Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jennifer Lopez in the Magic of Macy's

The past week, we looked at how Latin@s are depicted in Spanish-language commercials. This post looks at how a Latina (Jennifer Lopez) is depicted in English-speaking, mainstream commercials.

Macy’s recently launched its “Find Your Magic” television spot featuring Jennifer Lopez as one of the celebrity designers. The commercial begins with a typical scene of a customer requesting a sales associate for a different sized shoe. We follow the sales associate through the stock room “employees only” door to find a huge warehouse of employees, celebrities, and, yes, even Santa’s elves busy making their exclusive products for Macy’s and preparing for Macy’s major events such as the Thanksgiving Day parade, Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Show, and Macy’s Flower show.

J Lo is depicted wearing an elegant shimmering gown while spraying flowers for the Macy’s Flower Show with her 16th fragrance “Love and Glamour.” As she waters the flowers with her scent, the buds bloom, showing exactly how fresh, sweet, and beautiful her scent is compared to any Miracle-Grow fertilizer. In Davila’s “Images: Producing Culture” article, the author writes how Latin@s are often put into minority status using positive influences. This is evident in J Lo’s image, which translates into an unthreatening, feminized, and simple woman compared to Martha Stewart, looking professional in her lab coat and busy desk, and Jessica Simpson, playing a more active, useful role as she runs around helping various personnel.

Davila also describes how Latin@s are depicted in contrast to Anglos as a form of mockery. We see this with Jessica Simpson being a clumsy blond in the commercial, but all this does is present polarized extremes that reduces J Lo to a passive, simple role – as if watering flowers and looking pretty is all she can handle – whereas Jessica Simpson is the person who you can give challenging and complex tasks too because she can get things done.

Meanwhile, Negron-Muntaner’s “Jennifer’s Butt” article, writes how J Lo is the ideal Latin@ beauty – neither too dark nor too light, and while she uses her physical attributes such as her behind to legitimize her “shared” experience with other Latin@s like Selena, her behind is anything but the star of this commercial.

J Lo’s behind gets maybe less than one second of screen time, as the camera zooms into her face the moment she turns to her side, briefly showing the curvy outline of her derriere. A big behind, as Negron Muntaner writes, is an upset to the white standards of beauty, which Jessica Simpson symbolizes as she wears a tight top diverting your eyes right to her chest or big blond hair.

Another interesting person in this commercial is Jennifer Lopez’s former beau Sean “Diddy” Combs who comes right after Jennifer Lopez. Diddy is portrayed in a sharp-looking suit, posing with a dark skinned model with the city skyline as his backdrop. I’m not sure what the significance of juxtaposing these two side by side, but perhaps it means Diddy got the last laugh. He has a hot new chick by his arm, looks dominant and successful in his power suit, and is in a city – not in a field – where the real action takes place.

Macy’s campaign repeatedly uses the words, where “everything comes together.” But for whom is everything coming together? Perhaps, for the dominant culture where minorities such as Jennifer Lopez must cater to the dominant culture’s needs and tone down her cultural signs of belonging for other Latinas. That is the magic of Macy’s.

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