Thursday, July 29, 2010

7828: Old Spice Vs. Old Stereotypes.

Jim Edwards at BNET may be overthinking the racial implications of the Old Spice Guy. Edwards wrote:

Everyone loves the Old Spice Guy who asks, “So ladies, should your man smell like an Old Spice man?” But there was a time when, if you used a sexualized, shirtless black man to sell a cleaning product, you got accused of racism. (That time was January of this year, the product was Clorox (CLX)’s Pine-Sol, and the commercial showed a sexy hunk mopping a floor in a role-reversal fantasy.)

Edwards went on to tweak Pepper Miller for criticizing the imagery in a recent Pine-Sol commercial, and the writer wondered why the mopping Mandingo is viewed differently than the Old Spice Guy.

Well, since Edwards is bold enough to expose his confusion, MultiCultClassics will chip in two cents on the discussion.

First, Pepper Miller never called the Pine-Sol imagery racist.

Second, MultiCultClassics has consistently maintained that no one can dictate whether or not something is racist. In the end, people will make their decisions based on personal experiences, impressions, attitudes, beliefs, etc. After all, Andrew Breitbart thinks Shirley Sherrod is racist. And Whoopi Goldberg thinks Mel Gibson is not.

Third, the Old Spice Guy is not universally loved. At The Big Tent, Kiss My Black Ads blogger Craig Brimm wrote:

I had a friend write me about these same spots, namely the ones that feature the African American men. He said that they were all based in stereotypes. The Old Spice spots (which I love) are based on the “black buck” or “mandingo” schema that portrays the hyper-sexualized black male.

So some folks do indeed contend the Old Spice Guy is related to the Pine-Sol mopster.

While MultiCultClassics does not personally agree with such viewpoints, the offended cannot be dismissed. Everyone sees things through their own life lenses.

For whatever it’s worth, MultiCultClassics categorizes the Old Spice and Pine-Sol characters in separate silos.

The Pine-Sol Guy has the added burden of working with the stereotypical baggage associated with the Pine-Sol Lady. Plus, his depiction literally is sexual and subservient. Even Pine-Sol executives recognize many people deem the spokeswoman as offensive, despite the Clorox Company’s insistence that she’s cool. Finally, Pine-Sol heavily targets Black women through its advertising.

The Old Spice Guy is intended for a mass-market audience. He just happens to be Black—a man of any race or ethnicity could have handled the role. Ad agency Weiden + Kennedy used actor Isaiah Mustafa similarly to the Black athletes starring in Nike ads. It’s about entertainment value and concept. And it’s semi-ironic that Mustafa is an ex-professional sports figure.

But that’s just one blog’s opinion.


mtlb said...

Jim always seems to need help. It’s context. Isaiah is talking to viewers, and as you mentioned, the dude in the Pine Sol spot fills the role of boy toy. Viewers in this case are voyeurs of a guy who’s only role is sex slave, which is different than Isaiah being control of the situation. BNET should just send me Jim’s check for this week.

HustleKnocker said...

Jim seems like a pretty petty guy who was waiting to sharpen the knives again.

There's a basic element of hyper sexuality of black male identity in this Old Spice spot, but it's trumped ten fold by the knowing absurdity that Isiah brings to it.

Isiah is so good in this campaign they could've died him purple and you'd still be on his side.

Jim's not interested in that. Like way too many people, Jim Miller's proven time and time again that he wants to define racism in relation to black folks, even when we don't want or need him too.

KissMyBlackAds said...

I think the biggest difference is that IW's Old Spice guy portrayal is that he has agency. He's completely empowered and even allowed to be an ironic caricature of himself. Where as the Pine-Sol guy appears as nearly a slave, you question his very existence and the entire scenario.