Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Halle Berry Test

AdAge's Bob Garfield, who always does a superb job of reviewing ads and tying their appeal (or repeal) to a broader social context, makes an important. And based on the comments, a point that is difficult to understand:
1) Even hardened racists feel the impulse to believe they are no such thing.

2) Hence, they are always in the market for someone "acceptably black."

Yes, the market. And, yes, acceptably black. We used that term the other day on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" to talk about Sen. Barack Obama and watched the interviewer visibly flinch. "I'm gonna take some of the edge off of what you just said," he said.
Flip through a magazine and check out the ads. In any group of three or more models, one invariably will be black. (If there are six or more models, one will be Asian and one Hispanic.) Same on TV. In any commercial for beer or snack food, one of the guys on the sofa is always black. This probably misrepresents the incidence of interracial hanging out, but it isn't just tokenism. It's a harmony fantasy, buried deep in the collective conscience.
Read the column here.


Rob said...

The reverse Bradley Effect! I think there's not much question that Barack Obama, like Colin Powell before him, has benefited in the media and in the minds of white people from precisely this impulse to differentiate between "acceptably black" and, you know, too black.

BUT, isn't it still possible that those folks might, in the secrecy of the voting booth, reach all the past the "harmony fantasy" and instead go with the racist tribalism that's also buried somewhere in their subconscious?

Personally, I tend to think the Reverse Bradley Effect is going to be more powerful than either the Bradley Effect or the Bradley Effect Effect. For exactly the "acceptably black" reason you mention, I think Obama's race ends up being a net positive for Obama among white voters. But, uh, who knows.

Saxdrop said...

"I think Obama's race ends up being a net positive for Obama among white voters. But, uh, who knows."

This is actually exactly what Pat Buchanan's been saying every day on Hardball, that is before Eric Michael Dyson shouts him down.

Rob said...

And so I find myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan again, as I so often do... oh, wait...