Advertising is a powerful tool. It can exhilarate, educate, strike a debate, titillate and definitely irritate. As far as irritation goes, the prize goes to the latest Vodafone ad – four generations in a family end up singing kabhi kabhi mere dil mein song – which puts my hair on edge. I hear it and my synapses short circuit themselves.Or maybe it has something to do with Vodafone: I have been suspicious of the company ever since they took over Hutch and put that cute pug in a kennel. While the Hutch ad touched many hearts – what with the little dog following the little boy, stumbling over steps, sleeping in his bed and all – the Vodafone version gave me nightmares. So here was the faithful little pup looking for its master, searching, seeking, hopelessly lost…
And what happens next? His master deserts him and he ends up in a kennel. Chop, chop, finito. Downright despairing and should have warned us of what to expect from Vodafone: Bad connectivity, bad customer service, bill goof-ups and fraud and too many calls from too many people on all bad times. Anyway.
As much as I love good ads and will watch them without changing channels –compulsive-channel-changing is anyway a man-disease, they just LOVE pushing buttons me thinks – bad ads seriously put me off. Like the stupid ads on sanitary napkins that show women having this sudden urge to perform furious acrobatic feats just when they are having their period. Dude, it does not happen, even if said napkin is more comfortable than your girlfriend’s bosom, there is something called period cramps. Had even written a post on stinky pad ads (pun unintended) three years back – called the Period Piece – you can read it here.
Ads are powerful because they have the ability to influence thinking. Whether you buy a product or not, ads leave behind an impression. Or create and propagate one.
So it’s somewhat disturbing when driving down the road you see a billboard with an Indian guy posing with two semi-nude women, both ‘white’ chicks. Turn a magazine page and you will have another ad with a woman suggestively licking an ice cream, again a ‘white’ chick. An advertisement for a deodorant where miraculously the guy gets many girls after he sprays himself (er, with the deodorant that is); the girls are all skimpily clad and white.
Or for that matter event invites on Facebook. ‘Come to the expat night’ at so-and-so place and the invite-image is that of a white girl’s torso, lots of thigh and cleavage. Or profile pictures and party pictures where most DJs will be seen posing with ‘expat’ girls; most of them white, drunk and showing skin. Or the photographer who pastes his ‘work’ on the Funwall: “My job is to click beautiful women” his message reads. All pictures are those of anorexic, suspect-age (under 17) ‘models’, all white and barely clad. The venerable Amitabh Bachchan does a music video (Eer, Beer, fatteh anyone?) and shimmies with white girls. Akshay Kumar’s videos from his fun movies have ALL ‘foreign’ chicks in negligees and negligent clothing. WHY just the white girls? I have white girls as friends and most come from families that could have been mine. I also know Indian girls who do things that would put a whole lot of ‘coloured’ (and I mean other colours than brown) to shame. So while certain Indian ads and movies promote the ‘white girls are easy’ image, our glorified item-girl Shilpa Shetty becomes the epitome of Indian womanhood. Ah what grace, what beauty, what culture.
Even as I am writing this piece, there’s a news flash on my computer: Three Indian Army officers detained in Kinshasa, South Africa for the rape of a woman. Meanwhile the investigation into the Goa murder of 15-year-old Briton, Scarlette Keeling continues… Apparently she was into drugs, sex and a ‘fast’ life: Recipes for asking for rape and murder if you ask certain Indian authorities.
(News update: The army officers have been cleared of charges. News report here.)
CNN-IBN’s prime time show, Face The Nation, posed the question: ‘Are foreign tourists victims of an image trap’? The survey result: 94 per cent said yes, and 6 per cent said no. Meanwhile officials and ministers say that foreign tourists coming into India, especially women, should be more careful. “There are women lying naked on the beaches”, says one minister. Since Goa does not have nude beaches perhaps that is pushing the limit. What about bikinis and beachwear? Won’t saris in the sea/ocean cause more drowning? What about the women who are molested even when they are NOT in beachwear?
What ‘image trap’ are we talking about? Is it against white women? Skimpily clad women? JUST women? Is it the advertisers and movie industry that are promoting this? Or does it have to do with the fact that you can do anything to any woman and it will become prime time news and nothing beyond that… because we always end up blaming the victim? She ASKED for it? It’s not just India or Indian ads and movies. Check this ad (now withdrawn) by Dolce & Gabbana. Women, kids and dogs sell products. Apparently even gang rape does.