What Comes Out in the Wash

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

134 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Have there been serious attempts to explain to people in China that this ad is exceptionally offensive?

    Have we heard from people in China why they either do or do not see this ad as something that requires them to do… something?

    What does the target audience for this ad think about it?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

      To be clear, I’m not talking about what China should or shouldn’t do with their own s**t. I’m talking about how we might better approach dealing with our own.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        To be clear, I’m not talking about what China should or shouldn’t do with their own s**t.

        Well, I imagine that, eventually, we’ll have to start discussing that sort of thing.

        Because, eventually, we’re going to hear “HOW COME CHINA CAN HAVE THESE COMMERCIALS AND WE CAN’T?!?”

        The answer of “China is not in the scope of this discussion” will, eventually, get the response of “then why in the hell am *I* in the scope of this discussion?”

        I’m talking about how we might better approach dealing with our own.

        I think that the whole “punching up/punching down” distinction will, eventually, turn out to have been a huge tactical mistake.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think that the whole “punching up/punching down” distinction will, eventually, turn out to have been a huge tactical mistake.

          Says the white cis str8 middle-class well-educated man.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

            I think that it will do a better job of normalizing punching than, say, establishing who can punch whom.

            But I imagine that we’ll all get to watch that one in real time.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

              From looking at VD’s posts I think she’s entirely OK with punching, just so long as it’s the proper people getting punched.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Getting rid of Kant isn’t going to end up where she thinks it’s going to end, though.

                It’s going to do stuff like, just to pick an example off the top of my head, establish that mentioning someone’s race/color, gender identity, sexual preference, class, and educational background can substitute for an argument in and of itself.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, VD’s acceptance of Kant wouldn’t affect any behavioral changes in the non-Kantian folks punching her, yes?

                I’m not sure why it’s on HER to be the bigger Kantian here. I’m not even sure I understand what that would mean…Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                In a universe where we’ve not only abandoned Deontology but also some sort of Kantian universality, we don’t even get to accuse others of hypocrisy anymore. Well, I suppose we can, but I’m not sure that we get to pretend that we’re standing on ground at that point. Well, I suppose we can always pretend but pretending that you’re not pretending eventually gets really, really depressing.

                It just becomes one big establishment of who is more powerful.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                It just becomes one big establishment of who is more powerful.

                Perhaps. Tho I’ve heard you and Jason K and Hanley and others including you talk about the role of shaming in determining cultural norms. Which seems to me, inherently, a use of power to determine preferred outcomes.

                But look, the US has never been a Kantian society tho Kantianism creeps in whenever religious norms or utilitarianism or pragmatics or political expediency goes astray. We’ve just never been there, intellectually or practically. I ain’t no anthropologist, but I don’t think any other society has been there either.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                And adding to that:

                “One big establishment of who is more powerful” is A-OK just so long as it works. A functioning society will include some conception of universalisability, even if its a caste system. (Hey, everyone agrees that if you’re born a dog your kids can’t be anything but dogs…)

                But the type of universalizability you’re talking about doesn’t even make it offa Kant’s own writing table before it suffers from life-threatening contact with reality.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                I suppose we can establish what “working” would mean. I tend to lean toward some sort of sustainable progress that nourishes itself enough to keep going in a good (or good enough, anyway) direction.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Shaming is an important and useful tool. I’m not sure that a focus on phenotype will result in changes in behavior.

                Assuming, of course, the goal is behavior changes.

                We’ve never had a Kantian society, true, but it’s all about being on a particular vector towards a place (even if that place is hella unobtainable).

                There are a *LOT* of vectors we could be on.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Sure, but the only ones that matter are ones making contact with where we are right now. The vectors we can hop on to take us somewhere else, rather than JUMP to by being different than we actually are.

                I mean, I hear ya about all that. Really. I just don’t think criticizing VD for being insufficiently Kantian is the way to go. Better to criticize the people who punch her on that score, seems to me. How to remedy that problem is difficult, and fundamentally about the exercise of power – individual, collective – don’t you think?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                I don’t think I’m really hitting Veronica here as much as gaming out where these behaviors will eventually lead.

                While our little society here is a loverly petri dish demonstrating what is going to happen to tomorrow’s society, I suspect that, at some point, our little white cis straight middle-class well-educated male enclave will find that it has diverged from the direction that the rest of society has decided to take.

                Though we’ll very much still have a somewhat white cis straight male-centered society.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                I suspect that, at some point, our little white cis straight middle-class well-educated male enclave will find that it has diverged from the direction that the rest of society has decided to take.

                Ironic, given that this subthread began with VD criticizing the “the white cis str8 middle-class well-educated man’s” views. 🙂

                You could be right, tho! Yes, you could be right.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

                Really? You don’t think the categorical imperative is hard-wired into US culture? It creeps in through Christianity and its incorporation of reciprocal social relations if nothing else. Even if it’s merely aspirational, seems to me that most liberal western cultures balance Kant against Bentham to a substantial degree.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Really? You don’t think the categorical imperative is hard-wired into US culture?

                No, not at all. I mean, we can quibble over the relevance of the term “categorical” in your above comment in that I concede certain imperatives are accepted as moral norms in certain parts of our society, but in my view they originate from religion. I also think there’s a self-originating conception of “always tell the truth” or “don’t harm others” which arise for pragmatic reasons or outa consequential considerations of emotional states or resulting hassles. So, yeah, imperatives exist. I just don’t think we (ever!) act only on that maxim which can be universalized without contradiction.

                I’m not saying the idea isn’t attractive and all. 🙂Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Burt, another way to say it is this: the ultimate test of any maxim being accepted as a moral norm will the consequences of acting on it. Ie., whether or not it leads to better outcomes.

                Eg., is lying always (categorically!) wrong? In practice it seems like there are good counterexamples. In other words, there are situations in which a rational being is rationally justified in lying.

                And it gets worse as our conception of rationality moves away from “pure reason”. 🙂Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

                If it’s true that the ultimate test of any maxim is based upon measuring its (reasonably anticipated) outcomes, then necessarily everything is utilitarianism. Seems circular to me. But then, I’m a lawyer, not a philosopher, so what do I know?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:


                What you’ve described isn’t circular, it’s an actual bonafide theory. (One of many….)Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                I don’t follow Kant because, as a matter of fact, I cannot set universal norms. Neither can you. It’s just pointless nonsense, words that denote nothing.

                I act according to effect, as best I can. Now, things such as honesty and character matter, insofar as we are social creatures and these are social virtues. But on the other hand, we are meatsacks who kill each other a lot, and lie and steal and rape and torture. Except some of us don’t. Sometimes.

                It’s all a dance. Morality is something that happens in our brains, not in the world. We can prattle on about principles that don’t apply, or we can figure out how social power actually works.

