"I wish my life was a beer commercial." That statement has been said and heard many times. While said in jest, it alludes to the desire for a better life. Life would certainly be grand if it mirrored life as portrayed in advertising but, unfortunately, it does not.
Life gets a twist when it stars in commercials. Because marketers need to associate their products with positive thoughts, many paint an unrealistic picture of life and it's racial make up.
Georgia State University Sociologist Charles Gallagher calls advertising's growing need to show all races living harmoniously together a "carefully manufactured racial utopia, a narrative of colorblindness."
While that may be a welcome direction to travel, it does not reflect the realities of life in the real world. Census data states just seven percent of all marriages are interracial and 80 percent of whites live in neighborhoods in which 95 percent of their neighbors are white.
Gallagher says this paints a very slanted picture. "The lens through which people learn about other races is absolutely through TV, not through human interaction and contact. Here, we're getting a lens of racial interaction that is far a field from reality."
Of course, this isn't some underhanded, big brother-like attempt marketers have engaged in to change society. It's just positive thinking says Stanford University Professor Sonya Grier. "Often, advertising doesn't reflect reality - everyone is beautiful and pretty and thin, so a lot of advertising is very unrealistic. It's always been something that reflects our aspirations, what we can be."
It really begs the age old chicken or egg question. Advertisers and media organizations, for the most part, promote utopian perfection rather than gritty reality. Whether advertisers and media should promote perfection or reflect reality is not an easy question to answer. In essence, both directions are well intended. Promoting perfection and cultural ideals is simply a wish for something better.
Reflecting reality brings the hard truths of life to light.
Unfortunately, many of the efforts by advertisers and media in the direction of utopian perfection often seem forced and fake.
Perhaps it's all born out of human nature's natural tendency to move forward, to do better, to improve things. Perhaps the desire for perfection can not be held back. Maybe satisfaction with one's current place in life is not natural. Or, maybe, through media and advertising, the human race has been brainwashed into thinking reality is for losers.