Filed under, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” is the United Kingdom supermarket who used a “racist” display to advertise the Steve McQueen film 12 Years a Slave. Sainsbury’s, the second largest chain of supermarkets in the UK were the offending perpetrators of the tasteless and racist idea of advertising their DVD/Blu-Ray sale on the film in question.
Thankfully the idea for the display was not used countrywide. It was only used in the Heyford Hill Branch in Oxford. The supermarket chain’s PR Twitter account responded to tweeter Sam Ambreen after she posted a picture of the mannequin display and asked whether this is ever okay. The quick response was that the whole thing had been a mistake and it had been taken down immediately.
There was a brief flurry of outraged and amazed tweets from users who could not believe the supermarket’s audacity. The image of the DVD advertisement was put on the United Kingdom’s Independent news website and tweeted about on the site’s Twitter feed.
Although quite a number of the microblogging site’s community expressed dismay, or outrage, at least one tweeted, “all they did was dress a mannequin to look like the lead character.” The tweet finished by asking what was wrong with that? The United Kingdom supermarket apologised, several times, for the use of a racist display to advertise a DVD sale of the McQueen film.
On the display itself the Oxford branch of Sainsbury’s put a poster of the film on one side with a stand for the DVD’s and Blu-Rays next to it and on the opposite side a mannequin dressed in Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character’s costume. There is also, for some reason, a twig, or branch, stuck in the mannequin’s pocket.
Stuck on the store dummy’s upper chest is the price of the DVD, though not the Blu-Ray, with the word “New” preceeding it. Clearly, the outfit on the display was not meant to imply that customers could dress like the film’s protagonist, but was a misguided attempt to bring attention to the lead character’s status as slave.
The film itself is based on the true story of black man Solomon Northup who was a free man, that was kidnapped from his home in New York and sold into slavery. The award winning film, it took home three Oscars, was received well by both critics and the public.
Despite the slight outcry caused by the store’s decision to advertise in this manner, there were not as many tweets protesting the display as one would think. At the bottom of the @Independent tweet and its accompanying picture there have been 652 retweets and 177 favorites.
Looking more in depth at the Independent’s Twitter feed also shows that many were upset not at Sainsbury’s but at the paper for bothering to report the store’s questionable display. A few thought it might be a joke while another pointed out, rather helpfully, that the outfit on the mannequin was clearly made up of women’s clothes while the lead in the film is male.
Regardless of whether the United Kingdom Sainsbury’s supermarket intended the display to be racist or some sort of tongue-in-cheek display to advertise the McQueen film, the offending appropriation of slavery as advertising has been taken down. Apologies have been made and investigations are also in place to see just who thought this would be a good idea. Meanwhile reactions are still mixed from the public and the Twitter storm seems to have passed.
By Michael Smith