The Ethnic Skin Whitening Craze
The ad I chose to deconstruct is from a magazine, belongs to the company ISA KNOX, which is a Korean company but whose parent company is LG (yes, the same people who make your dishwasher or fridge). LG has spread all over the world and owns many companies under the umbrella of “household goods.” This type of ad is very popular in Asian countries, where a new “white craze” has been driving up sales for skin products which control melatonin. China, Japan, Korea and India are up and coming markets, with women who have a lot of disposable income and who are willing to pay top dollar to achieve whiter skin. By 2015, Japan alone spent more than $10 billion on whitening products.
Ads like these represent both a new and an old trend. It is true that Asian countries have always valued white skin and associated it with high status, good breeding and wealth. However, in our global world, these ads represent an export of whiteness and everything that’s associated with it, from a cultural standpoint. Ethnic people have been, through colonization, taught to think that they are inferior to the white colonists, and those who were more white were usually promoted and put in control over their less light-skinned brethren. By using skin color as an indicator of culture, development, civilization and worth, colonizers have created deep insecurities within darker-skinned people. We can see the results of this colonist attitudes today, not just in Asia but in the western world, where discrimination against non-whites continues to be a serious issue which has sparked different social movements and protests. This type of ad promotes racism and discrimination abroad, continuing the colonizer trend which uses superficial appearances and skin-deep differences to set people apart and designate their social status.
My deconstructed ad seeks to address a well-hidden secret in connection to the idea that “white is right.” By using the ad and also pictures from other similar ads, I have shown that the skin-whitening craze is as culturally powerful as it is superficial. All the women shown in the images are already very light-skinned and even have westernized features. The reason they have been selected for these ads has to do with their large eyes and not very strong Asiatic features. The whole thing concerning skin whitening is a sham because truly dark faces are impossible to “correct” by using a cream, yet anyone who buys into the premise can be turned into a customer. The biggest kept secret of the beauty industry is the fact that it preys on women’s insecurities and their desire to be more like the supermodels they see in the photos, as they buy into the idea that white is the only accepted standard of beauty.
My ad also focuses on the post-colonist discourse of white as being a symbol of wealth, status and civilization which continues to be exported throughout the world, packaged and sold as beauty products. The same foundations of inequality, abuse and discrimination colonists put down a few hundred years ago are now exploited for profit. The idea of the heterosexual, submissive, pale-skinned, Victorian woman who got off the boats in the colonies is today sold in small creams that promise the “natives” that they can achieve the same kind of ethereal white beauty. All people who cannot aspire to this, who cannot buy the products, are ignored by the ads because they don’t matter, as they don’t add to the profit-making customer base.