Monday, April 02, 2007

Nike, "Africans," Mannequins, Race and Fasion

Devoted e725 scribe Sarah Smorol has check in with an illustrated posting:

X-Originating-IP: []
From: sarah smorol
To: ""
Subject: Black mannequins, white masks?

Hello Dr. N- well, I thought I'd look around for what some current literal American Black mannequins might look like and this is what I came up with- Sarah

Black Mannequins, White Masks?

These are Nike Mannequins from 2000. (note the features of the central figure)

Daffy's Clothing Store in SOHO, 2005- no comment neccesary.

This is TYRA, available at a company that sells products to hairdressers.

She is touted as having "100% human hair on a black face". Did someone say blackface? Also, if the hair is "human" yet doesn't reflect natural African hair, then is African hair not "human"? Her eyes are blue in the only way they can be- (the white models sold alongside TYRA are not wearing this blue eye-shadow)This may be reading in, but I wonder...

The black mannequins below have no eyes, no windows to the soul...Perhaps the soul is too black to see as Fanon discusses(repudiates)?

Finally, allow me to juxtapose two extractions from popular culture, namely a Hollywood blockbuster by the name of I, Robot.

The first image is Will Smith in the center of the letter i with the word robot beneath and behind him the robot minions that hope to destroy humankind- it seems Will is the forerunning image that is the i. The second is the French version of the poster- in this the central image is of the robot (with seemingly anglo features and blue eyes), but what is interesting is the catch phrase"Nous confions nos maison, nos enfants, nos vies. Mais avons-nous raison de leur faire confiance?" which translates to "We Trust them with our homes, our children, our lives. But Do we have reason to give them this confidence?"(I cannot move this image but it exists in the meta(l)morphosis powerpoint in our Obscene machine blog). Here we find the sentiment given all the housecleaners, nannies and low-level workers, a fear of the other.

In the image on the right Will Smith seeks to identify the "malfunctioning" robot that wants to be a Man. This robot is named, yes, Sonny. (Think of the diminutive "son" used to call adult black males by condescending whites) The robot, the technological, is now humankinds slave and when it wants to be treated as human it must be destroyed- it's humanity is a threat to society. All of the "fear of the other" psychology we have learned about is visible in this parallel. The black man(Smith) is human but now must prevent the machine from reaching that status. I would argue that this is a way to replay the superior/inferior complex in the politically correct society.


  1. Anonymous6:56 PM

    Advertising is all about marketing, and marketing is all about appealing to the masses. Now, if a white teenager is walking through the mall and sees a mannequin that is black, they are going to feel that style of clothing is not intended for them; I believe the same falls vice-versa (after speaking to a few friends that have experienced this situation). So when Nike uses a "black face" on a "white body" they are trying to expand the audience reached; it's all an act. As for "I, Robot" the superiority complex is definitely evident when looking at the posters, but when the director AND leading lady are both white it's hard to see exactly what the message is. I believe the validity of the argument presented is weakened when one researches the movie further; the defendant is reading too far into it.

  2. Euferose Correa Eng493: Wed @ 16005:16 PM

    For my "big scary essay" I focused on the prompt that involved analyzing Dir. Spike Lee's method of constructing the African-American, and I think that's why this particular blog attracted me so much. I understand the writer's argument that certain mediums of advertisement are questionable in their execution--the pictures she included in her post were all prime examples of this fact. But to put some perspective on the first picture of the Nike mannequins I'd like to inject some additional points to further demonstrate the difficulties of advertising. The author of this post implies that the "features of the central figure" belong to an African-American male, yet his skin color is nowhere near what is usual. Someone rationalizing Nike's choice of advertising their clothing line would say that they were trying to market their clothes and in order to highlight their line they chose to have all the mannequins be white as to not draw the consumer's attention away from their product. Moreover, making each mannequin ethnically different would allow for being politically correct, so on and so forth. So for this particular example that the author includes in her post, I can see where the users of these mannequins maintain their logic in selling their clothes. The black man wears Nike, and so do his white friends.

  3. Brian Moczygemba3:45 PM

    I feel that there are certain trends and styles that are designed to appeal to certain racial groups at time. In the African American culture there is a large urban, hip-hop, rap group that generates a unique style for themselves. And as stated, advertising is about marketing. They are choosing who they wish to appeal to. It may be racist in a sense that the mannequins are designed to resemble an African American person, but it may be the intended consumer. In the African American community there are certain trends and styles that came from their cultural groups. It is difficult to tackle situations about race in the society that we live in. There are still racial divisions present in society today, and society has become so Political Correct that we are creating a mannequin to appeal to all. It may have a “black face” on a “white body” but I feel that it was probably designed this in a corporate P.C. fashion. I feel that there are times in society where people may feel as if they are walking on eggshells for fear of being deemed a racist.