Week 5 blog post


The hidden meaning behind the majority of advertisements that have existed is mind blowing. As a class, we discussed the signifiers/signified in a few Pears' Soap advertisements which were some of the first ads ever created. One ad in particular stood out, which was the picture of two toddlers, one white and one "black." In this image, the white child is scrubbing the black child of the "blackness" as the advertisement claimed something about cleaning the complexion. I'd like to take the oppositional view and ask if maybe the advertisers weren't trying to "erase blackness" like we discussed in class, but maybe the child rolled around in some mud and was taking a legitimate bath. I understand that racism and discrimination was prevalent during this time period, but I hate to think that these people were so blatant in their advertisements. It was normal for civilians in this era to go without baths for weeks and my thought is that it was just a dirty child being washed by a clean kid with Pears' Soap.

I'm also in awe of how dominant the "white man" vs "man" debacle is still somewhat prevalent in our society. For example, in the 2011 blockbuster, Captain America: The First Avenger (which was originally a comic book from the 1940's) Steve Rogers is a frail young man with the heart of a soldier who undergoes an experimental treatment resulting in success and his physical transformation into beau-hunk, the epitome of every woman's fantasy. In order for Steve to gain any respect for his courage, brilliance, and sacrificial being he needed to change his physical self. I believe that this aspect is still in existence; women and men continue to follow the "survival of the fittest model" wherein we are more attracted to the people who look and behave in a strong manner, if I may be so brazen to claim.

These topics still reign in our everyday life, but I am relieved to see their bright appearance dwindle as our media literacy develops.


Throughout this week's material, I found the Pear's soap advertisements to be the most interesting. All of the ads had clear signifiers and signifieds to analyze. However, out of all the ads, the one with the little white boy washing the little black boy stood out the most to me. In one part of the picture, the little black boy is being cleaned with the soap, and in the next part he appears to have literally washed away the blackness from his body. The ad was really sending a message that this soap is so good that it can make black people white. It is an extremely racist ad because it is deliberately degrading black people by comparing their skin color to dirt/filth. Back when this advertisement was new, people had much different takes on racism than they do now for the most part, but the signs, signifiers, and signifieds still contain the same concepts that advertisements of today have. I have noticed that I am starting to analyze more advertisements on my own rather than just in class, and I am noticing more and more invisible norms in many of the ads I see. I am curious to see how much more I will analyze media by the semester's end.

Yes, that ad stood out the most for me as well. One aspect of it that did not occur to me when I first looked at it was the idea that the black boy's skin had turned white except for his face/head. The symbolization of this being that although the soap had a physical effect of making the black person closer to being white, it could not completely transform blacks because of the perceived mental inferiority of blacks portrayed in this ad.

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This page contains a single entry by Mataya published on February 21, 2013 6:02 PM.

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