                You might assert some “universal principle” or whatever. I’ll say, fine, the neurons in your brain have occupied a certain state that corresponds to “universal principle.” What does it do?

                No I’m not a Kantian. Don’t be silly.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                Hillel, then.

                Well, I’m not sure how far I could get with him, not being Jewish.

                The golden rule seems pretty sensible, except not everyone wants to be treated the same, so teasing out how people “want” to be treated versus how they “really want” to be treated versus how you ought to treat them regardless of what they want — good luck with that.

                I really should read Rorty someday. Since, obviously.

                Mostly we muddle through. I think we all do that. Some people pretend they are not muddling, which whatever. Tell yourself what you need to tell yourself, as you muddle.

                But don’t forget it’s all bullshit all the way down and we’re naked apes, and that’s kinda funny actually.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                Hillel’s rule ain’t the Golden one. That’s the other guy.

                Hillel’s rule is, for some reason, called The Silver Rule. It strikes me as being far more morally robust than the other one. I don’t really see how Jewish an insight it is, given that Confucius also stumbled across it, and Thales, and the Pahlavi scripts, and Brihaspati, and it’s in the Udanavarga as well. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) And those are only the “silver” versions of the concept!

                Given that a good number of these folks stumbled across this concept without having access to the other folks, I’m willing to say that this isn’t Jewish as much as something that most civilizations had to learn the hard way on their way out of barbarism.

                I think that abandoning it is a good way back.

                But, like eating the marshmallow, it’s tasty right now and who knows what the future holds?Report

              • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird — I was just going by the wiki page, which mentions the Golden Rule.

                Anyway, these “rules” are pretty vague heuristics. They don’t really help me deal with the actual shit in my life.

                I mean, we all have to share the subway car, so it helps to be considerate. But to me that’s the low-hanging fruit. Sure, give up your seat to the guy with a bum leg, leaning on a cane. Easy peasy. But then, there are those folks who are not considerate, and they tend to be non-considerate to varying degrees. Plus I have my own baggage. Like, there are certain lines I won’t cross, for various reasons. There are certain lines I don’t allow others to cross toward me. But how I respond, specifically, is situational. Of course it is.

                I try not to lie. But I’d lie to Kant’s axe murderer. The reason is simple: I have another (not actually) universal maxim: “Protect the innocent.”

                Simple rules are nice, but don’t follow them over a cliff.


                It comes down to this. There is no grand design. There are no moral truths. We are naked apes, and any values or meaning we find in the world is something we invented. But more, each brain is different, so there are no true universal properties or motives or meanings or anything really. Except we are all flesh and bone. Most of us feel pain. All of us can die.

                There is no reason to expect some simple program of moral guidelines, such that can be written down and remembered, and handled with typical levels of human cognitive capacity, and that will always be clear, when enacted by each particular mind, such that we might achieve some stable global optimum of social harmony.

                Instead it is a shifting landscape of uncertainty. Welcome to hell.

                There is a tradeoff between notions of “principled ethics” and “rule of law” and so forth, contrasted with the need to be flexible and situational. I’m not sure where that balance lies. I’m not sure how to determine where the balance lies. Neither are you.

                Hard problems are hard.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                That’s the great thing about the Silver Rule, though. It works no matter what society you’re in.

                What is hateful to yourself, do not do to another.

                I see that as much richer than Jesus’s silly little “you have heard X… but I tell you X PLUS Y!” trick (his audience, for example, would have been familiar with Hillel).

                It doesn’t even require a saint. It just requires someone to say “Huh, would I hate it if someone did this to me? Then maybe I shouldn’t do it to someone else.”

                It’s not perfect for all situations and, like most rules for dealing with strangers and/or opponents it’s not something that would make a particularly pity rule for a sexual ethic… but, as low hanging fruit goes, it’s within reach.

                If we’re willing to revert to barbarism (and, seriously, looking at the landscape, I see the level of trust/collaboration out there moving from a higher one to a lower one), then off to barbarland we go.

                But what seems to be coming seems like it could have been avoided.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                a particularly pity rule for a sexual ethic

                I think the Golden Rule would actually encourage pity sex.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I think the Golden Rule would actually encourage pity sex.

                All I can say is, if applied in a naive way, I’d be going around spanking a lot of random people.Report

              • The golden rule seems pretty sensible, except not everyone wants to be treated the same, so teasing out how people “want” to be treated versus how they “really want” to be treated versus how you ought to treat them regardless of what they want — good luck with that.

                I’ve had the same thought, too, Veronica. And I also don’t see how the Golden Rule meshes with someone who hates themselves….they might “want” to be treated in one way, but not really, and as you point out, however ever it is they “want” to be treated, might not be how others “want” to be treated.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to veronica d says:

            “No punching” seems like a rule that’s more likely to work out for minorities than “We can punch you, but you can’t punch us.” But hey, maybe Jay and I are just concern-trolling, and you’ll have no problem whatsoever getting the majority to sign onto that one. Let us know how that goes.Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              “No punching” seems like a rule that’s more likely to work out for minorities than “We can punch you, but you can’t punch us.”


              “We can punch you, but you can’t punch us” seems equitable, given that the minority punchers already accept that view…Report

              • Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater says:

                Even granting for the sake of argument that turnabout is fair play (which it really isn’t, when applied on a racial level rather than on an individual level), my point is that “no punching” is an achievable truce, whereas the likely outcome of trying to get the majority to sign onto a system where they get punched but can’t punch back is that the majority decides that punching is back on the menu, full stop. Regardless of whether you think the latter system is better, it’s not happening.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                How will calling a truce change things going forward? Is the idea that it’s only because minorities want to punch without being punched that compels folks to keep punching them?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                It’s not calling for a truce as much as calling for a guiding principle of not punching.

                (At the very least, if you’re going to abandon the whole “not punching” thing, do it in a year where Trump isn’t running.)Report

              • j r in reply to Stillwater says:

                Is the idea that it’s only because minorities want to punch without being punched that compels folks to keep punching them?

                It’s not about “minorities” wanting to punch back. It’s about the people who presume to speak for them. Hate crime legislation doesn’t give any extra power or ability to “minorities.” It gives extra powers to prosecutors.

                Ever notice how almost all culture war battles end in the expansion of authority for those already in power? More power to the state. More power to the police. More power to HR. More power to university administration. Etc.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to j r says:

                j r,

                It’s not about “minorities” wanting to punch back. It’s about the people who presume to speak for them.

                That I get. And it seems to bifurcate the worry into views expressed by minorities and views expressed by straightwhitedominantcultureetc advocates for minorities., with the larger problem being the latter, yes?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Stillwater says:

                I’m not sure that you’re going to fight the dominance of straightwhitemaledominantculture by giving more power to individual members of the straightwhitemaledominantculture.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

          “But why do I have to do my homework, Dad, if there are kids in Somalia who don’t even go to school?”Report

        • Vikram Bath in reply to Jaybird says:

          If only someone knew a Chinese person. OH, THAT’S ME.

