Culture Jamming: White Is Purity

This March 2017 ad by Nivea intends to sell a deodorant, marketed towards their Middle Eastern followers. However, in an unsuccessful attempt at creativity, this ad by the German skincare makers comes off as racist and insensitive. In addition to the blatant “White is Purity”, the slogan itself of “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #Invisible” is rather unclear as it does not directly reference the product but does in fact serve as an introduction to their racist statement. While ads often utilize abstract messaging (via photos and statements) to sell a product, this ad can be perceived as an overt statement of white supremacy.

We need to pay attention to what an audience can absorb. Additionally, this ad is contributing to the microaggressions people of colour face every day by dominant, white, society. By depicting whiteness as the ideal, Nivea is positioning whiteness as the norm while relegating non-whites as the Other. This Othering in relation to dominant narratives broadly contributes to ethnic discrimination. Parallel to the idea of whiteness as purity, lies the notion of invisibility as a desirable trait. Invisibility is advertised as something to be desired and is associated with assimilation. In becoming part of the dominant white culture, those that are invisible are awarded greater social benefits. I will be addressing this problem, the general notion that “white is right” and how this type of messaging is constantly found and/or associated with various influential institutions (mass media, education, government). As seen with the Nivea ad, advertisements have the potential to contribute to white supremacy, ultimately creating further ethnic discrimination.

In this jammed version of the Nivea ad, what was simmering is evident at the surface. The Arian ideal has been replaced by a Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon. Whereas the initial ad cowers from the audience, in this version the white supremacy holds the audiences’ gaze. When we finally examine this issue straight on, it appears that the individual is bound in a straightjacket. Ironically, the straightjacket is a vestige of a past understanding of the world. When the prejudice becomes overt, so too does the absurdity of white supremacist ideology. Yet, the viewer cannot help but feel perplexed, or even perhaps sorry, for the Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon. For while he is overtly offensive in displaying his archaic, oppressive views, he is also literally imprisoned in the straightjacket of his extremist ideology.

This ad informs and is informed by prevailing Eurocentric trends. More than just selling a product, this ad sells a lifestyle: one that is not chosen but ingrained in individuals from cradle to casket. As such, it becomes more and more important to critically analyze the motivations and underlying tones created by influential media sources. This jammed version allows just that, how whiteness or ideal forms of existence (i.e. monogamy and heterosexuality) are fed to individuals through either discrete or overt forms with the intent of shaping an ideal society. This ideal society can also be developed through the exclusion of celebrating or acknowledging diversity.