In the series of ads labelled, “the Kobe System” Nike uses Kobe Bryant, among other famous people, to establish a premium brand of Nike. On a surface level, the ads do not appear to make sense as they are short in length and are edited in a way so that they appear incomplete and cut off. The first point to make about the ads is that they promote the audience to think and research the shoe after watching the ad as the actual information about the shoe is limited. Nike’s production of the ad means that is intriguing and encourages customers to research more and its unusual style encourages people to research it more. Additionally, given the ad, was theoretically advertising the shoe, but gave no information about it, which may imply that the shoe is about more than just playing basketball, but about the customer reaching “success” at a level similar to that of Kobe Bryant. This ad achieves the level of superiority and success in associating the Nike brand with famous people. In using celebrities of both genders and people from a variety of countries, Nike attempt to paint themselves as the elite sports brand all over the world. Even if the audience decides that the shoes are too expensive, Nike has created a superior brand for themselves which is associated with famous people, often those that the audience loves and admires, meaning regardless of whether or not the viewer purchases the shoe, they buy into the brand. Moreover, the setting of the ad takes place in a setting where Kobe acts as the motivational speaker, further contributing to the dominant and superior brand of Nike.
As Coates explains in his essay, Why do so few Blacks Study the Civil War, the Civil War was “a story for white people—acted out by white people, on white people’s terms”. The idea that black people merely featured as “stock characters and props” in their own war for liberation allows us to understand the question better. How can a black man succeed equally to a white man when a black man’s fight for freedom was not his own? With so few black people in positions of power, it is difficult to argue against the lack of equal opportunity for blacks and whites. With this basis for an economy, although the intent may not be to continue a legacy of colonialism, does intent really matter if the behaviour exhibited in our society demonstrates minimal regard for equal opportunity in life?
That being said, I also feel that it is important to recognise behaviour with good intention when it is being displayed. For example, I felt that Coates’ critique of the Obama years of the presidency was quite unfairly cynical. He argued that Obama wasn’t truly a “black man’s” president, however, it is important to understand what it meant to be president. Obama was elected to be president by a majority of the population, not all of whom were black. As president, he must appeal to the entire population, not isolate black people in an attempt to benefit them. Even if he did want to do change laws and policies to benefit the black population, the presidency does not give absolute rule over a country, meaning unless there was a majority vote from both black and white senators, he would be unable to do so.
When comparing the Stockett and Coates passages, it is important to take into account their audience and the similarities that can be drawn from the two texts. In Stockett’s book, The Help, the maids are almost enslaved to the words they shared as even though they allowed to tell their stories, it was still under the rule of a white person. A comparison can be drawn to Coates’ essay, Why do so few Blacks Study the Civil War, as during the civil war black people could “never to truly join the narrative” but to “speak as the slave would” indicating a similar idea of white rule despite their intentions. In ‘The Help” the intention of the Skeeter (the white protagonist) was to tell their stories and in the civil war, it was to free the slaves. Despite the best of intentions, in both these scenarios, the white people ultimately gained the most. In the book, even though Minny got revenge on Ms Hilly, the readers never truly had the sense that it was enough. Additionaly, Skeeter, a white character, gained the most from the book. Similarly, in the civil war even though it was slavery was outlawed, the segregation following the war was so prominent that its racist effects are still seen today.
Something that we discussed in class was the differences in races and how they identify themselves. The example that was brought up was how Indian people may move to Australia for example and identify as Australian however it is completely different the other way around. Part of the reason I believe that this happens is that the nationality of many Asian countries can be identified by appearance however this is not the case for white people. Someone from Australia, America or England may look the exact same but have a different identity. This has pushed me to think about how we identify ourselves and our race and what may be the reasons that someone might identify as a different race? That being said, I also recognise my bias in this subject, being from two privileged countries as a white female so may not understand their background/ reasoning for preferring a different race.
This is an advertisement for a diamond company with the words ‘and she thought these things only happened in movies’. In this ad, the phrase is meant to express the excitement she experiences from receiving a diamond, as it ‘only happen[s] in the movies’. The phrase does, however, has an unintended meaning. The use of the word ‘she’ belittles the woman in this scenario and the plain background with the diamonds on top provides the impression that ‘she’ is only interested in diamonds. Additionally, the comparison to a movie fantasy demonstrates the importance of a diamond in this woman’s life, implying that it is the role of the woman to love jewellery and appreciate gifts from their husbands. The company that makes these advertisements, develops their ads to strictly male audiences in order to convince them to buy their wives a diamond. In that case, by referring to the woman as ‘she’ and implying they are to solely love diamonds, the company is creating a culture of men that believe they must buy diamonds for their little wife.
The use of the word ‘she’ can also influence one’s interpretation of the phrase. It could be understood that the ‘things’ that ‘only happen in movies’ could refer to the belittlement of women. Unintentionally, it has the meaning that she thought a woman being treated this way only happened in movies, however in receiving the gift of the diamond she understands that it is a reality.
In the New York Times article, Stockett recalls how she got the original idea for the book. Although the book sheds light on the perspective of the maids, the way Stockett talks about her characters provides an interesting question on the representation of identity. “She worried that readers wouldn’t trust her if she only wrote about black characters” and “felt better” once having written Skeeters perspective as well. Given the racism and prejudice black people already face, it is quite naive of Stockett to “feel better” about showing the white perspective. Even though Skeeter was more liberal than her childhood friends, she did not necessarily think of blacks and whites as equal. As she is a white woman writing the book, by feeling the need to include a white person she is reinforcing the racial stereotypes already in place. It can be argued that it is her novel and is fiction thus she may write in any perspective she wishes, however, it is important to recognise the irony of a white woman writing about a black woman’s experiences from imagination. That being said, if it encourages people to talk about the problems taking place in society, is the potential inaccuracy of the black characters cancelled out by the public attention to the black community received?
Issues with representation in the help:
- a white woman talking about a black woman’s problem
Even though it is not the black woman talking, if the white woman has a platform and the ability to tell a story to a large audience, so long as they are ok with it, I do not think it classifies as misrepresentation. The maids telling the story don’t actually want to be identified as despite the fact that their rights are important, in this case, they don’t want to risk themselves getting fired. In this case, it is more about telling the story than who is telling it, as the idea is to open up the mind of a white population to the experience of a black person.
How do the two stories we read about Michelle Yeoh “represent” her —tell her story in different ways? How have the writers’ differing audiences and purposes shaped the telling?
The first story represents Yeoh in a graceful and superhuman light, in an attempt to promote the movie, Crazy Rich Asians and shed light on the positive impact it is having on the Asian American community. In the second article, however, fellow Asian actors are seen to mock her name in an attempt to undermine her achievement as a co-producer. Their tweets are defensive of the Asian community, and the way that the Straits Times wrote about her, represent Yeow as an actress that has forgotten her background and culture thus, contradicting the advertising of the first article.
How has race been represented in our culture historically?
Historically, the majority of popular culture has surrounded a western lifestyle. Up until recently, popular films had only starred white actors, with minority race actors having minor if any roles in Hollywood. This trend was not limited to films as models were also primarily white, portraying unrealistic body types. One area of popular culture that was more diverse was the music industry. Famous singers such as Arethra Franklin, Beyoncé, Shakira all helped to diversify the group of popular singers, which can be seen as an early form of racial unity in pop culture. Similarly, racial differences were seen in many other aspects beyond just popular culture. For example, the first black president of America was not until 2008, showing just how differently society viewed their races.