          I showed it to the Better Bath, and throughout she kept asking if it was Chinese. At the end, I told her it was supposed to be. She said she was surprised. She thought most people and companies there would know that wasn’t proper.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It’s like, I don’t even know how race works in China. It’s such a different place with different contours to their racial politics. Which is not to say the ad is “okay.” But it’s so far removed from my experience.

        How many black people live in China? (I have no idea.) How are they treated? (I haven’t a clue.) What do they think of the ad? (Couldn’t even guess.)


        All the same, the Internet is a thing, and we can see ads from all over. We can view the ad here and respond here to what it means here.

        It looks pretty fucking racist, to be honest. It’s really fucking offensive.

        Regarding the Italian ad? … I laughed.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

          Regarding the Italian ad? … I laughed.

          I’m probably going to regret stepping in this, but… Swap the sexes and re-apply the filter. Is it still funny?Report

          • Patrick in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Maybe, but probably not.

            I more or less agree with Tod that the presentation of the entire character is what sets the stage for the attempted joke.

            So the payoff is the stereotypical bad goes in and something worthwhile comes out.

            The schlub male has been stereotypically bad for… a long time. Since the 40s at least. And will be stereotypically bad for a while yet, because schlubs are fun to laugh at, because they’re schlubs first.

            I don’t see an analog for the schlub female as a stereotype. Sure, I know that there exist women who behaviorally fit the category of schlub, but it’s not a stereotype to laugh at.

            It would be… hard to find a stereotype of women that would fit the bill. I can’t think of one, anyway.Report

            • El Muneco in reply to Patrick says:

              I agree, I think. If you flip the genders, there isn’t an equivalent stereotype, and if you go by facial resemblance the one you probably get changes the meaning entirely.

              My reading is that the woman is the one who gets everything done, while her loser boyfriend sits in the bedroom all day playing Mondo di Warcraft, until he decides he wants some sweet, sweet lovin’, in which case he tries his one move, the “Hey, baby!” (regardless of his clothing situation at the time). Having seen this all before, she proactively decides to change the situation. And thanks to the magic of detergent, ends up with Tim Meadows’ Ladies Man crossed with Italian footballing bad-boy Mario Balotelli. Which is an improvement, at least.

              You can’t just flip that reading. Well, you can, but in that case it’s literally “My Fair Lady” crossed with “Mannequin” or similar. And I don’t think any of those tropes have been played straight since the ’80s except in porn.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Patrick says:

              Fit male, slovenly female doesn’t work?Report

            • veronica d in reply to Patrick says:

              I don’t see an analog for the schlub female as a stereotype. Sure, I know that there exist women who behaviorally fit the category of schlub, but it’s not a stereotype to laugh at.

              Liz Lemon.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                veronica d: Liz Lemon.

                Really? Maybe I’m odd, but I actually find the character attractive.Report

              • Tina Fey is beautiful. Liz Lemon was messy, a terrible dresser, a compulsive eater, neurotic, frigid etc. Of course, being a male, I don’t care about any of that, because Tina Fey is beautiful.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:


              • Kazzy in reply to veronica d says:


                I’d say that the female analog to the schlub female is the crazy cat lady. But the crazy cat lady is notoriously single because who wants to date a crazy cat lady? Meanwhile, CBS is constantly reminding me that schlubby guys almost always marry hot babes.

                Liz Lemon was a unique character in a number of ways. And she had a streak of crazy cat lady in her, something they made direct reference to at times. But she was also able to break the mold because she was funny and attractive in spite of all that and still landed her share of hunky romantic partners.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy — But the schlub is an “everyman” in a way the cat lady cannot be. On the other hand, Liz Lemon is very much an “everywoman,” which is part of her appeal.

                Anecdote time! Totally true. So I’m hanging at a drag bar and this old-old-old school queen is there. He has a loud voice (such that would make Harvey Fierstein say, “Wow! That’s a voice”). Anyhow, he takes a sudden interest in me. Starts talking to me, giving me pointless advice, acting like I’m drag and want to me more drag and he can help me be drag-as-all-get-out.

                He meant well. In fact, he’s a total gem and I love him. But this was our first time meeting and, shall we say, his personality is large.

                Anywho, he’s going on about how I need to be “glamorous.”

                Say it to yourself in the loudest, gayest possible voice, “Oh honey, you need to be glamorous!”

                Words cannot describe his expression or body language as he said this. But it was dramatic. (However, to be honest, not so glamorous.)

                At this point I’m just gazing down at my tattered denim skirt and sneakers. Like, I am not nor will I ever be “drag.”

                Anyhow, at some point I burst out, “Dude! I’m Liz-fucking-Lemon and this is as glamorous as I get!”

                He blinked three times, and then just stared at me, completely perplexed.

                Sometimes I suspect that gay men just cannot quite fathom transsexuals.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to veronica d says:

                Oh, yes, the analogue is a poor one… I just think it is the closest one we have. The everyman has the luxury (privilege?) of being schlubby; this is not offered to the everywoman. Tina Fey doesn’t get a show if she looked like a female Ray Romano or Kevin James.

                Mindy Kaling bucks some traditional beauty norms, what with being brown and curvier than your typical leading lady, but she is also cute, perky, and plays ditzy even while playing a professional.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

                I guess I’d remind folks of one thing: the VAST majority of people writing, directing, and producing this stuff are other men.

                That doesn’t mean we end the conversation. Certainly I’ve seen women produce garbage. (For example, Twilight, 50 Shades, etc.) Likewise I’ve seen men produce some really great stuff.

                Like, Tangerine was written-and-directed by a cis dude!

                A cis dude! Like how did that happen!?!?!?

                (The answer: he began interviewing the two main actors before he finalized the script, and much of it developed with their input. That mattered.)

                (Tangerine is on Netflix. Watch it.)

                But still! The media figure of “the schlub” was created by men, for reasons of their own. For example, take that beyond-boring piece of shit movie Sideways — remember that stinker?

                Blah. That was by-and-for men. That was men talking about men.

                Like, is that meant to be appealing to women? It wasn’t appealing to me.


                Liz Lemon is a woman talking about herself. From the wiki:

                Like Fey, who was head writer of Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1999 to 2006, the character is head writer for a sketch comedy show. For this reason, Liz Lemon is widely seen by critics as a fictionalized version of Fey herself, which Fey herself has confirmed as being her intention. In a video interview conducted with Fey before the airing of the pilot, she stated that Liz is herself “five or six years ago when I first started at my job and had to figure out how to deal with big, strong personalities and get through the day, being sort-of scared of everyone… but acting like you’re not scared of everyone.”[90]

                Fey has reported incorporating some of her own quirks and history into the character, saying that she tries to “share as many of Liz’s habits as possible so it feels truthful”. Liz has been seen singing “Maybe”[7] and Fey has noted that she also enjoys singing songs from Annie.[35] Both were once rejected by a man who later went to “clown college” which had a huge emotional impact on them.[91]


                Now, the “schlub” in advertising, alongside the “hapless, ineffective husband” from the sitcoms — that guy!

