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My High School Story

Bias in Procter & Gamble’s “The Look”

In what ways is the advert “The Look” ‘a story about bias’ in contemporary American society?

“The Look” by Procter & Gamble is a story about unconscious bias in contemporary American society, showing a range of different manifestations or responses that have historical significance but that are recognisable to modern audiences. Through this, we can see the intersection of personal bias/individual values and societal values. Unlike P&G’s previous advert “The Talk” which showed manifestations of bias throughout history, “The Look” focuses on an older black man in his daily life. The first shot is a close up on the man waking up with a rather stoic expression. The advert then proceeds to show various scenes in different situations: an elevator, a diner, a pool, in a shop, on the street. This originally does give the sense that there is an arc or a journey. The narrative seems to be moving the narrative will … But the final shot contradicts this idea. It shows the man in judge’s robes – clearly admired and respected. It mirrors the opening shot – and reiterates the main point: stereotypes are dangerous and untrue – and that this man is the same man who woke up in the morning. He deserves respect no matter what; both in and out of the courtroom. This is the focal driving point of the advert. It is further reinforced by the absence of language; the focus is on what goes unsaid and that audiences intrinsically know what ‘the look’ is. It is slightly different in each scene, but the range could possibly point to the different forms that bias can take in everyday life. For example, the mother who puts up her window when her daughter waves to the black man’s son could be a nod to how children learn bias and societal values from family or society (duh). The three white people who let the elevator doors close on the black man is a play on the classic elevator shot cliche – with a physical barrier highlighting differences and perhaps an element of fear. These scenes are juxtaposed with the man’s response; calm and collected. He acknowledges the bias but rises above. With these different explorations of bias that face black men specifically, Procter & Gamble open a much-needed discussion.

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