Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disliking Stereotypes is Not a Matter of Taste

Last week I wrote about Kraft's MilkBites commercials and how disappointed I was to see the way they portrayed stereotypes about multiracial people. Specifically, I am upset by the way that Mel (the talking MilkBite) is portrayed as damaged and flawed because of his "mixed" background. I am disappointed by the suggestion that parents of biracial children are irresponsible. I am dismayed at watching the tragic mulatto myth be drug to the forefront again in 2012 to sell a cereal bar of all things.

I'm not the only one! So far, nearly 30 people have signed the Change.org petition urging Kraft to reconsider this campaign. (And you should sign it, too!) In addition, other bloggers have weighed in on the way that these commercials are offensive and ill-formed.

HoneysmokeContemporary ContemptAll Things BeautifulLight-skinned-ed GirlProject RACE, and Bradley Koch are all asking questions about the racial overtones in this campaign. 


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I wonder how many of them got the same form letter I received from Kraft? I know that Charlotte, someone who commented on Kraft's Facebook page, did because she shared it in the comments of my first post, and the one I got is identical. It says:
Thank you for visiting http://www.kraftfoods.com/. I wanted to thank you for sharing your concerns with us about our advertising. Your comments are important to us, we do take them seriously and I want to assure you that I will share them with our advertising staff. That said, I can't promise you won't see this ad again. 
We consider our advertising the company's voice to the public. While we try to provide advertising that appeals to the majority of our audience, it's hard to create advertising that fits everyone's taste. Than you again for you taking the time to share your thoughts.
"it's hard to create advertising that fits everyone's taste." 

Kraft, I have news for you, wanting to turn on the television without being bombarded by stereotypical messages is not a matter of "taste." It's not like I wrote in and said, hey, Mel is wearing a t-shirt and I'd rather see him in a suit. It's not like I said you know that 80's rock ballad playing in the background, well, I'd really rather hear some 90's alternative. 

I wrote in to tell them that their commercials are perpetuating stereotypes. One of the women commenting on MilkBite's Facebook wall wrote to say that her (biracial) 12-year-old son saw the commercial and said, "Mel hates himself because he's two things. Mom, you and I are a mix of two things. Do you think we are bad?" It is not a matter of taste to not want messages this damaging sent to our children.

Companies are going to continue using damaging stereotypes because it draws attention and it taps into a certain segment of their audience. Belvedere vodka, Huggies, Vogue and countless other marketing strategists will continue using these stereotypes because it's easier than thinking up an original way to get people's attention and because they're drawing from a culture that's already saturated with stereotypical portrayals. 

It's our job as consumers to let them know that this is not okay (as the #notcool tumblr does so well for sexist ads). 

When we call out an ad for being offensive and damaging to equality, it's not because we've had our delicate "tastes" thrown off. We're calling out these ads because we have a vested interest in making our societies more equitable, in tearing down the oppressive barriers in place before our sons and daughters as they move forward in a world that is all too quick to dismiss them based on deep-seated prejudices, in questioning why we continue to face the very real effects of oppression even though most of us say we support equality. 

In short, my aversion to this campaign has nothing to do with my "tastes" and everything to do with acting as a responsible consumer. The messages we send and the products we buy matter; they shape the world we live in from the bottom up. If you're unhappy about the messages portrayed in this campaign, I urge you to keep contacting Kraft. Tell them. Sign the petition. Maybe then they'll realize that this is about more than "taste." 

15 comments:

  1. Thank you for pointing this campaign out. When I first started reading your first post, I originally thought that maybe you were taking it a bit too far. But I stopped my thoughts of dismissal. I may not directly deal with this issue on a day to day basis personally, but there are friends of mine who do. You are so right for pointing it out. I have signed the petition.

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    1. Thank you so much for your support! I know that there are bigger, more direct things that impact us, but I really do believe it is these little, subtle messages that lay the groundwork for those bigger ones.

