on and not be a mindless mob and pay attention to the entire story. You see, these screen caps were taken from a video, so they don’t capture the entire wtf-ness. There’s an Asian model at the end and her strategic appearance as the pupa, the final act of the egg through larva, makes everything all right and not-racist, right?
And the prosecution would like to call to the stand that icky, though indispensable, thing called context:
In a world of tiki torches, confederate flags and lonely wolf, quiet-life living white not-terrorists; with Orangey Littlefinger and nuclear twitter, and Colin Kaepernick and America’s exemplary racism, with a history of eugenics and “cleansing”, people aren’t looking for reason to be “angry at anything”, in which case the Dove ad becomes an excuse to vent. The actual task requiring the reach of an NBA legend, I would imagine, is in not being angry, dear WWJD folk.
The Dove ad goes beyond an unfortunate oversight. If anything, it follows in a pattern of the beauty company (and, in fact, the beauty and fashion industry globally) stressing whiteness as a standard, as normal. The subtext here is the very definition of racist.
Word: Normal, Opposite: Dark
Strategic or accidental arrangement?
#TeamWWJD have come up with all sorts of excuses, the most touted being the pressure on companes to keep their ads shorter and tighter because, well, short attention span. And I call -like Whoopi would say -dog mess!
If it’s not impossible -and it’s not! -to create a thirty-second ad that conveys its message without being “misconstrued” as insensitive and flagrantly disrespectful, then why is this even worth mentioning? All this talk about the ad being rushed. What were they UsainBolting from? Landlord? The IRS? Are we down to blaming the bogeyman now?
Also, does anyone care to define/describe “rushed” in terms of a time unit? Something along the lines of: [unrushed] = 2weeks 3 days 4 hours 36 minutes 14 seconds and 124 microseconds AND [rushed] = a day late and a dollar short.
The issue with the Dove ad is simple, really. It. Is. Racially. Insensitive. At best.
The backlash is not for the ad’s brevity or its being made at the pace and duration of a horror movie sprint, so stay home with that nonsense about there being a longer form video where all women, from Priyanka Chopra to Gabourey Sidibe, are represented. That thirty-second portion would still be offensive as heck.
It’s telling what clip was chosen by Dove to tease whatever ill-thought campaign it had to push. I find it incredible no one picked on the transfiguration and how it definitely was going to be received, until the video was in public domain.
It’s one of two possibilities. Either a colour-blind team vets the ads at Dove, or they saw what was wrong with it and just didn’t care.
Not that the latter is beyond the realm of possibility, but I’m going with the former because businesses are premised on consumer-pleasing/pandering/patronising. And only white people -shut up, Raven! -have the luxury of “not seeing colour.”
Which brings the baton to what is, perhaps, the most annoying excuse of all. “Dove has been known to encourage diversity with its ads.”
With its range of products, Dove’s biggest diversity concern should be dry skin, oily skin, regular Josephine skin, and sensitive skin. The other stuff is an angle to sell products, which is great when it’s done right and an annoyance when it comes off as gratuitous, like a treat for dogs, laced with the expectation of gratitude from women -never mind that I use Dove products (no more) and I am a man, most of the time -who do not fit the mould of white and skinny that they are being taken into account. To spend their money.
No, Dove does not get cookie points for inclusivity (without insult) in its previous campaigns. Inclusivity in ads should definitely be encouraged -if these brands are rolling in green from POC, then they better be singing like it’s Hamilton up in this mutha -but to go from that to handing get-out-of-jail-free cards for doing what should be unremarkable if we didn’t live in such a shitty world screwed all the way wrong, is just…NO.
In getting the measure of a person or body, one relies on what is said in conjuction with what can be seen. Engaging with Dove on the fronts of its language and imagery, there’s nothing to indicate the beauty company takes its touted pillars of “diversity” and “inclusivity” seriously.
Which is why they will no longer get a cent of my money.