Fair and Lovely err Handsome
The 40-second advertisement from India starts like so many others promoting razors or hair dye - but it's an ad with a very big difference. There's a man who has no luck with the girls. He has markedly darker skin than his friends and the girl he is after. In a real song-and-dance Bollywood extravaganza, one of the biggest heart throbs of Indian cinema, Shahrukh Khan, hands over a cream to the hapless chap, along with some mild admonishment. Within a few weeks, young man has turned much lighter-skinned and confident. As he strides down the road like a modern-day answer to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, the girls start flocking to him and chanting: "Hi handsome, hi handsome." Khan comes back into view with the product, Fair and Handsome.The activists claimed that Khan was not just endorsing the cream but also the age-old stereotype of fair/light skin being better than dark skin.
"The ad simply reinforces the idea that you've got to be fair to be anything in life," says Kiran, a Sikh human rights activist in West London. "It says that if you're fair and good looking, you'll be a wonderful daughter-in-law or husband, your skin colour determines how successful you'll be in life. The ad reinforces age-old prejudices."Read the entire article here.
Actress Rani Moorthy knows first hand about the prejudice suffered by Asians with darker skin. She is currently touring the UK with her play that focuses on skin colour, Shades of Brown. "When I was a child my grandmother took me to one side and said make sure you're good at something, no man will ever marry you for your looks," she says. "I knew this was because I was dark skinned. It was treated as a disease and every Friday I had to have oil baths in an attempt to lighten my skin. Deep within this 5,000-year-old culture is the thought that high ideals, nobility and high caste are associated with fair skin," she says. "Dark skin is regarded as low status and low caste."
But what chance do voices like Rani's stand against the screen presence of Shahrukh Khan?
I understand that endorsement of fairness creams on mainstream media has nothing to do with Female Foeticide directly, but the fact that skin-lightening industry is worth at least £100m in India does. What is the connection, you ask? Connection is prejudices that we, as a society, don't seem to want to leave behind even when we are financially growing. Our economy could be well on its way to be 'globalized' but our cultural mentality is still stuck in the rut it was centuries ago. How does gender or skin color have anything to do with a person's worth? We are not only sexist, we are overtly racist (or should I say skin-colorist?) too!! Brilliant. Just brilliant.
What say? Emami's justification for this ad is that they didn't promote skin color prejudices because they were only targeting men who were already using fairness creams. :/ Their British spokesperson said so on the British Asian TV show - Desi DNA - last night. He is one ethically conscious man, he is. Sarcasm much implied. Certainly a clever businessman though. No sarcasm implied this time.
Another one from Emami:
Despite the well known adverse side-effects of fairness creams, people still use them (even in UK) just because of some ill-judged thought that their parents/society instilled in them. Same goes for female foeticide. Despite being aware of the implications and consequences, people still continue to abort girls because of some centuries old bias. Why?
Related reading: Ekta Kapoor's Media