G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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This commercial has me torn.
I find the commercial funny. I laughed at it, but then caught myself and really started thinking about the message under the message. My main sticking point with the commercial arises from the question, would the pitiful let-down character ever be played by anyone who doesn’t look like this decrepit, bald white man?
This really has nothing to do with the racial differences between the two Michael Jordans. If we were comparing the Tom Brady to another schlubbier Tom Brady, the loser Brady would probably also look like the loser M.J. It would be hard to imagine the loser Tom being played by a black guy. The basketball star Michael Jordan being black merely provides relief for the white Michael Jordan.
Advertisers often want to portray a loser character whom we pity but who we just view as a one-dimensional character. Advertisers need characters who we aren’t supposed to think deeply about. They sometimes need to create the feeling of pity but not sympathy. These guys are cast-offs but they weren’t wronged by society. If we harped on a loser who had been wronged by society then we’d just be mean-spirited. This only leaves the white male as the go-to loser character since he is supposedly privileged and what not.
Amid the on-going talk of dog whistles and silent racism this commercial reminds me of the many cultural signals which harp on this cohort of white men. I think that people who are concerned about the ways in which other races are depicted i.e. black males as criminals, forget that the white (or Asian) male nerd trope is impactful as well. Leftists and social deconstructionists tend to believe that economic and political issues are the only important aspects of society, but they forget that most of us regular people are down here in the trenches bouncing into one another in a myriad of ways which are outside the politico-economic realm.
But as I said, I found the commercial funny, so I’m not sure how much to make of it.