It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about fairness creams. It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about fairness creams because Western capitalism took advantage of ancient Indian casteism to make us feel inferior.
It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about fairness creams because our politicians and celebrities are blind to the damage these caustic advertising campaigns wreak on India’s collective psyche.
Advertising is all about making us change from the people we are into the people we supposedly should be. What better way to remind people of their haunting inadequacies than attack something which is tangible and yet mostly unalterable?
Expecting someone to suddenly become fair is like expecting an adult to get a bigger shoe size and yet the self-esteem of many Indians is being attacked on a daily basis.
It’s rather ironic that while these manipulative adverts glorify fairer skin, the west has an entire industry based on turning people brown. This is a classic case of the grass being browner on the other side and perhaps illustrates why we need to put an end to this consumerist apartheid.
Tanning studios and sun-beds are common in the UK and US with people using them to boast of holidays abroad when in reality they were building a garden shed all summer along. Donald Trump wasn’t born looking like a pumpkin; he wanted to look like someone he wasn’t and now look at the poor bastard.
This systemic bid to conform everyone to a set standard of beauty, a colonial hangover, is so ingrained in Indian society that our celebrities see no problem in endorsing fairness creams. They must be held accountable for placing their docile smiles next to those godawful shade-cards (with a skin tone scale ranging from normal to Yami Gautam) used by fairness brands to drive home their supposed effects.
Have we come this far as a species only to compare ourselves on a hierarchy of shades, hues and tones? Such campaigns would be a PR disaster in any country but in India we overlook their accumulative harm.
|Have we come this far as a species only to compare ourselves on a hierarchy of shades, hues and tones?|
Pay heed dear eeader for the cosmetic dystopia is not far in which the matrimonial classifieds will simply read, “Wanted. Groom. Must be at least shade 3 on the Garnier scale. Wealthy and educated Brahmins who are fairer than John Abraham preferable. Should not be allergic to vaginal whitening creams.”
While some argue that newcomers to the movie industry need such campaigns for exposure, the mind boggles as to why established actors feel the need to endorse such unscrupulous products. What makes stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham and Deepika Padukone so desperate for money?
Their movies make crores and crores at the box office and they’re all multi-millionaires. At what point will their greed be sated and their principles step in? Hollywood celebrities don’t endorse such dodgy products because perhaps they listen to their conscience.
Not everyone in Bollywood is pig-headed. Kangana Ranaut, Swara Bhaskar, Kalki Koechlin and Ranbir Kapoor have all turned down lucrative endorsements citing their issues with the racist stereotypes and the bad example these products set for the youth and the marginalised. Recently, in a post that went viral, Abhay Deol called out his fellow actors for endorsing fairness creams which are “demeaning, false and racist”.
Of course, whenever there is something rational being expressed, some clown will jump in the discussion and give his two cents that no one asked for. Uday Chopra, a third-rate actor who looks like someone breathed life into a soya chunk, bizarrely stated: “What is this nonsense with fairness creams. If fairness creams are racist then so is hair colour. It’s a personal choice! #NotRacist."
What is this nonsense with fairness creams. If fairness creams are racist then so is hair color. It’s a personal choice! #NotRacist— Uday Chopra (@udaychopra) April 14, 2017
Uday Chopra is absolutely right and we can apply his logic on other matters as well. If abortion laws are sexist then so are cucumbers. If killing a man for transporting cows is racist then so is Uranus. If attacking all who don’t hold your beliefs is fascist then so is carbon dioxide.
Also, as we all know, in his landmark speech Martin Luther King said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their hair but by the content of their character.”
This is what happens when you inherit your daddy’s film company and start to think that your opinions matter. Chopra is like the Pomeranian who, upon sensing that the humans around him are getting into a heated argument, starts to howl in the corner to show that it, too, exists.
No one in known history has ever looked at a problem and thought “Hmmm, this is an important issue and could potentially affect a lot of people. I wonder what Yash Chopra’s least successful, but most vocal, son has to say on this.”
A cursory Google search reveals that this is not the first time Chopra has said something puzzling. In fact, there are several baffling things said by him which must be shared to better understand the jumbled mind of a man who thinks fairness creams are not racist:
1) “I don’t like being a Capricorn - I would prefer to be a Scorpio. In fact I decided to change my birthday from 5th Jan to 5th Nov to be a Scorpio - I just love the traits of being a Scorpio - they can be mean and have a sting - qualities that I think are very attractive.”
2) “Sleep is for the weak, food is for babies, and happiness for women.. Real men don’t need any of it..I knw..I knw..bt dis is who I am 2 day.”
3) “Yup I spoke French, actually I’m half French from my imaginary mothers side.. she’s from Lyon.. makes killer potatoes :))).”
4) “Favourite colour - Blue but I like Red better”.
5) “Thank you all for wishing me today. I am whelmed at all your tweets. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed cause, well, whelmed is kinda cool too.”
As we can see from the above statements, Uday Chopra’s lights are on but there is nobody home. But he is not the only one defending fairness creams.
When asked about her Fair & Lovely endorsement, Yami Gautam apparently said, “I can’t run my career based on someone else’s ideology” (translation: I can’t get ahead in life if I have morals).
John Abraham defended Garnier, “Fairness is misconstrued as lighter. We are talking about taking off your dark spots and having unblemished skin” (translation: when I place my face next to a shade-card in my ads, instead of feeling inadequate the viewer should celebrate my flawless skin).
Shah Rukh Khan was similarly equivocal when asked about his role in spreading the fair-is-beautiful racialism: “But then you can ask about so many things I endorse. There are 27 of them and there will be a lot of contradictions. Suppose I’m selling luxury items, Louis Vuitton or Tag Heuer, would you ask me about selling products that are only unaffordable and against the poor?” (translation: fairness is a luxury that is unaffordable and against the poor).
In a country where the ruling party thinks they are not racist because they live with south Indians, our rich diversity has been reduced to and divided into complexions. These are seeds of racism.
When you tell a young woman that she won’t get married or get that job because of her natural complexion, you are subliminally making her feel inadequate and lacking. I saw this ad once where a young woman’s friends make fun of her until - but of course - she uses a fairness cream which makes all of them applaud like the asshats they are. Let me tell you something, if your friends laugh behind your back because of your skin then you need new friends, not a new cream.
Even though these brands have racist ideals and the irresponsible celebrities who endorse these products are ignorant, the real clincher is that these fairness creams don’t work. They are nothing but the 21st century’s version of snake oil. This is why I want to see these products disappear from the market.
I want our celebrities to think for a moment about the insecurities and prejudices they might be unleashing on the unsuspecting masses. I want Indians to celebrate their inherent splendour without drawing comparisons with anyone else.
Most of all, I want Uday Chopra to shut the hell up and not ruin his father’s legacy.