                I dunno. I imagine your average “dad type” sitting in his garage, dreaming of buying monster-sized power tools, which he’ll never use and doesn’t need, and maybe he feels something when he watches Fight Club, but it ain’t like he’s going to join an MMA gym and actually “harden the fuck up,” even though it would do him some good.

                He wishes he was a “real man,” doing manly things with real muscles.

                I wish I was skinny and beautiful and could wave my long, elegant hair and always deliver the perfect line.

                Instead I’m a gigantic dork who can’t dress herself. Blah.


                I’d love to see a movie about (someone like) me. Nomi from Sense 8 is maybe-kinda-sorta close. But not really. She’s a little too idealized, all the talents of a nerd without being nerdy. That’s fake.

                (She is pretty, tho. That’s a plus.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                But still! The media figure of “the schlub” was created by men, for reasons of their own. For example, take that beyond-boring piece of shit movie Sideways — remember that stinker?

                Ya know, I hadn’t thought about that, but I am pretty damn certain you are spot on. And given how much I really hate that stereotype, that is pretty damn aggravating.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon — Well, let’s turn back the clock. Let’s look at Buffy. We’re in season one.

                We have Buffy. Yay. We have Willow. Double-mega-yay. We have Xander.

                Okay, so here is the question: how does Jos Whedon feel about himself? What are his notions of manhood, of romance, of what it means to be a decent guy?

                Oh, and then we have Angel.

                But honestly, as a character, is Angel “inhabited” the way that Xander is? Ask yourself, which character seems written from “what I feel on the inside” and which seems written as “plot device #37, with max sex appeal”?

                A vampire with a soul!!!!!!

                Be still my gothy heart.

                Anyway, who produces this stuff? Why?


                Is there a space for characters who are, in a sense, accessible to their audience, but also in a sense aspirational. It’s easy to create heroes beyond our grasp. Like, it’s great to see Nomi, a skinny and beautiful master hacker with psychic power. But I am not such. I’m a frumpy software engineer who has been single too long.

                There is this line between being accessible and aspirational. I want heroes. I want to imagine I could be the hero. I also (sometimes) want to see something honest. I don’t have superpowers. I’m not beautiful. I don’t command profound talents.

                Real-me would make a boring-as-fuck movie character. But in the hands of a good writer, almost-real-me could work. Maybe. I like to hope.


                What does the average “dad bod” guy want to see? Certainly it isn’t schlubo guy. I dunno.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                What does the average “dad bod” guy want to see? Certainly it isn’t schlubo guy. I dunno.

                First blush, Jethro Gibbs – or at least, parts of himReport

              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I haven’t seen the show. According to the wiki he’s former specops type, which makes him perhaps heavy on the aspirational side, since most folks aren’t specops material. But as I said, it’s a balance.

                Myself, I always found Phil Coulson from Agents of Shield a strangely appealing figure.

                (That said, it’s really obvious that Jos Whedon has daddy issues.)Report

          • Reformed Republican in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            There is a follow up add where the guy from the first Italian add, after looking at an erotic magazine with black women, decides to put his wife in the wash. When he opens it up afterward, it is the black man again.

            Unfortunately, I do not remember where I originally saw it the other day, and I cannot find it with a quick search.Report

          • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            @oscar-gordon —

            I’m probably going to regret stepping in this, but… Swap the sexes and re-apply the filter. Is it still funny?

            OMG are you guys reading anything I write?

            Some things are NOT SYMMETRICAL. In our culture, masculinity and femininity are not symmetrical. Sexism is not symmetrical.

            When you change words, you change meaning. “Man bites dog” is different from “Dog bites man.”

            It’s like, are these just word games to you all?

            Seriously! No FUCKING SERIOUSLY!

            Are these just words games, where you strip everything down to verbs and nouns, absent meaning, and assume you can re-jumble them together any old way and get an argument?

            Words denote things in the world. They do so imperfect. Language is tricky. Meaning is cognitively complex. But still, we are talking about real things that exist in the world. Gender is a social situation. It is real. It has effects.

            Swapping gender changes things. Of course it does. Duh. Obviously.

            Obligatory dose of dril.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:


              Never said anything about symmetry, I was curious as to the filter being applied.

              If I view this through an Ameri-centric race filter, the Chinese version is worse than the Italian one; swapping genders would make it even worse (although the Italian one almost did this in the follow-up).

              If I view it through a gender filter, both are bad; although swapping gender adds an interesting wrinkle by changing stereotypical gender roles.

              If I view it through a fantasy filter, then swapping the genders is irrelevant, the Italian one is fine, and the Chinese one is still kinda bad. Let me explain.

              Applying a fantasy filter involves crafting a bit of a backstory to the whole 30 second spot. Our heteronormative pair is in a romantic/sexual relationship that has worn on a bit. Our female is not actually trying to replace her partner, but just engaging in a bit of idealistic fantasy.

              The Italian woman honestly finds black men very attractive, has a fantasy about them. Had circumstances been different, perhaps she would have partnered up with that black guy she dated in college. Nothing wrong here then, since it’s a fantasy, so a hypersexualized version is par for the course. In short, the race aspect is just an aspect of the fantasy, not a social statement (remember, the Italian commercial was for laundry detergent that brightens colors, makes sense to use a fantasy object of color).

              Now the Chinese woman actually being with a black man while fantasizing about a Chinese man is harder to accept as just a fantasy, since (AFAIK) there is not a large population of black men in China, so the probability that she could not find something closer to her ideal is hard to stomach. Given what others here have said regarding the social acceptance of lighter skin over darker in Chinese society, the fantasy would be more believable had the man been a darker, say Mongolian, skin tone. Here, then, the fact that the man is clearly of African descent is very much a social statement toward race, making this advert more problematic.

              Using the fantasy filter, swapping the genders doesn’t alter the story (guys are allowed to have fantasies too), nor does it make the Chinese version less problematic (for the exact same reason).Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

            That Quartz article is really interesting.

            Calls to the investor relation hotline shown at the end of the commercial went unanswered. The Qiaobi brand is owned by Shanghai Leishang Cosmetics Co. Ltd, according to the brand’s Sina Weibo profile. Messages to that account were also unanswered.

