When the washer stops shaking, the woman opens the lid. Out comes a hairless, mid-20s [?] African man. Both the man and the woman look at each other in stupefied mutual admiration. The man flexes his arm muscles as the legend appears on the screen: “Coloreria Italiana. Coloured is better.”
WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA, HUH? I don’t know about you, but if I’m approached by a leering man when I’m doing laundry in my residential building, I’m bound to panic, assuming that I’m about to be raped by an intruding pervert. [EDIT: It has come to my attention that the man could be interpreted as the woman’s husband.]
Well, dropping the literal interpretation, the leering man in his skivvies is obviously a concretized metaphor for undyed clothing. The man thinks he’s hot shit, but his extremely geeky underwear [knee socks, hah hah, the only funny thing about this spot], his excessive chest hair and his male pattern baldness say otherwise. Furthermore, the woman doing the laundry clearly ain’t impressed with him. Okay, fine, I can partly buy the symbolism of nerdy guy = undyed cloth.
The metaphorical significance falls apart, however, by the sheer violence of the assault in the next portion of the clip. You could say the woman throwing the man into the washer is so absurd that it just highlights the metaphorical freight of the commercial [into the washer goes the undyed fabric]. However, the commercial undercuts its metaphor by using highly non-metaphorical sounds of struggle and cries of pain from the man inside the washer. It is impossible for me to think that the woman threw undyed CLOTHES in the washer because the supposed symbol for the CLOTHES is acting in the way that any HUMAN BEING would if he had been pitched into a tumbling device and tortured. Yes, tortured. The obviously HUMAN sounds of struggle and pain override the equivalence between man and undyed clothes and make him a HUMAN BEING undergoing ASSAULT, which completely derails my attention.
As if the graphic violence weren’t enough, the end results are just as disturbing. Why is the black guy smiling so peacefully after having just bounced around in a machine that caused the white guy obvious physical distress? Why is the black guy about 20 years younger than the white guy who went in the washer? Why is he black in the first place? Why is he so desirable [as connoted by the white woman’s lustful glances] in contrast to the white guy? WHAT THE HELL?
So, to recap, a young, white, generically attractive woman shoves an older, white, supposedly unattractive man in a washer. Out comes a young, black, generically attractive man. How many biases can one cram into a single commercial? You’ve got sexism in the assumption that laundry is women’s work. You’ve also got sexism in the portrayal of guys as objects you can toss into the laundry and simply “clean up” to fit your fantasy of what they should be like. You’ve got ageism in the assumption that the older guy is undesireable. You’ve got heterosexism in the fact that the clothes are symbolized by various types of guys whose ultimate goal is to gain the woman’s desire. And you’ve got that old chestnut of racism in which the white male is seen as unfashionable, undesirable, deluded, weak and probably impotent, while the black male is seen as sexy, strong, highly desirable and full of “raw animal magnetism.” As a comment on Feministing noted, it’s a “rare trifecta” of racism, sexism and xenophobia.
There’s another commercial in the same series that makes the bias even more apparent. In this commercial, the older white guy from the first commercial is reading a porno about busty black young women jumping out of washers. A non-busty young white woman, connoted as homely, comes down to do her laundry. She and the man share looks of disgust. She confiscates his magazine. He glances at the magazine, lying on the floor so that you can clearly see a busty black woman jumping out of a washer, and then he throws the young non-busty non-black woman into the washer.
As the man sits on the washer, waiting, the non-busty non-black woman struggles, cries and bangs around inside the washer. Her protests diminish, however. The man on the washer rubs his hands together in anticipation of a young busty black woman. When he opens the washer, the same young hairless black guy from the first commercial comes out. He and the white man look at each other with puzzlement. The commercial ends by saying “Coloreria Italiana: What Women Want.” Racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia ensue.
This is an ad that ran in Italy for an Italian product. I understand that there are different levels of what’s acceptable in the media in different cultures, but this series of commercials is blowing my mind for ANY country.