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    2. Wow, it would have been better for them just to ignore you! To say "sorry the racist themes you uncovered aren't to your taste" is beyond stupid. I hope you share that on their FB page.
      Also, the part aboout "passing it on to our advertising staff" is laughable. More likely they have speant thousands (if not millions) of dollars on an advertising firm and they aren't going to loose all that money by firing them and pulling all the ads so early in the campaign. At least not until you get more people to sign that petition!

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  2. I am not only on your side, but also impressed by this blog in general. Really impressive.

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  3. Thank you so much for both of your posts. This is absolutely a negative campaign based on stereotypes that puts mixed families in the "dysfunctional" category. I am saddened that Kraft is not taking the community in question (the mixed community) into consideration here. We are voicing our distaste with this campaign and as you said...they are choosing their own opinions on the campaign over the individuals who are actually affected by it. Disappointing.

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  4. THANK YOU!! I had not heard about these ads until reading your blog, but I am so mad! As another white mama to 2 biracial kids, my husband and I are appalled (although not shocked, unfortunately) by the ad. Our kids are already surrounded by stereotypes, even in preschool and kindergarten. Its time to fight back. We will not buy kraft, and are signing the change.org petition too. So glad you are bringing attention to this!

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  5. I am also outraged by these commercials, being a biracial woman myself. I actually wrote about my displeasure from these commercials to Kraft on Facebook. This is what they sent me back in response..... Just oh we're sorry you feel that way, yada yada yada. Nothing about nixing the commercials. Just a "You don't get it" type of deal.
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    April 14

    Kraft MilkBite Milk and Granola Bars

    Hi Jacquelyn, We are really sorry to hear you are disappointed in our ad. We want to assure you that we did not intend and would never want to offend anyone with our marketing efforts. The messaging in our commercial is not intended to imply any commentary on race, and certainly not to cause any offense. Our hope is that people see Mel as a loveable character who embodies the 2 elements of KRAFT MILKBITE Milk & Granola bars - real milk and whole grain granola. We have shared your comments with the appropriate marketing and advertising teams! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and please know that we value all opinions.

    Best, Kraft MilkBite Team

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    1. I think being dismissed like that is even more infuriating. I'm hoping that if enough of us point out the problem to Kraft, they'll have to have a more substantial response.

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  6. I signed the petition and put my comment on their facebook page to ad my dissent to a more public forum. Here's what I said, "I don't know whether the creators of the ad campaign for this product had the comparison to multi-racial identity consciously in mind -- I'm going to naively hope they didn't -- but after watching most of the ads, it's impossible not to conclude that offensive tropes about biracial or multi-racial people have provided all of the creators' "clever" creative material. Even if this was an 'unconscious' mistake -- after all, such stereotypes are unfortunately buried in our nation's collective consciousness -- that doesn't get Kraft off the hook. You are responsible for what you put out into the world, and therefore responsible for interrogating it for harmful assumptions. These ads are unacceptable."

    Thanks for bringing this to out attention.

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    1. Thank you for signing the petition! And I think you make an excellent point that these types of stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that they may have been unconsciously tapped into. As you say, though, even if that's the case, we have to hold these multi-million dollar corporations more accountable for the messages they send. This is the very reason those stereotypes are so prevalent to begin with! It is their responsibility to ensure that they have diverse advertising staffs and procedures in place to ensure the cultural competency of their campaigns.

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  7. Thank you for writing so eloquently about this. I'm glad that so many people are seeing this disturbing ad campaign for what it is. Wasn't aware there was a petition, so thanks for linking to that, too! (And in general, please keep writing.)

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  8. i tried to sign the petition but the section to select the state was not operational...it would not select...sorry

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    1. Thanks for trying! It seems to be working now, so if you get a chance you could try it again.

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  9. It's so crazy to me that with every complaint, they just re-hash the same sorry "apology" over and over again! I'm happy to hear that so many others are standing up to Kraft and writing them directly, but it's also sad that Kraft continues to dismiss these concerns and take them so lightly.

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Comments are welcome and encouraged. I appreciate debate and have no problem hearing from people who disagree. This is a space where people can question and discuss. That said, I will delete comments that contain name-calling or bigotry. If it would get you kicked out of a dinner party, don't say it here. Use your manners.