            The important part for me:

            Written by
            Lily Kuo
            Zheping Huang


  2. veronica d says:

    The issue, as it often is, is that race is not symmetrical. Different races occupy different social positions, and thus when you “abstract out” race from an issue, you lose real data. In other words, in any contemporary situation (for example, a television ad), when you swap races, you change meaning.

    Let me repeat, when you swap races, you change meaning.

    I wish we lived in a colorblind society, but we do not. Thus an all-black cast in Hamilton is just not the same as the endless boring “whitewashing” done routinely by Hollywood.

    Different things are different. Do not cling to a false symmetry. When you do so, you miss important details. Do not overly abstract. Life is lived in the concrete. Each fact shapes the whole. Many small things together become salient, and these details can be lost in when you say, “But isn’t X the same as Y?”

    No, X is different from Y. Whether they are sufficiently similar to make your argument must itself be argued. And so it goes.Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to veronica d says:

      So what your saying is individuality matters, and to approach social constructs with a broad brush is often erroneous?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Joe Sal says:

        If the vectors of racism within a mixed-race society cancelled each other out then I’d agree with your view of what she’s saying. Howevah, I think VD is suggesting that some racism-vectors are more equal than others.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Stillwater says:

          I’m saying this: there will always be conflict over which details are salient, and which should be abstracted away to arrive at core principles. There will always be this conflict. Always.

          And we cannot do better than this. If we try, it is only if we manage to remove from the conversation those who feel we are ignoring salient details. However, if you manage to reliably remove a set of concerns from the discourse, you have used power, probably by a shift in the Overton window or whatever.

          This is a fine thing to do sometimes. I perfectly happy when “gamergate” types find themselves outside the Overton window. But let us not pretend this is a not a process of social power.

          Power hides itself. The real pervasive expressions of social power are those that feel natural to the powerful (and sometimes to the powerless).

          I’m happy to tell Nazis to shut up and go away. I hope you feel the same. But let us understand what we are doing when we do that.

          If you do the same to me, try to shut me out, I’m gonna fight you. So I expect the Nazis will fight me.

          Did you expect a life without conflict? Did you expect to arrive a some set of stable principles, agreeable to everyone, that could be reflexively applied, easy in all cases, with minimal thought and judgment, which would then deliver optimal justice?

          Some people really think that. Fools.Report

  3. Saul DeGraw says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. How do we know that the guy in either ad is a husband/boyfriend just because he is hanging around while the woman is doing laundry? It seems to me that the guy in the Chinese ad could not be a husband specifically because of the switch in turning into a Chinese guy who was more delightful to the woman in the ad.

    2. FWIW, I heard about the Chinese ad from a Korean-American woman who was an actress in my graduate school program and she was rather outraged by the commercial and posted about it in a “Oh hell no” kind of way. She is also heavily into activism against airbending and white casting whether it be Tilda Swinton’s role in Doctor Strange or Scarlett Johannsen in Ghost in the Shell. She is also the one who introduced me to the starring John Cho meme where John Cho (and other actors of Asian-descent are photoshopped into movie posters for everything from Skyfall to Me Before You.)

    3. An African-American actress I know was rather disappointed by the black guy in the Chinese ad because he took the job for a paycheck and sacrificed his self-respect in her words. This was more than doing something extremely silly. The guy was going into cultural connotations on the unattractiveness of dark skin.

    4. From what I’ve read, even in non-White countries, lighter skin can be seen as more desirable than darker skin. Lighter skinned Asians are more acceptable in China than darker-skin Asians according to various articles I have read on this meme.

    5. Interracial dating remains a complicated affair and I suspect that it is because there is often an imbalance in how it goes. As far as I can tell, the most common interracial couples in the United States are White Men with Asian Women and Black Men with White Women. I’ve known exceptions but it seems incredibly rare for Asian men to date non-Asian women. From what I’ve read, it is incredibly hard for Asian men to break out of the nerdy and undesirable stereotypes that somehow surround them even if they are quite fit and even kind of bro-ish. I also read an article years ago about how college-educated black women feel like their are not a lot of college-educated black men for them to date and they feel like white women dating successful black men dips into their pool. I’ve also known exceptions but it seems rare to see white men date and marry black women as well. The feelings about depleting partner pools are also what I’ve heard among Asian men. When I lived in Japan, there were lots of white guys who managed to get Japanese girlfriends.* I was honestly kind of shocked by how many of these Japanese women would disparage and insult Japanese men as undesirable.

    *I had a crush on an Australian girl who lived in the same glorified dorm.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Re: interracial dating – in a long history of online matchmaking, the only black women I’ve been linked with even to the point of a first date have been Afro-Caribbean, rather than African-American. As you say, there seems to be a more of a cultural emphasis on staying within the community than you see in other groups.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to El Muneco says:

        In college, I once dated a young lady whose family had immigrated from Egypt. She had both very dark skin the color of coffee, and crystal-light blue eyes. Phenomenally, nostalgia-inducingly beautiful.

        Well, I dated her once. Which is to say, one date. She was way out of my league, and we both knew it. She was, however, very pleasant about it. I hope she’s doing well in life.Report

        • In a time long, long ago, when I was an undergraduate, there was a woman who lived in the women’s dorm that shared the dining hall with the men’s dorm where I lived. She was referred to, by most of the men in the dorm, in hushed worshipful tones, as “the Blond”.

          As it turns out, I knew the Blond’s brother, who was a computer engineering guy. I dragged the Blond’s brother, kicking and screaming, through the discrete math requirement for his degree. Also made various trips to outstate Nebraska with the brother, during the course of which I met the Blond, who was a bright charming person of many talents, which most people ignored because she was stunningly attractive.

          She completely reversed my reputation in the dorm one evening at dinner when she stopped at the table where I was sitting and asked, “Mike, can I catch a ride to Imperial with you on Friday?”

          I’ve always hoped that she ended up in a situation where she was appreciated for all the cool things she was beside beautiful.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Michael Cain says:

            I forget where I saw it, but I remember seeing a quote to the effect that people think that, in this mans’ world, the strictures extreme attractiveness place on a woman don’t exist because they’re subtler and, frankly, less limiting than those placed by extreme unattractiveness. But that doesn’t mean they actually don’t exist.

