Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another Korean model in blackface and dressed up as an African

This is apparently from last fall, but I only saw it a couple days ago when I was channel surfing past the CW: "America's Next Top Model" dressed up their non-Black candidates in blackface in order to give them a biracial look.

It is this kind of thing, I argued here, that confuses Koreans, Japanese, and other Asians when it comes to the sensitive issue of cross-racial depictions, particularly because it sends very mixed messages. One could argue, as I did in the case of "Black. White.", that there are appropriate situations in which use of blackface is legitimate and transcends the particular negativity associated with it in the US where it has been grossly misused and abused in the past.

But make no mistake, even in 2009 America, this kind of "race play" may be seen as a controversial ratings grabber, even if it is done "appropriately."


  1. There are times when it is offensive, and there are times when it's not. You're right to point out that it's Americans who have the hang-up, and that there needs to be just as much focus on hyperactive political correctness as on historical sensitivity.

  2. I totally agree with you, and I think up to a point, it should shield some Korea-based (or Japan-based, Taiwan-based, etc.) companies from criticism over domestic activities.

    However, in the case of LG (which was supposed to be in the first link, which is now fixed), even if it is for domestic consumption, a global company like LG ought to know better, and now that they do, they have almost a duty to answer to that North American sensitivity about blackface.

    1. LG is a global company, but Korean ads are made in Korea by KOREANS and targeted to a Korean audience. I don't think Koreans should have to understand the historical baggage of the US, but they should be more sensitive about different cultures regardless. What I do object to is the assertion of some Korea haters that Korea should know all about American history due to being exposed to US television as if the media is so accurate. Or that Americans are all the more enlightened about race as a result of mainstream media. Please. You still see many stories of racial ignorance in the American media by American media figures.

      I don't see anything wrong with the LG pic. I don't see how it degrades black people, but shows a Korean woman re-imagined as a "black" person. There is the chameleon aspect that is interesting. It would be wrong if they used prosthetics to make the transformation complete and pass her off as a black person as some U.S. ads have done with some white models. The ad is not discriminating against black models nor is it degrading black people, so I don't see the problem.

  3. Ah, okay, I wasn't sure what the first ad was from.

    LG's not going to change American opinion, but it is worth debating the issue of blackface, and the difference between a white/yellow person with dark make-up, and blackface. I remember a little while ago SNL got in trouble for painting a white guy in order to play Barack Obama. Clearly it wasn't intended to be offensive, isn't the same as historical blackface, and that you're painting a white guy to play the President ought to put some distance between past and present. There are still cases, however, like the Bubble Sisters, that do evoke the historical practice, but not all use of dark make-up can be put in the same category.

  4. To be strict on Black face I assume sense main streamers have internet that their that no one can really be ignorant over the racial sensitivity that Americans carry. But on the same note it confuses me to see a white woman act more offended by racial slur than the actual black persons in the area. So sense I'm of the African race I feel the ignorance that those of this time share, is willful and not just the Asian ignorance, because they are not ALL that naive of racial slurs


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