WRH 315: Propaganda and You

Global Beauty Standards

Posted on: February 16, 2010

My WRH 315 class this semester entitled, “Power, Politics, and Propaganda” focuses on the ways in which propaganda in all of its forms affects our lives every day. One of the recent chapters in our textbook covered the methods of persuasion used in advertising that reflect techniques used in propaganda; television commercials frequently use these techniques to convince audiences to buy their product, vote for a certain candidate, etc.

The specific advertisement I chose to examine deals with beauty products. In the United States, cosmetic companies have been criticized for promoting unrealistic beauty standards for the sole purpose of convincing women that they need to buy their promoted product. This ad created by Ponds Creams division in India to promote their “White Beauty” line of skin-lightening creams.

I have a personal cultural perception of this advertisement. Since my father’s from India, I’ve traveled to the country twice with him to visit my relatives from his side of the family. Even though I was only thirteen during my last visit, I vividly remember the advertisements I’d seen for this same line of “whitening” products. When I asked my dad about why women would want to buy Ponds Whitening Cream, he told me that skin tone has a deep cultural significance in India. According to my dad, people in India who had fairer skin were viewed as members of the upper class; on the other hand, people who belonged to the lower class were presumed to have darker skin from working in the fields. These skin-tone presumptions permeated into marriage arrangements. In fact, most of the personals ads from Indian men include “fair skin” as a requirement for a potential spouse.

This television ad is part of a series where the main character, played by former Miss World Priyanka Chopra, seeks to win back her ex-boyfriend after he left her for a woman with fairer skin. Eventually, after using  the Ponds Flawless White line of products, Chopra’s ex-boyfriend leaves his current girlfriend after realizing Chopra’s skin had lightened significantly. This advertisement relies on the Indian cultural significance of skin tone in order to convince women that they need Ponds Cream in order to be attractive.  Therefore, this advertisement not only plays on the emotional insecurities of Indian women but also relies on cultural beauty standards in order to convince women to buy Ponds products.

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