Pears soap Essay

Within this British advertisement for PEARS’ soap from the 19th century, we clearly see the black social group being marginalized. This can be seen in a number of ways, but mainly through the imagery of the two main images used in the text.

The first thing I’ll comment on is the portrayal of the black child as a caricature. This excludes people of dark skin by making them seem ‘different’ compared to white people. The unrealistic portrayal of the black boy shows us a toddler with huge, bulging eyes and bright, red lips. This child is being used for comedic effect. This gives off the illusion to white viewers of this ad, that they should see black people as lazy, dumb or even dirty. Also, because the black toddler differs so much from the other toddler depicted in the ad, we are shown how he is being ridiculed purely based on his race. By disregarding his dignity, this advertisement strongly objectifies the black child. By choosing to depict both races in one advertisement, the children will no longer be individuals but they also become representative of their races. Thus, the blacks are marginalized by comparison.

The advertisement shows a well-dressed white boy, wearing neat clothes and well-made shoes. Yet the black boy is only seen wearing a simple piece of cloth covering just the lower half of his body. Another thing that is noticed is the positioning of the white boy, he is seen standing over the black boy in the bathtub. Which suggests that the white boy is assuming the role of a teacher/caregiver. As a teacher is usually more knowledgeable than his peers, this ad is suggesting that the white boy (and thus the entire white population in general) is more knowledgeable than those of coloured skin. And therefore, he is teaching the black boy to become more like himself, a white person. After having finished bathing, the black child’s body is completely white due to the extreme ‘cleansing’ effects of PEARS’ soap. It suggests that white people should teach black people that they are superior and that the black people should me more like themselves.

The target audience of this are either white people or black people that would like to be white in the future. The language used is quite formal & upper-class which suggests that this ad is made specifically for upper classes, and not everyone could buy it. The colour white is associated with purity, innocence, and cleanliness while black is associated with darkness, dirt, and anything that is opposite of white.

The top sentence, states “I have found PEARS’ SOAP matchless for the Hands and Complexion”, this slogan of the company assumes that everyone of that era wanted to be white. Supporting this statement, in in the bottom-right corner the words “pure, fragrant, and durable” are seen to picture the typical white person. These words however also hint at the effects of this soap, as a way of describing the effects of using pears soap (washing of the dirt). The purpose of this PEARS’ Soap advertisement is suggesting that if you use this soap, you can become as pure and innocent as a white person. (To even go so far as to the point where you clean all the dirt, meaning dark people’s natural skin colour, off.)

One untold part is the society during the 1920’s. Without it being in the picture, history tells us that this era is where racism was at its peak. Blacks were inferior and stereotyped as slaves of the white. From the media that did exist in the 1920’s, we know that in the lifestyle and culture of the people from the 1920’s, racism always there. Racism was a tradition, a mindset. Also typical for the advertisements in this era is the display of children in them. This ensures that the message in your perception is being altered. The racial joke is somehow less racist, the role of the white kid as a caregiver/teacher is thought of as cute. And lastly it makes it look like it’s a good purchase for a family with children.

The definition of stereotyping is to have a set idea about what a particular type or person is like. Stereotyping, not only fixes meaning to preserve conversation, but is a reflection of the power imbalances in the society and reduces the entire ethnic group of people into a flat, typical type of character. Through science, we know however, that such a thing like ‘race’ doesn’t exist, as everyone is the same on a biological level. To the black community and everyone in general, this ad is seen as racist and makes no sense whatsoever due to the exaggeration of the soap’s effects as a cleanser. We all know that black people are not white underneath the soap, that is why it is so ludicrous.

In conclusion, the community of dark-skinned people is marginalized in this advert by being insulted and made to be ‘lesser’ than fair skinned people. By emphasizing that being white is pure and being black/dark is the opposite, PEARS’ SOAP excludes an entire social group, as they’re made into objects to represent dirt.

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