A few days ago, actress Teyonah Parris shared the following image on her instagram page:
If you’re unfamiliar, the little natural pictured is standing next to an ad for the new animated film, Home. The film is a product of Dreamworks and features their first black animated character, Tip, who is voiced by Rihanna.
We’re super excited to see the main character is not only a black girl but one with natural hair. This is all well and good but…the way the film has been promoted seems to dismiss the existence of the black character altogether. Some posters don’t even mention Rihanna’s name. In fact, if you’re driving down the ritzy parts of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, you’ll see this ad:
The billboard features the other main character Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, and a cat. These ads — which fail to mention Rihanna’s character — are all over Los Angeles. One writer took on the task of locating ads that prominently feature the black character:
What she found was interesting: ads featuring the black character were only displayed in neighborhoods that had a mostly black demographic. In all other areas, the only ads displayed were that of the alien and the cat. It’s 2015. You’ve made the monumental stride of producing a film that centers around a black character, why take a step back and fail to make ads that reflect this? This is similar to what happened with the release of Annie. Some billboards simply said “Annie” and nothing else.
No mention of young Quvenzhané Wallis. Let’s also not forget that Target completely scrubbed the image of Quvenzhané’s Annie in it’s film merchandise.
Then there’s Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave somehow advertised overseas in Italy as a movie featuring white actors:
They have Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character — the main character — Solomon Northrup playing second fiddle to Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt as if the film was about them. The film was called 12 Years a Slave not “12 Years of Being a White Guy in the Antebellum South.” And does anyone even recall how long Brad Pitt was on screen?
Does Hollywood think people won’t spend their hard earned coins on a production because there’s a *gasp* black person in it? Have they seen the record-breaking ratings for Empire?
Representation matters. You better recognize.
Have you seen promos for the film, Home in your area? What type of ad is displayed? How do you feel about the blanket “colorless” marketing strategy?