            Might have been Bujold. I know Bujold had a bit about Elli Quinn, who had been happy that when her face had been reconstructed after battle damage, they’d spared no expense in how attractive the new face was. Until about the seventh time a (subordinate) soldier made a pass at her rather than following an order…Report

    • Damon in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Based upon the asian women I’ve talked to and dated, they hate asian men as they treat the women like crap. White guys don’t, specifically american guys.Report

    • Mo in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      The lighter skin thing is complicated. It’s less about race and more about class. Who gets darker skin relative to others in their race? People that are laborers that work outside (white equivalent = redneck). Who doesn’t get darker? Those that are wealthy enough to stay indoors and live a life of leisure. Interestingly, in the US, being tanned is the indicator of a life of leisure, for women at least, so it is considered more attractive.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      At least in my experience, I’ve known more than a few white womsn who are either dating Asian men or who find them cute, especially in the dance community.Report

  4. Stillwater says:

    Forget about race in these two commercials. I’m wondering where da fem’nists at?Report

    • Maribou in reply to Stillwater says:

      @stillwater I’d rather not derail a race conversation into a feminism conversation, so I’ll keep this short:

      This particular feminist is SHOCKED, shocked I say, any time I see a non-sexist laundry-related commercial, to the point where it seems unnecessary to even remark upon the fished up ones. They do show up from time to time, but usually laundry commercials, and their associated gender roles for all participants therein, are high on the list of things that make me despair for all humanity. Weirdly high on that list, considering like, how much *actually* awful stuff happens every day- but there’s some feeling of “if we can’t even make THIS tiny corner of the world less odious, how are we ever going to solve any real problems !?!?!?!?!?!”Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

        Thanks for saying that Maribou. To be honest, I couldn’t tease out any of the race-based weirdnesses in either commercial, since I don’t know what the heck anyone was appealing to, presupposing, intending, promoting, Othering, Normalizing, etc. But the fact that the woman was in front of the laundry in both of em jumped right out.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Maribou says:

        Generally speaking, anything that is a commercial for a product that you might have learned how to use in a “home economics” class in 1956 is still overwhelmingly marketed as if all of those products are used solely in that classroom, sixty years ago, by those students who were encouraged by the master schedule to take that class.

        I’m actually only shocked when I see one that wasn’t, and then I try to buy that thing in bulk.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Patrick says:

          @patrick Yep. That’s pretty much what I just said, right? I mean, you’re agreeing with me, but it sounds like you’re disagreeing. I must be misunderstanding something somewhere.

          I think my particular sensitivity to domestic product commercials it is based largely on having had a feminist, ground-breaking home economics professor for a grandmother. Otherwise I’d just tune them out. The way I do feminine hygiene commercials.Report

          • Don Zeko in reply to Maribou says:

            One could probably just stop the criticism at “commercials” and have it still be almost as valid, sadly. Maybe part of the problem is that, when you’re trying to tell a story in 30 seconds or whatever that has an emotional effect, it’s very easy to reach for lazy stereotypes and assumptions.Report

          • Patrick in reply to Maribou says:

            Oh, I absolutely am wholeheartedly agreeing with you. +1 to everything you said.

            Sometimes my inner voice of wry amusement comes across in print as something other than what it sounds like in my head.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:


        You mention the very few “non-sexist laundry-related commercial[s]” out there. Do you consider any commercial that features a woman doing laundry to be necessarily sexist? Obviously, I view any commercial through a male (as well as other) lens so it is possible I might see a commercial that portrays men and women in traditional gender roles but which lacks overt sexism as somewhat neutral — or at least approaching it — where you might see it as sexist… at which point I’d likely defer to your perspective on the matter.

        It also strikes me that this might be one of those things where such ads aren’t necessarily sexist in a vacuum (“Hey, some non-zero amount of women do laundry so showing a woman doing laundry isn’t factually wrong!”) but taken in their totality, they become another drop in the bucket of sexism and therefore anything that isn’t explicitly non- or anti-sexist becomes “neutral on a moving train” de facto sexist.

        Anyway, to the extent you’re willing, I’d be curious to hear your perspective on what to make of neutral or even positively framed but nonetheless stereotypical representations of women (assuming such things exist… again, maybe what I see as “neutral” or even “positive” are negative in a way I’m not yet seeing).Report

        • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

          @kazzy I think it is entirely possible to show a woman doing laundry in a way that does not perpetuate sexism. It’s rare (not non-existent) that I’ve seen one. (And fwiw, I think the messages that are perpetuated are negative about both men and women, just in different ways.) Full disclosure, I almost never see commercials these days, so I suppose it’s possible things have changed in the last 5 years when I wasn’t looking. I also think laundry commercials are almost always pretty darn classist, but, uh, that’s hardly confined to laundry! Or domestic products in general.

          I started to get into this further, with examples, and explanations of what I think said commercials should like, but, as previously noted, I *really* don’t want to derail from the main topic of the post. Just wanted to answer Still’s original question.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

            @kazzy PS If you come to leaguefest I will be happy to expound at LENGTH upon this topic and the topics it brings up (also curious to hear about some of the single dad / primary caretaker dad stuff that you have experienced). We just need a) beverages and b) to not be in earshot of @jaybird who has put up with my rants on this complex of topics wayyyyyyyyyy too many times over the years and shouldn’t be subjected to it on vacation.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

            Thanks for that perspective, @maribou . I’d love nothing more than to talk more about this in person over a drink at League-fest. I hope I can make it!Report

  5. Tod,

    I’m not sure I grok what you’re arguing, perhaps because the only commentary on the two commercials I’ve read has been Will’s, yours, and those who have commented so far. (I.e., I haven’t read the youtube and other comments Will referred to on his post.) I can, however, imagine a certain critique that goes, “if the first commercial is bad, then the second must be equally bad (and only a fanatic would say otherwise),” and another critique that goes, “if you think they’re equally bad, then you’re missing the point (and only a bigot would miss such an obvious point).”

    I will say I find both commercials offensive. Not equally offensive–whether the offense is “equal” or not is mostly (but not entirely) a red herring, in my opinion–but offensive nonetheless.

    Commercial no. 1: offensive because it implies it’s bad to be black.

    Commercial no. 2: offensive because it calls upon the stereotype of black people being somehow naturally erotic, exotic, and sensuous. It’s a form of orientalism. Also offensive because it implies that a guy with a physique (ahem) more like mine is somehow less of a man than one with a physique (ahem) more like that of the post-laundered man.

    Also, I share Saul’s point no. 1 above, if I understand him aright. In each commercial, I didn’t assume the woman and man were partners/married. I assumed they didn’t know each other, that the woman was in the laundry room of an apartment when a strange–“menacing” in the first commercial, “creepy” in the second commercial–was approaching the woman. Maybe that’s because I watched both commercials with the sound off, but that assumption affected my interpretation of what was going on.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      @gabriel-conroy Huh, I assumed the women in question knew both men, probably because of the usual context of the laundry commercials I’ve seen (which almost always involve women cleaning up after their families). As such, I didn’t find the first guy in the Chinese commercial menacing, I thought he was kind of adorable. (I also watched with the sound off.) His body language reads (to me) very non-threatening, playful rather than dangerous.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Maribou says:

        Your and Burt’s point (below) are valid ones, and probably the best way to read those commercials, especially the Chinese version. The fact that I read the Chinese version as I did perhaps says something (unfavorable) about my assumptions going in.

