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Written on July 21, 2008, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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The first time I saw this Smarties advert on British television, my jaw dropped. Could they really be using segregation on the basis of colour in an ad for a popular children’s sweet?

Synopsis: an idyllic, pastoral Teletubbies-style scene is shattered by the return of the Blue Smartie. The other Smarties run in fear, scooping up babies, and hide in the tube (homestead) and slam the door. Blue is excluded until he explains that now he has no artificial ingredients, he’s safe. “He’s one of us now!” they cry, welcoming him back.

The guy who is forced out of the Smarties tube to explain this eugenic-style decision, although he happens to be dressed in yellow, is played by a black actor.

This is in incredibly bad taste to begin with, but reinforcing the racism with this not-so-subtle touch really makes this advert the worst I have seen in a long while. I really find it deeply offensive, the more so since it is aimed at children. It reinforces negative racial stereotypes, and presents exclusion on the basis of colour difference as acceptable. Segregation has been banished in many countries such as South Africa and the USA which previously suffered terribly from this awful bias. I think it should be taken off the air.

For the record, I’ve asked several people “of colour” to borrow the modern phrase what they think and they agree with me.

What do you think? Let me know, and maybe leave a comment on their YouTube page. It’s unlikely to appear there, but another (unofficial) YouTube thread does have some debate although it’s on a typically crass level.

Or, you could do as I did and complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.

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This thing has 15 Comments

  1. GD
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    You really are reading too much into a poxy advert that is welcoming back the blue Smartie from when it was exiled due to it containing artificial colours!

    Is NOTHING, excluded from analysis these days!?

    What should we do about prisoners then that are marked out as dangerous and separated from the community at large?

    Free them so they can carry on murdering, raping and stealing etc so they don’t feel different?

    In fact until you had pointed out that you thought there were racial undertones I hadn’t given it a second thought …. not even noticing that “yellow” was black!

  2. Deek Deekster
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. This isn’t about prisoners, this is about segregation, and your remarks are misplaced.

  3. Rowley
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Look at this picture here.

    What do you see?

    Some people translate what they see to their own mindset, clean, smutty, racist, PC or otherwise.

  4. Deek Deekster
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Rowley, I agree. I’m sensitive to racism, so I interpret the advert in that way. But, that doesn’t mean I’m wrong to do that.

    Nice image btw.

  5. DaylightGambler
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Ok lets imagine that smarties have different flavours.

    Strawberry was removed from the other flavours as it contained a bad e number that apparantly made kids crazy.

    Then one day stawberry returns, and all the other flavours run and hide screaming – orange flavour, representing the other flavours, comes out to tell stawberry flavour that he is not welcome around here. Stawberry produces a certificate saying he is safe again and everyone comes out and has a big party.

    Now is that racist? No definately not.

    But smarties don’t have flavours – they are referred to by their colours (and have always been as long as I can remember eating smarties).

    So then the advert becomes racist? No – it’s just an advert saying that the blue smartie no longer has e-numbers in.

    And have you considered that the black actor was chosen as the smartie spokesman because he was the best actor there?

  6. Deek Deekster
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    DaylightGambler – this is from the YouTube thread:

    shafnet (2 hours ago) Show Hide
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    I have always been confused as to why there is a blac… ‘ehem ‘coloured’ fella who comes out to mediate and check blues credentials.

    Why is that ?
    murphunited (2 hours ago) Show Hide
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    its a black actor
    so what?
    shafnet (2 hours ago) Show Hide
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    I didn’t see any other black actors in the video – did you ?
    murphunited (2 hours ago) Show Hide
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    no, but do u think all the actors shud have been white?
    what wud u have said if all the actors were black?
    shafnet (2 hours ago) Show Hide
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    Wake up – try to answer the question if you can…. I’m asking why there is a single black actor in the film when everyone else is white.

    If everyone in the film were black with the exception of one white actor I would be asking exactly the same question.

  7. DaylightGambler
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Well by pausing the bad quality youtube video at the point after blue has been accepted, I think I can spot at least two other non-white actors (from both genders).

    Would you have preferred a white person to be the spokesperson, and to have the black actor in the background?

  8. Deek Deekster
    Posted 21 July, 2008 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I would have preferred them to use another narrative entirely, which might have avoided the issues of colour segregation / exclusion / identity cards, and made the whole thing less proto-fascist and more appealing all round.

  9. Andy Coughlan
    Posted 23 July, 2008 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I must say I’m with Deek on this one.

