A further analysis Swan makes is through the political view of visual imagery, building up on the idea that visual representations create meanings of power and racial hierarchies, using Chinn’s ‘technologies of race making’ to analyse the effect advertisement and photographs have on creating meanings of difference. Swan examines the fact that the way these images are reproduced and circulated creates different meanings. Citing the work of Prasad and Mills (1997), she identifies different forms of representation of diversity: ‘the melting pot, the patchwork quilt, the multicoloured or cultural mosaic, and the rainbow’.
She then focuses on the mosaic representation of diversity, critically analising it as a homogenous communion, with lack of identity, without choices, centralizing on white identities. However, she compares the mosaic to the melting pot, where the exchange of cultural practices is a one way process, the more ‘powerful’ identity taking over ‘the other’, whereas the mosaic seems to put more value on diversity and thus creates inter-changes between different groups. 3) Centralising and Decentralising Identities
British national identity has always been a subject of discussion and analysis as Britain is one of the most comprehensive societies in our contemporary world. The Robinsons’ advert uses this aspect of Britain to appeal to all the members of the society by illustrating different households and their reaction to a tennis game won by a British player. The idea that comes across is one of unity and patriotism, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion in important British events.
It seems the advert does not centralise on whiteness and implicitly does not portray minorities as ‘the others’, but treats them as equal parts of the society. The advert can be seen as a illustration of the political issues in Britain, to which Prime Minister Bair (2000), as cited by Gordon Betts (2002) affirms: ‘Devolution does not create new identities within Britain. It simply gives expression to existing ones’. However, it can be argued the extent to which the advert illustrates the realities of a decentralised British society and to what extent the identity representations in the advert are stereotyped or not.
The advert, apart from marketing the Robinsons drinks to all the diverse people in Britain, challenges ideas of a central identity in Britain, representing all the nationalities of Britain uniting together in hope for a next British champion at Wimbledon. However, their union is only through the spirit of patriotism and not through physical unity. ‘Advertisements are reflections of contemporary social relations and power structure, they serve as a type of barometer of the willingness of dominant groups to accept ethnic minorities into mainstream society’ (Cortese, 2008).
Thus, even though the characters in the advert are following the same tennis game, they are in their own stereotypical households, or at work. People in the advert are characterised by the settings they are in, by their clothes and jobs. Thus, the Afro-Caribbean are portrayed in a hairdresser’s where all the characters are Afro-Caribbean, one of them with an afro hairstyle, while in another scene, an Afro-Caribbean woman is working in the kitchen of a restaurant.
The difference of setting between the white family, in a classic English countryside setting and an estate setting where the black minorities are can also be an element of placing the latter as ‘the other’. ‘Though ethnic minority representation in advertising has clearly increased, how blacks are depicted and what they contribute to the product’s image remains questionable’ (Cortese, 2008). Their representation, while in a bigger unified picture, raises the question of actual descentralisation of the British central white identity.
Additionally, while the advert intents to include all the British nationals, it seems to focus on the white girl holding a glass of Robinsons juice. ‘Support for a national athlete or team in an international sporting event provides an opportunity to lose, albeit temporarily, a sense of individuality, and to identify with a national group’ (Gordon Betts, 2002). The advert draws a comparison between the Robinsons products and tennis, both English cultural elements. The homogenisation of all the Robinsons drinkers and respectively all the people watching tennis in Britain are cleverly associated in this advert.
Even though tennis can be classified as a ‘white’ sport, the advert makes it the nation’s sport, drawing links to Robinsons customers. Thus, this image of a central identity is deconstructed, the advert appealing to all genders, subcultures, races and ethnicities in the same way. The representation of whiteness in media texts has not been challenged until recently. As Frankenberg (2003) notes, cited by Fluehr-Lobban (2006), ‘Whiteness refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed’ because they are taken as the norm and represent the natural and normal.
As Myers (2005) affirms, ‘delineating whiteness entails several challenges’, however it is important to look at whiteness and consider it from a critical point of view ‘in the struggle over political and cultural resources and self-definition’ (Gallagher, 1997). In the Robinsons advert, the difference between the whites and blacks are drawn through their way of life, their housing and the fact that the blacks are pictured at work while the whites are enjoying the commodity of their homes. Whiteness and blackness are also emphasised through he use of light.
In the white household, the light coming through the window from outside makes everything brighter, as the family, with focus on the little girl, ‘also appears to be the source of light'(Dyer, 2002). The setting of the characters also raises issues of class, age and culture, in that we are presented with the working class, the blacks, the youths, the ‘normal’ white British household, the Asian household; about the latter, Ghuman (1999, 2003) and Sachdev (2005), as cited by Atzaba-Poria et al (2004) affirm that ‘many Indian immigrants have made a choice not to adopt a British lifestyle, but have retained the Idian customs and values’.
Nevertheless, in the advert they live the experience of a possible future British champion at Wembley with the same urge and anticipation as all the other characters. As Swan (2010) identifies in 19th and 20th century British commodity adverts, ‘the mosaic visually represents racial difference within a sameness grid and commodifies it. Such inscription obscures unequal power relations and attempts to diffuse political antagonism from minoritized groups, and placate the imagined white viewer, operating as a ‘strategy of containment'(Giroux, 1994, 1998)’.
The Robinsons advert is arguably attempting to do the same by placing all the nationalities of Britain in a idealistic homogeneity, trying to appeal to all of them in an equal manner.
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(Accessed on 20th December, 2009) Cortese, A. J. P. (2008). Provocateur: images of women and minorities in advertising. (3rd edn). Plymouth: Rowman ; Littlefield Publishers. Dyer, R. (2002). ‘Lillian Gish: a white star’ in The matter of images: issues of representation. 2nd edn. London: Routledge. Fluehr-Lobban, C. (2006). Race and Racism: an introduction. Lanham: Altamira Press. Gallagher, C. A. (1997) ‘White Racial Formation: Into the Twenty-First Century’ in Delgado, R. , Stefancic, J. (ed. ). Critical White Studies: looking behind the mirror.
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