        Something (perhaps less unfavorable) it says about my assumptions going in, is that I’m used to using laundromats or living in apartments, where there’s a laundry room, and less used to having our own laundry.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Maribou says:


        They can know the men but that doesn’t make them husbands though if I had to bet money, I would bet the guy in the Italian ad was meant to be a husband because of how the woman was clearly bored by him.

        Of course both ads could have been made in ways that did not have the racist angle and would have been perfectly charming. The guy in the Chinese ad is really handsome. He could have been put in the washing machine and come out without any paint on his clothing and/or in a really nice suit or maybe just his boxer-briefs.Report

    • Huh. I got a different reaction to the nonverbal cues about the relationships between the men and the women.

      In the Chinese commercial, the woman seemed pleased to see the unlaundered man from the very beginning, and comfortable with him being within her personal space before the laundering. After the man is laundered, she’s positively delighted with him, but at no point is she ever apparently unhappy to have him around and at all points she appears to be familiar with him. Pre-laundering black dude in Chinese commercial never seemed menacing to me, and the woman never seemed menacing.

      In the Italian commercial, the emotional dynamic traverses a good deal more distance. The woman initially seems annoyed with the man, but not at all unsurprised to see him, and somewhat bored by his sexual advance. After laundering, of course, she’s quite a bit happier to have him and his visually pleasing six-pack in close proximity to herself and there’s a hint that she’s ready to initiate the nooky (while he stands there in the washing machine, displaying his awesomely sculpted biceps). Pre-laundering Italian commercial dude did seem creepy, but in the sense that the woman had lost interest in him sexually, which interest was rekindled by his product-induced metamorphosis.

      In both cases, it’s clear that the woman protagonist’s body language conveys an understanding that the woman feels that the man somehow belongs where he is regardless of her preferences — he just could benefit from a little bit of cleaning up, is the thing.

      (I also noticed on the audio that the muffled cries of distress when the man is within the running washing machine are identical, just as the accordion-music soundtrack is the same as noted by Our Tod in the OP.)Report

      • Good point, Burt, as I noted to Maribou above.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:


        “In the Chinese commercial, the woman seemed pleased to see the unlaundered man from the very beginning, and comfortable with him being within her personal space before the laundering. After the man is laundered, she’s positively delighted with him, but at no point is she ever apparently unhappy to have him around and at all points she appears to be familiar with him. Pre-laundering black dude in Chinese commercial never seemed menacing to me, and the woman never seemed menacing.”

        This way of describing the commercial makes it sound even more racist!!!Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          So, to be clear here: less menacing means more racist?

          {{I’m just trying to get clear on the rules of the game.}}Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

            What I think Saul means is that the fact that the Black man in the Chinese commercial is non-menacing makes it seem kind of more racist is because it implies he isn’t good enough as is. Its sort of like a woman finding a man absolutely charming but not wanting to date him because he is too short.Report

  6. Maribou says:

    I actually find the Italian ad rather racist toward black people as well (just my experience, no idea how it works in Italy), simply because the whole point of the dude appears to be how brawny and sexy the dude is. It’s a complete objectification.

    In this country, black men are so frequently treated as objects rather than subjects that it’s barely more noteworthy than when women are, and the history of that is rather creepy.

    Not sure how Italy works on that front, but if it were a commercial for American audiences, explicitly aimed at women-who-do-their-household’s-laundry(*deepbreathdonotderailintofeministranthere*) … I’d find it deeply creepy and weirdly racist. Something along the lines of “this white dude is all entitled and thinks he can be a jerky sexist weirdo, but ta-daaaaah, now you have a black dude whose sexual attributes are extremely at your disposal.”

    It’s weird. It’s creepy. And it feels racist.

    The Chinese commercial is also weirdly racialized and uncomfortable – think how cute (other than *cough cough feminism cough cough*) the same commercial would’ve been if they’d kept the same actor. But at least that one is – to my eyes – straightforwardly fished up, instead of working the whole weird objectification-of-subaltern-classes thing that sets off my creeptastic alarm bells of “what? we’re not being racist!!”Report

    • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

      @maribou — I guess I’d rather hear from some black men, whether they found the ad “hypersexualizing.” I can see it going either way. (And I bet you can find black men with all kinds of responses.)

      I mean, it’s clearly objectifying, but what commercial isn’t? It’s almost like, to watch ads you have to accept a certain amount of objectification, but then you look to see if the advertisers kinda “get it.”

      I dunno. It’s subtle.

      Personally I thought he was a hottie!Report

      • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

        @veronica-d I guess I’d rather hear from some black men too. In fact I’m sure of it. Though I’m not about to go out and bug the black men I know to say “is this the thing? the thing I know bugs you? or does this not bug you because it’s a different thing?” But since all that was going on in terms of discussing this man and that ad on this page when I wrote my comment was a bunch of white people talking about how hot he was or that the ad was funny rather than racist, I thought I’d share my view as well.

        It’d be helpful to me personally if you hadn’t made your comments about your reaction to that ad as freely and non-on-the-other-hand and non “Well, this was my reaction but I also question that reaction” as you did, and then step to the only other woman in this thread with “I guess I’d rather hear from” as your first statement. Note that no one else started their response to me by telling me they didn’t want to hear from me.

        Some other time, I’d like to talk more about both of our experiences of the different ways of objectifying people and when those ways are and aren’t healthy. But today is not that day. Because, like, well, see above.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

          It’d be helpful to me personally if you hadn’t made your comments about your reaction to that ad as freely and non-on-the-other-hand and non “Well, this was my reaction but I also question that reaction” as you did, and then step to the only other woman in this thread with “I guess I’d rather hear from” as your first statement. Note that no one else started their response to me by telling me they didn’t want to hear from me.

          I didn’t mean I didn’t want to hear from you also. That wasn’t my point. It’s just, I’d rather see the conversation guided by those affected. I’m certainly happy to hear your thoughts as well.

          Sorry if I gave that impression.Report

          • Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

            @veronica-d I guess I don’t see why, given that you have that feeling (which I share), you didn’t bring it up in your original comments, or earlier/separately as a general response to Tod’s push to discuss the topic even without hearing from those affected, but only when I disagreed with the assessment that the ad was reasonably harmless.

            It does make it feel like it’s my particular response that you don’t want to hear.Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    This really deserves a longer treatment than a single comment (and a better treatment than I’m capable of providing), but I’m continually amazed at the ability (inclination? desire? worthiness?…) of intellectual-culture USAmericans to apply a metric of evaluation and judgement to stuff that simply doesn’t matter in the bigger or smaller scheme of things. Duchamp already gave us a live-trial demonstration that the absolutely ridiculous can be reconceptualized into something Really Important. Just like these kids did! But we simply refuse to learn that lesson.