    To me, the advert effectively says, E numbers are ‘very bad’, and those who have them, however nice or intelligent or attractive they are, should be shunned by polite society, unless they have a bit of paper which makes everything alright.

    The reaction of the other Smarties to Blue’s arrival surprised me and left me feeling very uncomfortable; especially as Blue himself seems such an amiable chap.

    What’s more worrying is the reaction of those Smarties that themselves had E numbers in the past – including Red (E122) and (*gasp*) Yellow (E110) – perhaps explaining why he was sent out to deal with Blue?

    I think Deek’s point about segregation, is perfectly valid. The only explanation for the extreme reaction the Smarties have to Blue’s arrival is that poor old Blue has been ostracised and painted into a much worse person that he probably is.

    Yes, most of this is probably subliminal and lost on the average 5 year old, but the behaviour of the Smarties is not something I’d like my children to be emulating.

    One of my 5 year old son’s best friends has Aspergers Syndrome and is often overstepping the mark and getting himself into trouble with their teacher. My son quite surprised me with his tolerance of his friend, and regularly bears the brunt of short tempered attacks, often physical, with calmness far beyond his years.

    If a five year old can understand that we are not all the same; that some people are different and accept that difference, what message is this advert sending out?

    The advert completely undermines his attitude and tells him that it’s OK to hate or fear those who are different.

    As Deek says, the whole narrative is wrong. Rather than focussing on the negative, they should be focussing on the positive – for example that the new Blue colouring is made from seaweed extract and is full of vitamins (see http://www.exploreenumbers.co.uk/blue-smarties-return-without-e-numbers.html for more interesting info about Blue).

  10. tankie1rtr
    Posted 3 August, 2008 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I think you should all get out more and look at what your doing, its none sense, if you all channeled your energies into something that was constructive to everyday living maybe all the wasted time wouldnt be wasted, try putting your comlaints and arguments into bringing out troops home from a war they shouldnt be in, or try shouting out that the old age pensioners aspecially those who fought during WW2, should be recognised and given a pension that they can live on, not only ex srvice people but all pensioners, instead or arguing about a tube of bloody smarties and actors, get a life,

  11. tankie1rtr
    Posted 3 August, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I think you should all get out more and look at what your doing, its none sense, if you all channeled your energies into something that was constructive to everyday living maybe all the wasted time wouldnt be wasted, try putting your comlaints and arguments into bringing out troops home from a war they shouldnt be in, or try shouting out that the old age pensioners aspecially those who fought during WW2, should be recognised and given a pension that they can live on, not only ex srvice people but all pensioners, instead or arguing about a tube of bloody smarties and actors, get a life,

  12. Deek Deekster
    Posted 3 August, 2008 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    thanks for your contribution to the debate.

  13. davetherave
    Posted 4 August, 2008 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Do you get offended when segregating your clothes when washing. We are talking abouts sweets and artifical ingredients not people. Its people like you who keep raacism going. GET A LIFE

  14. davetherave
    Posted 4 August, 2008 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Andy Coughlan what are you talking about, the blue smarty is a nice chap, he’s a sweet, its not a person, its just a bloke pretending to be a sweet. What is a matter with you people, your the ones who are installing racism into your kids by mnaking them think this way. Your the sort of people who are making dads feel uncomfortable to hug there kids, you are all taking this to far. There is nothing wrong with segrgation when its not people as all people are equal. products aren’t you want to segregate the good from the bad, and Im all sure you would like to segregate bad from from good food.

  15. Deek Deekster
    Posted 4 August, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority, and they have since written back confirming mine was not the only complaint, so it’s obvious that this ad is in poor enough taste to have caused wider concern.

    There are obvious and questionable aspects to this advert which do not just rely on subliminal suggestion. At best, it is in bad taste, and at worst, it reinforces racist stereotypes and makes exclusion seem normal.

    Some of the commenters here seem to be suffering from the Jeremy Clarkson tendency, i.e. that we’ve all gone politically correct and anyone that says otherwise is a dickhead.

    Personally, I enjoy a range of views, some extremely liberal, some anarchist, some pretty draconian as far as others are concerned.
    I think it’s important to call it as you see it. I don’t agree that it’s wrong to highlight negative anti-social messages in advertising. I accept other people seeing it differently but trotting out “get a life” etc. loses you the argument instantly. State your case, and be bold enough to see whether it stands up – it’s the only way.

    JC and his sunshine fascists can now leave the building.

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