Watching T.V. online doesn’t save you from the commercials. This I learned the hard way. However, after seeing the same Lime-A-Way commercial ad nauseum last night, I realized that it wasn’t just a benign commercial for a cleaning product.
Woven into its talk of hard water stains and effective cleaning methods were racist undertones: subtle, but noticeable nonetheless.
Here’s the commercial: http://susancanwrite.com/campaign.php?id=47§ion=television
(sorry folks, you are going to have to click on the link to view the video)
The commercial begins with a woman walking into her bathroom. Immediately the black (literally) sink begins speaking to her: “Ah hello!? These ugly stains are ruining my good looks and style and good luck using that cleaner.”
At this point, the woman rolls her eyes, dismissing the sink’s concerns (I do understand the hilarity of all this), and walks toward the shower. In a very polite voice, the shower says, “Excuse me, miss? He’s right. Those are tough water stains and that cleaner is not going to cut it. Truth is 85% of us have hard water and many don’t even know it. You need Lime-A-Way!”
The problem with this commercial lies in the way it distinctly racializes each inanimate object: the sink’s voice is distinctly African American while the shower’s voice is distinctly Caucasian. The commercial takes all this a step further when it attaches racist stereotypes to each voice. The sink’s concerns are superficial and based on appearance. The woman quickly dismisses them until the shower in a respectful voice tells her the same information, this time with the accompaniment of statistics. The sink represents the body while the shower represents the mind. It is the mind/body binary all over again.
It is clear that negative and positive attributes are being attached to race. The commercial associates manners and intellect with Caucasians, while it associates superficiality and impoliteness with African Americans. There is a reason why the commercial chose one voice to represent the sink and another to be the mouthpiece of the product they are trying to sell. Dominant culture, even in the 21st century, privileges one race and prefers one over the other. There may not be a genetic difference between each race, but culturally the distinctions are still reinforced.