    The search for hidden meaning. It’s always there.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Stillwater says:

      @stillwater The best part is how the meta just doesn’t stop, nu? Or were you including yourself in the folks you were evaluating and judging? (I’m including myself, but I think I was included already, before the meta started.)Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

        In this case, no I’m not including myself. 🙂 Think of what I wrote more as a rejection of post-modernism’s intellectual influence on everyday thinking. That a word – or commercial! – is a text and I’m the determiner of what that text in fact means.Report

  8. Maribou says:

    @tod-kelly FWIW, when I talk about race (which is usually not online), I don’t often talk in either of the ways you describe. But then I’m most often not talking with a purpose of convincing a white person to change their mind. Usually I’m trying to demonstrate support in the wake of crappy situations that leave my kids frustrated and heartbroken (which, yes, listening, but ALSO, grown-up who is there for you and has your back, not just gives you an ear). Sometimes I’m venting with other white people who are angry and ashamed that our “cream of the crop” school still contains 20 year olds who think it’s a fun game to drop the n word around African American students behind their backs, just to see what will happen.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Maribou says:

      @maribou Well, sure — yeah to all of that. But then, I actually think you’re a person who is really good at engaging people on these kinds of topics. I think of you as being a kind of standard people on the internet should shoot for.Report

  9. Damon says:

    Both of the commercials were funny. But really, this article is incomplete.

    Why aren’t we talking about this?:

    If we’re talking about race, why aren’t we talking about MMF threesomes and the inference to “you know”.

    That one dude looked Italian. Some folks think Italians aren’t white.Report

  10. Brandon Berg says:

    They are so similar, in fact, that I have to assume that despite being from different countries they were almost certainly created by the same advertising agency.

    Maybe, but given China’s flexible attitudes towards intellectual property, you can never rule out the possibility of a rip-off.Report

  11. LeeEsq says:

    One very vexing problem with any deep issue is that a lot of people simply don’t care. Some of them are apathetic for reasons for malice but mostly its because most people don’t really like thinking about abstract, to them, issues a lot. We aren’t going to achieve an ideal state of non-racism, non-sexism, non-whateverism not because people are evil but simply because most people aren’t going to put a lot of thought into these things ever. They might follow major societal trends but they aren’t going to think about deeply.Report

    • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Or they don’t think that the particular instance, that other folks think should result in all that “deep thinking”, isn’t all that significant after all.Report

  12. The big difference between the two ads, agree those who have been arguing over them, is that in one ad the “improved” husband goes from being white to black, and in the other ad the “improved” husband goes from being black to a very white Asian.

    Which is only a slight very Asian.Report

  13. a US House Speaker “allowing” his daughter to marry a non-white person

    I think it’s great. Their kids are definitely going to be Giants fans.Report

  14. Kazzy says:

    Another aspect of the Italian ad is the presumption that what white women want sexually is a “strapping young buck”… and that white men should fear the inherent and overt sexuality of Black men. So even though the Black man is posited as the “positive” or “desirable” one, it still plays into age-old stereotypes.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy Yeah, no question about that. It’s something Will noted about the alt-right’s potential reaction in his piece.

      That puts us in a bit of a pickle, though.

      Do we err by not making the portrayal of a white woman being physically attracted to white man taboo? Or do we err by making the portrayal of a white woman being physically attracted to a black man ok, and deal with the inevitable response later?

      It’s an imperfect dilemma.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


        You are right that it is tricky but I don’t think it is impossible. As they say, the devil is in the details. How you present the individuals and how you define their relationship is going to go a long way towards whether or not you are playing on stereotypes. Two fully fleshed out characters — one a white woman and the other a Black man — engaged in a realistic, loving relationship? It’d be hard to take issue with that (I mean, unless you are inclined to take issue with interracial relationships, of course). Of course, that is hard to present in a 30-second spot. But the Cheerios spot (which, hey, people inclined to take issue with interracial relationships took issue with!) featured a Black man and white woman and even in that brief glimpse, it was pretty clear that their relationship wasn’t one of forbidden sexual attraction.

        Among other reasons, I think the Italian ad failed because all we see the “new” husband offer is Black sexuality.

        It is also worth noting that Italy has a pretty strong strain of anti-Black/African racism. I don’t know exactly how it compares to America but my sense is that it is worse than in many other European countries (at least the northern and western ones).Report

      • @tod-kelly , @kazzy

        One of my working theories is that in a very “ist” society (racist, sexist, homophoic-ist, etc.), any and all representations of members of the outgroup(s) will be able to be read–legitimately and reasonably–as a way to perpetuate the ism.

        If the person from the outgroup is represented as an individual, then he/she might seem like they’re portrayed as making a “brave statement” instead of being an individual. If the person is represented as just a regular guy/gal in the midst of non-outgroup members, they might seem portrayed as tokens. If the person is portrayed as doing something even remotely associated with a group’s stereotypical behavior, then they might seem portrayed as reinforcing negative stereotypes.

        Some representations are better than others, some are done with the intent to empower the outgroup(s) or to embrace/welcome/show inclusiveness toward members of the outgroups. But there will always be a real danger of stereotyping. That ad a few years ago (from JC Penny’s?) that showed a gay-parented family was good for a lot of reasons and a step in what I consider the right direction. But it can also reinforce the stereotype that all gays are affluent or it can seem to reinforce the expectation that only those gays who are family-oriented deserve to be welcome. That alternative reading is not the intended one, but to me it’s not unreasonable, either.

        Now, I don’t know what to do with that theory. For one thing, it’s unprovable, because the only way to measure the depth of the “ist”-ness of society is to assume it in the first place.

        Second, it seems a recipe for doing nothing and it comes dangerously close to the right wing complaint of “see, you can’t do anything to make those people happy…what more do they want.” I reject that complaint, but I know that it could sound like I’m rehashing it.

        ETA: I know I’ve advanced this idea before. Thanks for indulging me as I do it yet again. I guess it’s one of my hobbyhorses.Report

  15. Will H. says:

    !) i disbelieve the propriety of judging other nations and cultures under the (prospective!) standards of our own.
    (Also: Odd that i should read this after an OTC piece about cultural appropriation.)

    2) Maybe we need to examine the: Racist = Bad equation.
    I think admitting openly that individuals are a fairly complex amalgam of various traits not equally nor persistently weighted demonstrated in numerous ways in different circumstances might be a good start.

    3) Having been stigmatized by racism for the most of my life now (things are a bit different in the military), I truly would rather deal with a straight-forward racist than the majority of the hand-wringers and do-gooders.
    Hand-wringing and do-gooding are most often the signs of something terrible about to happen.
    Most racists lack sufficient animosity to do grave harm, but grave harm seems to be second nature to the HW/DG’s.

    4) Odd that I should read this on the first day of Ramadan.
    Tonight, I will take a plate of chicken to an (familiar) acquaintance.Report