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Race, Place, and the PSP

August 20, 2006

I suppose I should point out here, if it hasn’t been made clear already, that I’m a born American citizen, and my experience with race, racism, and media are all heavily influenced by that background. Of course, the dynamics of race relations and racial common sense are different everywhere, and occasionally, this leads to some pretty confusing situations, like the Sony PSP “White is coming” advertisement from early July, which was intended for distribution in Holland and ended up inciting the wrath of quite a few American bloggers, which in turn irked a decent amount of not-Americans.

I’m not going to discuss this advertisement in any particular length; personally, I found them offensive, but I think that the Americans screaming “racism” are making the not-Americans rather defensive. Clearly, the advertisement wasn’t designed with any overt racist intent; the PSP is not, as far as I can tell, ideal for choking black women. But to claim that the ad was designed without the intention of invoking race as a theme is ridiculous, and the people who argued that “the people who are calling this ad racist are racist because they see race” are just as ridiculous. The ad was obviously designed with race in mind, and I’m guessing that they probably just didn’t anticipate the American reaction; maybe, the degree to which they appealed to racial common sense was just enough to be inoffensive to the local sensibilities.

What confuses me is that the hubbub raised about the PSP “Hells Yeah” television spot, which appears to have been designed for American audiences. Corporate attempts to give their products street cred are, more often than not, heavily racialized (watch some late-night TV ads for ringtones sometime and you’ll see what I mean) but very rarely are they both pandering AND offensive. Sadly, the only commentary I ever found on the commercial came courtesy of a certain webcomic.

In other news, I still haven’t gotten anywhere in True Crime: Streets of L.A., but I did recently finish reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I got at Goodwill for a dollar. I’m thinking that overall it’ll be a better deal than True Crime was. I’ll leave you with this:

“If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound, and America hasn’t even begun to pull out the knife.”

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One comment

  1. That’s pretty much exactly how I felt about both ads. Especially regarding the black/white PSP ad, sure, some critics were a little over-excited, the ad is clearly using racial imagery to gather attention.

    But, I think that the reason the squirrel PSP ad didn’t get any attention was, well, it was pretty lame and just didn’t draw much attention at all. I remember the “swap” ads where the PSP got passed from one player to the other getting a lot more airtime.



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