November 06, 2013

Toothpaste commercial shows stereotypical costume

What a Crest Toothpaste Commercial Can Teach Us About RacismThis Halloween-themed Crest commercial blipped onto our radar, and it's a very clear illustration of what, exactly, the big deal is when it comes to costumes and mascots.There are at least 12 children wearing costumes in this video. We'll run down the list, saving the important one for last:

Triceratops: A dinosaur that went extinct 65 million years ago.
Ninja: A master of martial arts from feudal Japan. Ninjas ceased to exist sometime in the 17th century.
Cow: A farm animal.
Bumblebee: An insect.
Skeleton: The human skeletal system.
Flower: A plant.
Werewolf: A fictional monster.
Boxer: An athlete.
Goth princess (?): A young lady wearing ghostly white makeup, and dressed in a princess outfit with spiky gloves and headband (forgive us, we're not really sure what this one is).
Space Alien: A fictional inhabitant of another planet.
Robot: A humanoid machine with artificial intelligence.
Chick: A baby chicken.
American Indian: A race of people.

What's wrong with this picture? All but one of the kids are dressed as things that are imaginary, or historical (if not extinct), or whimsical, or generic. Just one of them is attired as a stand-in for a living people--a living people who are still living, despite the U.S. government's efforts to kill them off. And yes, some of these people do, today, wear a feather headdress or paint their faces in ceremonial gatherings, although many do not.

Kids look cute dressed as bumblebees, or robots, or ninjas, and there's little danger that their fertile minds will form opinions about these things they will carry into adulthood. But what of the little Indian? What does his costume teach? If this is what an Indian looks like, does that define, for children, what all Indians are? Can an Indian be a lawyer? Do Indians live in houses? Do Indians speak proper English, drive cars, or even wear underwear? (And how come he doesn't have a dead crow on his head like in the movie?)
Comment:  Actually, there are two skeletons--one which glows in the dark. Also a ladybug and a pharaoh. And I think the "cow" is a pink poodle.

This is a funny commercial except for the stereotypical Indian costume.

Alas, the nature- and fantasy-based costumes indicate that Indians belong in the natural or fantasy worlds. So the commercial is telling us Indians aren't modern-day people. That's false and stereotypical.

No comments: