Whitewashing; pinkwashing; greenwashing. It basically boils down to dishonesty. Dishonesty annoys people, and it isn’t going to get a very good reception. Those movies and books and other cultural artifacts that people take to their hearts are the ones that genuinely speak to them, not the ones that package the same old thing with a gloss that pays lip service to whatever cultural niche they are trying to occupy.

tilda-swintonWhitewashing is where they only cast white actors in a film, or where they especially cast characters who are ethnically diverse with white actors and then make them look black or Asian [insert minority]. Dr Strange is the latest in a long line of films drawing fire for this, with Tilda Swinton’s character, who is distinctly Asian in the comic book that the film is sourced from. Scarlet Johannsen in the title role of the new adaptation of Ghost In The Shell is an even more obvious divergence from the source material. With racial equality front and center as an issue in terms of the roles and opportunities available to actors from racially diverse backgrounds, it seems counter-intuitive to cast an actor in a role that seems specifically written for a non-white actor. Not that casting black actors in roles traditionally seen as being white doesn’t draw equal amounts of fire – Fantastic Four and Star Wars are just a couple of recent examples; and if there is a role out there that Idris Elba hasn’t been championed as the perfect actor for over more “obvious” white actors likely to be chosen, then it is merely an oversight. There are plenty of opportunities for white actors, so when it is perceived that they are taking roles which should have been given to a non-white actor, it rankles.

The Colors Come Off In The Wash & People Want Something Genuine Instead

Pinkwashing is marketing something so that it is appealing directly to the gay community, and in most cases doesn’t represent any actual interest in that community other than getting their money.

Greenwashing is making something look like it is environmentally friendly, which isn’t really the case. It used to be really common back when the idea of green products first started to emerge, but it is still going on. The refusal to properly label foods and continuing to insist on diluting terms such as organic really damages the legitimacy of those trying to actually offer something that is organically sourced and actually green. Something that is a legitimate concern and a health related issue rather than just a lifestyle choice is treated like just another marketing gimmick.

Why do advertisers do this? Why do they think it is even a good idea? Well, they want to tap into a market which maybe isn’t their usual demographic, and they only have the scantest of understanding of how to actually engage that group of people, and so they go for a kind of lowest denominator hit all the right buttons approach, and it feels hollow. It feels hollow because the intention isn’t to really engage with that audience – it is just to target their wallets.

It might be interesting to look at the corporate structure of said companies and see whether their failure to be real in their communications to these sections of the populace reflects some more deep rooted ethos within the company. If you are a company full of sports-loving beer drinkers making a beer for people to drink as they watch sport, maybe there isn’t much hope for you to break into other niche markets – at least there isn’t if you present yourself in a light that isn’t true to yourself. It assumes that said niche market is making its decision based purely on a surface read of something, and not on a more analytic basis; from a critical reader standpoint.

Truth sells., and any of these light washes over a product aren’t enough to hide the truth of the product, and a lot of times that isn’t even necessary. People are going to buy a product because of what it offers, not for some lip-service paid to a certain group that doesn’t seem organic to the product or the general ethos of the company. Surface and substance need to be in agreement.

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