Wednesday, December 13, 2006

ethnic advertising

i'll get back to the story tomorrow. i wanted to talk about an experience i had last night.

so i'm standing in the parking lot of the place where i gotta get my emissions done. i look up and see a sign that says "acapulco muffler and auto mechanics". i wouldn't have thought another thing of it except for the fact that i live in an area that until recently was heavily populated with latino folk (urban gentrification is fixing that shit up real quick though. i don't care how many mexicans you can get into an apartment, they ain't trying to pay $3000 a month in rent.)

the first thing i thought about when i saw that sign was how advertisers try to market specifically to various ethnic groups. on the one hand, it's insulting. i mean, do i really have to see a bunch of obese black women dressed up in choir robes rolling into kfc to purchase a bucket of chicken while an organ pounds out gospel music and some chick sounding like aretha franklin belts out "we do chicken right!" in order for me to find greasy original recipe meat appealing?

i've seen black women advertising cleaning products, too. modern day mammies with hands on their wide hips and that "i'm a black woman so you know i know 'bout my cleaning products cuz my momma was a maid in da big house back in da day" look in her eyes. am i supposed to be glad cuz i see someone who looks like me doing that shit?

but then, isn't that how we do it in our neighborhoods? i've had my hands on my hips more times than i can count and i've started many a sentence with "gurllll..." and have never felt as though i'm being ignant when i do so. shit, that's part of our culture and nothing to be ashamed of. and yeah, many of us black women ARE overweight and many of us ARE in the church choir and many of us DO eat fried chicken, although to be fair we tend to fry our own chicken instead of paying money for someone else to do that shit for us.

and yet i can't help but feel like there's some joke taking place in front of me at my folk's expense and we ain't in on that shit. i bet you'll never see a bunch of black women in choir robes wearing shiny lips from chicken grease while promoting merr.ill-ly.nch financial services.

instead we get the sista advertising the prepaid phone services. the one wearing the wig, stirrup pants and a sweater stretched across her girth. the one who laughs alot and tells you how affordable and worry-free it is to have a prepaid phone. "you don't have to worry about bill collectors" she says, cuz you have to put money on the phone before you can talk. shit, she might as well just say "look, you poor. this is the only shit you can afford."

or we get the car commercials played only on b.e.t. where a dw.ele-like song is playing, the styled out sista is in the passenger seat and the brotha, nicely put together of course, is driving what is really being advertised as his "biggest college-educated, $150,000 salaried dick on the block" gas guzzling suv. i guess advertisers got us neosoul folk down. we listen to ke.m cuz he's that underground ish that the unenlightened folk are sleeping on, attend spoken word joints for the singular purpose of telling our friends the next day we did so cuz it makes us look 'deep', and drive big shiny cars cuz if we rolled up to the club in a neon the people standing in line wil snicker to their friends before warning everybody to avoid dropping digits on the person 'who evidently can't afford to live the lifestyle i'm accustomed to.' this, despite the fact that many of those folk in line living check to check and have credit cards a few dollars away from being maxed out.

i mean that IS what some of us is about. meanwhile, are there so many of us who see cars as the status symbol because the commercials tell us so or are the commercials merely reflecting the values of a capitalistic society?

what i wanna see is where this brotha in the commercial is parking his ride when he goes home. is it in the garage of a house he owns or an apartment complex where he gotta park that shit as close to his living room window as possible cuz he scared his shit will get stolen? how come i only see those commercials on other networks if they're showing ethnic specific shows like the naacp image awards or soul train music awards? shit, white folk know we drive so why act like it's a secret?

as i stood there looking at that sign, i wondered if the company got more latino customers because of the 'acapulco' name. i thought about my own tendencies. i'd go to a chinese restaurant with either 'golden' or 'buddha' in it's name before i'd go to one with 'cafeteria' in the name. i'd go to a hole in the wall soulfood place before i'd go to one downtown with valet parking. when i saw that dude from fra.sier advertising financial services, i actually thought for a minute that he must know what he's talking about because he's an old white dude.

so in the end, i'm a product of that which i fume against. evidently i believe soul food done lost its soul if it ain't presented in a styrofoam container, white dudes who used to play sarcastic old fathers on sitcoms are gifted in choosing stock, a chinese restaurant ain't credible without a golden statue of a chubby dude next to the door, and a black man driving a new model suv is rich and has to roll his penis up before tucking it into his pants cuz it's soooo big.

but i don't eat kfc, so there's still hope.