Thursday, December 07, 2006

Co-opting the Language

A few days ago, Maya at, wrote about how the makers of Equal artificial sweetener apparently thought it cute and kitschy to reword a number of slogans and print them on packets. Most upsetting to Maya was the newly-minted phrase "Power to the Packet":
POWER TO THE PEOPLE was not just a slogan, but a rallying anthem which was appreciated and honored during the Civil Rights Movement. This statement demanded that we stand up, take power and become accountable for our community. The marketing team for Equal’ 0 calorie sweetener morphed this historic proclamation into a diluted tongue-and-cheek advertisement for their ‘Campaign of Flavor’, which ironically (or not so much) further enforced corporate financial gains by exploiting Black culture.
I understood her point because I've been thinking the same thing about the commercial for this nifty little device:

Yep, the apparently all (em)powerful NuvaRing. Have you seen this commercial in which the spokeswoman begins, "Birth control, back in the day about pregnancy protection--no objection!" I want to write the manufacturers and tell them, "No one objected to birth control? Talk about your revisionist history!" But I digress.

As NuvaRing only has to be used once a month, it frees women from the tyranny of daily birth control, prompting the makers to cast it in the same liberating tradition as the Civil Rights Movement. Yep, this commercial ends* with the spokeswoman co-opting the phrase "Let freedom ring!" while thrusting her fist defiantly into the air, NuvaRing gripped proudly. I mean, even though I've seen it a few times now, I still scan the image, expecting that proud fist to be covered in a black glove.


Which is not to say that birth control in and of itself is not liberating for some women (me included), but rather, I don't think the road to freedom for women is paved with NuvaRings.

*At least the TV version ends that way; I can't see this one for some reason.


Anonymous said...

omg, i am so glad to be far from american tv for those commercials.

i hate this crap.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

This kind of co-optation is so problematic. I can't believe these examples though. Thanks for sharing! After I saw KRS-One co-opt, "the revolution will not be televised" a few years back for either a Nike commercial or an NBA commercial (to be honest I blocked it out it was that bad) where he said "the revolution is basketball." I was done. The truth is nothing is sacred for these marketing fools, not a thing... pathetic.

Hahni said...

I think it tells a lot about our culture, that everything is seen to be co-optable if you throw enough money at it. Civil rights--check. MLK's birthday--check. War--check. Great protest music--double check.

It's pretty sickening.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...