11 December 2009

Knife edge

On 4Music (yes I know, but they have it on constantly at the gym so I can't avoid it) they're running a pair of ads designed to deter youthful hobbledehoys from carrying knives. Each ad is halved, acting as a top and tail for the whole adbreak. They've been running the campaign a good few weeks now.

The first top is of two black lads, both saying the same thing. "I love music, it's all I want in my life, but I never thought..." and then it stops. The other ads come on, then at the end the tail comes on, with the two lads emerging in different scenarios. One says "I never thought I'd be producing hit albums!" and we see him in a studio. The other says "I never thought carrying a knife would get me in prison" and we see him being cuffed and taken away.

The second top is of two girls, one is black and one is white although this time their skin colour isn't the issue. Again, they're saying the same sort of thing. "I love music, it makes me want to dance, but I never thought..." and then, again, it stops. After the other ads have played, the girls return. One says "I never thought I'd be dancing for a living!" and we see her onstage, and the other says "I never thought that carrying a knife with my boyfriend would get me in trouble" as she is cuffed and led away.

So, is the first ad racist? Both boys are black. One is seen doing the right thing, one the wrong thing. Does the fact that one boy is doing the right thing neutralise the prejudice against the other boy? I feel uncomfortable with it.

And as for the second ad, is it sexist? After all, a girl is more than capable of carrying a knife with evil intentions without the company or influence of a boyfriend. She seems to be arrested as an accessory rather than actual aggressor in waiting. The inference is that it's her boyfriend's fault really. Why?

The anti-knife message is fine and worthy, of course, but they do seem to be conforming to horrid arcane stereotypes here - ie, that black lads exclusively cause trouble and girls are easily led by boys and can do no wrong on their own.

Or am I reading too much into it?

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