Fashion retailer Zara triggered controversy in China about beauty by showing a model with freckles. See this article, “Zara campaign sparks heated debate over freckles and beauty in China.” See also “Zara advert gets China asking, are freckles beautiful?

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Blackface has a long history, in America and Europe, but it has been embroiled in controversy recently after celebrities and brands — including Katy Perry and Gucci — have been accused of racism. Katy Perry released a shoe range accused of blackface stereotyping, and Gucci marketed a balaclava accused of racism for the same reasons.

On Katy Perry, see this story, “Katy Perry saddened by blackface claims about her shoe range“. On Gucci, see “Gucci apologizes for controversy blackface sweater”. The film Mary Poppins was also accused of racial stereotyping. See this story in the New York Times: “Mary Poppins, a nanny’s shameful flirting with blackface.”

In politics, the governor of Virginia has been embroiled in a blackface controversy based on photos in his college yearbook. See this story: “Virginia governor apologizes for racist and offensive yearbook costume but refuses to resign.” In the Netherlands, the Christmas character “Black Pete” is based on blackface. See this article, “Who is the ‘racist” Christmas character sparking clashes in the Netherlands?”

On the history of blackface, see this article, “Why Blackface?” Finally, see, “Blackface isn’t just about racism in America’s past, it’s about racism in America’s present”.


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Some observers note that, for women on social media, strong has become the new skinny for ideal body image. See this article, “Strong is the new skinny isn’t as empowering as it sounds“, and also “The ideal female body type is getting even harder to attain“.

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Discussions of social media and body image often focus on women and beauty standards, but men are taking cues from Instagram. One trend is “clean eating”. While clean eating is not exclusively male, many men are using Instagram to embrace the trend. See this article, “How men are embracing clean-eating posts on Instagram”.  For a critique of the clean-eating movement, see here: “Why we fell for clean eating”.

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Mental health experts argue that Instagram is promoting images of”perfect” lifestyles that are making people feel inadequate. See this article, “Instagram is supposed to be so friendly, why is it making people so miserable?”  See also“The Age of Envy: how to be happy when everyone else looks perfect”.  

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Representation: Vogue Cover

Posted: February 8, 2019 in Uncategorized


A Vogue magazine cover was accused of racist stereotyping for representing basketball star LeBron James as an “ape” holding model Gisele Bundchen, evoking a King Kong beast from old movies and anti-German propaganda posters.  See this article, “Race row over King Kong Vogue cover” and “Is Vogue’s ‘LeBron Kong’ Cover Offensive?


The French thinker Roland Barthes published a famous essay, The World of Wrestling, in which he culturally decoded wrestling spectacles as a narrative opposing of Good and Evil. In the past few years, many observers have noted that Donald Trump, before he went into politics, became famous not only on reality TV but also through “Wrestlemania” spectacles. Can Barthes’ analysis help us understand Trump’s presidency? See this article in the New York Times: “Is Everything Wrestling?” Also see “Donald Trump and the WWE” and “That Time Donald Trump Took a Stone Cold Stunner“.