This advertisement is to promote Vaseline’s new skin whitening treatment for men in India. Indian men were encouraged to use an app to digitally lighten their Facebook profile pictures, in order to instantly whiten their skin. The product would join a host of other skin whitening products available throughout South Asia. The products offer clients a new lease on life, with ‘lighter and fairer’ skin, all in the hopes of elevating social standing in coloured communities. The advertisement is highly controversial due to its indication that darker skin tones are less valuable than lighter ones.
The problem of this advertisement is the racial undertones and value of whiteness in South Asian countries. It outlines how South Asian cultures value white skin tones over darker ones. By using the product, you can achieve lighter skin and in doing so increase your social worth. The racist tone of this advertisement has roots in colonial and caste legacy. The beauty industry traditionally relies on convincing consumers that they are incomplete without the product. This spills over into skin whitening products too, and the differences in skin tone can often have an effect on job opportunities and relationship status. Historically, India was colonized by the British, many of their traditions and customs become apart of upper-class Indian standards. This has direct connections to the idea that fairer skin is more desirable and therefore more valuable which elevate some and demonize others.
The purpose of such an advertisement is to promote Western beauty standards and other certain groups of people. Through historical understandings of caste systems, colonial roots, and media pressures skin lightening has ostracized and demonized people with darker skin and told them that their skin tone is not beautiful.
Culturally Jammed Advertisement:
In the jammed version of the advertisement, I lightened the skin tone of the model and gave him blue eyes to better resemble a white man. It features these changes to outline the ridiculous racial underpinnings of the original advertisement. I also changed the text beside the model from ‘transform your face’ to ‘transform your race’ to better highlight what skin bleaching products are really telling consumers.
First, the jammed version highlights what the advertisement is truly trying to convey to consumers. Skin bleaching products are created and marketed to South Asian communities to impose a Western idea of beauty and to create division between upper-class and working-class people. The new version calls into question why you want to lighten your skin and what it means to physically bleach your natural skin tone. It calls into question why as a society we value whiteness over darker skin tones and how the beauty industry is based on perfecting a lighter skin tone.
Secondly, the jammed advertisement challenges racism. By physically changing the race of the model, the advertisement demonstrates the absurdity of colonial-based beauty standards in a South Asian county. These products contain dangerous chemicals that can poison the user, and tend to have long-term damaging effects on the consumer’s skin. In order to look more white, consumers are continuously damaging their skin to achieve a goal that is not attainable. Through the use of these products, media and beauty companies can enforce strict beauty standards that value more Western-centric views of beauty and whiteness. The jammed version of the advertisement allows the viewer to look at these products with a critical eye, and question the value of skin tones in modern society.