This, seemingly harmless Nestle/La Lechera advertisement, which promotes Coffee Mates’s new “Dulce de Leche” product, reinforces widespread beliefs about Spanish speakers in the US; particularly, it fosters beliefs regarding Spanish-speaking women’s race, and culture- including existing stereotypes such as the “hot Latina” stereotype (Merskin, 2007) or the “domestic Latina” stereotype. In this way, the “Dulce de Leche” advertisement is problematic for it is gendered, racialized, and it homogenizes Spanish-speaking women into one single category.
Features such as the flower pattern in the background, the presence of “La Lechera’s” logo (a woman carrying a bucket with milk), the curved-like shape of the bottle, and the adjectives “sweet, dreamy, caramel” in the advertisement’s slogan, result in a gendered and racialized conception of the product. Without the advertisement explicitly portraying a tanned woman, the slogan “say hola to your sweet, dreamy, caramel soulmate” creates a psychological link between the product and the completely unrelated image of a romantic, submissive and tanned “Spanish-speaking” lover. Additionally, the pronoun “your” in the slogan suggests that the consumers can own their “sweat, dreamy, caramel soulmate.” In this way, the advertisement contributes to the pervasive objectification of women through the media.
While the product should be especially appealing to Latinos for whom the “Dulce de Leche” flavor is familiar and could bring back memories from family recipes or traditional desserts, the advertisement is also targeted towards the general US consumer population. For the Spanish-speaking consumers seeing this advertisement, the slogan insinuates that there is a correct way of being a Spanish-speaking minority woman: “sweet, and dreamy”. These seemingly favorable adjectives reinforce pre-existing ideas of Latino women as exotic, dependent, docile, and domestic. Moreover, the adjective “caramel” suggests that there is one physical feature that could be used to refer to Spanish-speaking women- a highly heterogeneous group composed of women who have African, European, Indigenous, Caribbean, mestizo or other diverse or combined backgrounds.
For the non-Spanish-speaking audience, this advertisement furthers existing beliefs about race, gender, and culture. By confirming stereotypes such as the “hot Latina” stereotype (Merskin, 2007) or the “domestic Latina” stereotype, the advertisement treats Spanish-speaking women as one-dimensional “others” and it places Anglo viewers at a superior level. Similarly, the slogan “say hola to your… soulmate” ignores that Spanish-speaking women in the US may have different degrees of assimilation into the US culture- disregarding that for some women with Spanish or Latino backgrounds it may even be offensive to be singled out with a salute such as “hola” for it could reveal assumptions based on physical characteristics.
The jammed version of the advertisement aims to highlight the fact that individual Spanish-speaking women cannot be stereotyped and grouped into a single, unilateral category. In order to achieve this objective, I used a fictitious character, “Susana”, to counter the adjectives “ sweet” and “dreamy”, while portraying an individual who displays character, strength, and resistance. Contrary to the stereotyped message that the original advertisement is conveying, this character is rejecting the way in which the product objectifies women by saying “Not yours & not for sale!” The character is pushing away the Coffee Mate bottle that spells out “Sweet, dreamy, caramel Hispanas for sale!….. “Now with Extra Curves!”. In this way, Susana is conveying that she has an identity of her own and that she is not made available when greeted by “hola”.
To counter the original advertisement’s effect of furthering and confirming existing ethnic stereotypes about Hispanic women, the jammed advertisement presents Susana as a counterexample to the “sweat, dreamy, caramel” description and explicitly states: “#SayNoToStereotypes!” Furthermore, Susana does not display the physical characteristics that the media tends to associate with Hispanic women; in fact, she stands as an example of a highly underrepresented ethnic group: Afro-Latinas. This was intended to highlight the fact that Spanish-speaking women are a heterogeneous group that cannot be reduced to the stereotype of a hot and overly sexual Latina (expressed in the Coffee Mate bottle by the phrase:”Now with extra curves”).
Consequently, my jammed version of the advertisement challenges a seemingly harmless advertisement by voicing out some of the negative aspects of message portrayed, including the objectification of women, and the perpetuation of existing stereotypes that can have the effect of “othering” individuals. The addition of an individual woman reminds the audience that the seemingly flattering slogan, “say hola to your sweet, dreamy, caramel, soulmate”, is rather absurd and potentially very harmful.
Merskin, Debra. (2007). Three Faces of Eva: Perpetuation of The Hot-Latina Stereotype in Desperate Housewives. Howard Journal of Communications.
Ramirez, Alex. “Hispanic Heritage Month: The Good, The Bad, and Embarassing.” BDCWire, 28 July 2015, www.bdcwire.com/hispanic-heritage-month-the-good-the-bad-and-the-embarassing/.
Alicia. “A Black Woman Pushing Her Stalled Car On A Snowy Day Cartoon Clipart.” Vector Toons, vectortoons.com/product/a-black-woman-pushing-her-stalled-car-on-a-snowy-day/.