Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Is The Duncan Hines-Associated Brown Cupcake Advertisement "Racist" or Color-Aroused Antagonism?

Many whites and Blacks will ask themselves whether the above video is "racist", and whether it is an example of Duncan Hines "racism".  First, let me say that I am not convinced that the above ad was even made by Duncan Hines, but others will surely investigate that. says it's for real, and has even identified the director and some of his other commercials in notoriously poor taste:

Cupcakes, once a delightful source of sugary indulgence, later a cliched trend much derided on blogs like this one, have sunk to a new low: racial controversy. A video for Duncan Hines' Amazing Glazes has angered viewers for its depiction of, uh, cupcakes in black face. Racist cupcakes? Facing criticism, Duncan Hines pulled the video from YouTube. But we managed to get a copy of the video, below. Judge for yourself:

Here's a link to the commercial that Duncan Hines pulled,
hosted at another website. >>> 
Duncan Hines' Hip Hop Cupcakes. [Photo: Duncan Hines]

It should also be noted that this is not the first time director Josh Binder has been criticized for creating questionable advertising. In the past, he has filmed an ad for Western wear that features a cowboy lassoing up two ladies, and another that spoofs samurai movies with loaves of bread.

To make a decision about whether the above cartoon is "racist", whomever it was that made it, we would first need to agree about the definition of "racist".  There is no more agreement among Americans now about what constitutes "racism", even after fifty years of continuous effort.

Let's ask another question instead.  Is the above advertisement an example of antagonistic color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior?  For example, was the video conceived with an awareness of its color content?  I don't think anyone will assert that the makers of this ad were unaware that chocolate is brown, or that the chocolate frosting has been used here to radically change the color of the cupcakes.  We are inherently discussion color here.

Chocolate frosting is often brown, so that in itself does not cause a problem.  But when dark-brown monkey-like talking faces are added to the frosting, we have to ask ourselves, "Is there ideation here that is associated with brown skin color?

When anyone takes a vanilla-colored cup cake and turns the surface brown they are acting on color-aroused ideation, unless the change of color is an utter accident, which is clearly not the case here.

It's quite apparent here, when these animated brown faces begin to talk, color-associated ideation is at hand. Color exists.  The nature of the color-aroused ideation can be debated, but the fact that there is color-aroused ideation cannot be debated.  The advertisement is about coloring cupcakes brown.  That behavior cannot occur without color-aroused and associated ideation.  When you turn something that was vanilla-colored into something that is deep brown colored, that is indicative of color-aroused ideation.  (If you paint your car blue, that is indicative of color-aroused ideation as well.) 

Once we agree that color-aroused ideation is present, in an ad that is inherently about color, we need to identify the nature of the color-aroused ideation.  The ideation seems to be that, "It is funny when cupcakes turn monkey-faced, begin to talk and allude to old stereotypes about Black people."

What is the substance of the color-aroused ideation, when cupcakes turn brown and then have monkey-like lips?  Are these dark brown monkeys just funny brown monkey faces, or are they an allusion to Black people and to white people's history of drawing Blacks with enormous outsized lips, enormous eyes and idiotic expressions?

Does some emotion enter the picture after the color-aroused ideation that is inherent in the ad?  The people who prepared and published this video appear to engage in mirth, which is a sense of funniness that causes people to laugh--if they see the humor.  The makers of this video experience funniness when they see this, and they experience mirth.  The ideational premises in this video are that Black people look like monkeys or can be made to look like monkeys.   In addition, there is the ideational belief that laughing at brown monkeys that look like caricatures of Black people is funny.

Here, we have color-associated ideation that led to color aroused emotion and behavior, i.e. the quite intentional presentation of these monkeys in a way that alludes to the presentation of Blacks as monkey-looking that goes back to the earliest superiority and white people's humor in the United States and elsewhere.  One only need compare these images to others from the nineteen-forties to see that these images historically have been used to debase Blacks while laughing at us at our expense.  The inhuman characteristics of the monkey-faces intends to dehumanize all Black people, by associating these inhuman monkey-like talking cupcakes with a caricature of all people whose skin is brown or who are members of "the Black People".

I think the above paragraphs have succeeded in demonstrating that the advertisement arouses and reflects ideation about color and about skin color, when the talking monkeys have brown skin.  (There are red, white, gray and yellow monkeys in nature, but the makers of this cartoon chose dark brown as the color for the monkeys.)  Moreover, the production and publication of this video demonstrates a belief that ridiculing Black people is an acceptable and even preferable form of humor, and an acceptable way to arouse mirth and ridicule in the watching public, since there were so many other ways they could have used chocolate on these cupcakes other than making talking semi-human dark brown monkey faces of them.

All of this color-aroused ideation and emotion would have made no difference to Black people and the public in general, but for the behavior of producing this commercial and placing it on the airwaves.  What we see here are the three individual components of what others call "racism":  (1) ideation (ridiculing monkeys and Black people will be humorous) which ideation leads to the (2) emotion (of feeling funniness and mirth, in this case); and then, finally, (3) the behavior of putting a video together on the basis of this ideation and emotion, which brings us to the entire scope of the tripartite problem:  color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior.

If we asked whether the above was "racist" we would never come to a consensus, because we haven't even come to a consensus about what "racism" consists of.  However, when we look to see whether there is color-aroused ideation, there clearly is.  The color-aroused emotion of mirth is clearly intended to be aroused, and perhaps many other emotions about which I could only speculate.  (Discussions of color-arousal are scientific discussions where there is no place or use for speculation.)  Finally, the making of this commercial and its placement in media channels is the behavior that will cause Duncan Hines so much grief, even if Duncan Hines does not turn out to be the responsible party.

The value of looking at the three individual components of color aroused ideation, emotion and behavior is (1) that we are able to look for each component scientifically, and (2) it is possible to realize that it was not in the ideation or the emotion that got Duncan Hines got into trouble here, but it was (3) the behavior of placing this video for public consumption.

As many of us have realized, people of all skin colors engage in ideation and emotion with respect to people of their own and others' skin colors, but much of this ideation and emotion is not obvious until it manifests itself in color-aroused behavior.  The persistence of color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior may be due to the difficulty humans have in their efforts (if they make any effort) to prevent their ideation and emotion from becoming the basis of their behavior.

It may also be that whites are playing a game with Blacks by insisting that they cannot determine what is "racist" and what is not.  If so, then using more empirical and objective measures may spoil the fun of a lot of color-aroused antagonists who claim not to know that their behavior is "racist".

Is the above video "racist"?  I have no desire to wander into such an intellectual thicket that ends in an impenetrable morass, because I have already determined, in a methodical way, that the above advertisement is an example of antagonistic color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior.   That alone is sufficient reason to wish that the video be off of the airways.

No comments: