Friday, May 16, 2014

Stereotypes and Commercials: Haagen-Dazs and Pepsi

Stereotypes are always tricky things. There are actual national differences, ethnic differences, gender differences and maybe even racial differences. But there's a thin line between having a honest good natured laugh at what everyone (or almost everyone) agrees is a difference and between (maliciously??) poking fun at something that not everyone agrees is a difference or is even funny at all. I don't watch a lot of television so even though this Haagen-Dazs gelato commercial has apparently been out there for a while I just recently saw it. After watching it I had two thoughts. My first thought was that the ad was a little stereotypical. My second thought was I wondered what the actress' name was. There were some people of Italian descent who had a serious problem with the commercial while others I know were not bothered in the slightest because it was clear to them that the commercial was spoofing stereotypes about Italians and not Italian-Americans. Of course if you must be stereotyped, being thought of as passionate, hot tempered, sexy and intense is not necessarily the worst stereotype to bear. Or is it?

Of course like any other stereotype, positive stereotypes can come along with a huge unseen cost attached. People who endorse stereotypes consciously or not may have some difficulty treating members of that group fairly and on an individual basis. Or they may not. People are complex after all. Just because you laugh at a joke in the abstract doesn't necessarily mean you will treat the real life object of that joke as less than. You also may remember the Pepsi Max "Love Hurts" commercial in which we saw a large black woman constantly comically assault her boyfriend/husband because he wasn't eating right. Near the end, annoyed that he smiled at a blonde white woman, she threw a can at his head, missed and hit the other woman instead. The couple then ran off.
Some people didn't necessarily find that commercial or its use of Three Stooges type violence and stereotypes very funny. Other folks might think in either case no harm is intended or being done and those who claim offense need surgery to remove the broomstick that has apparently inserted itself somewhere unpleasant in their body. I can't call it. Sometimes everything is funny until it's your group being mocked. Then again there is very offensive racist humor out there that's not funny except to people who really do hate the group that is the object of the joke.

Did you think the Haagen-Dazs Gelato commercial was humorous?

Do you see any difference between the Haagen-Dazs and Pepsi commercial?

Has society become too uptight on issues like these?

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