Black or White, Racist?


Photo credits to Trent Bigelow


A billboard advert of Sony that features a stern white model clutching a black by the chin might not be the best way to convince consumers to buy an ‘all-white PlayStation Portable’ instead of the original black model. Due to the global values on racism, the representation of the white woman threateningly grasping the black woman by jaw makes the advert more controversial. It unbolts massive avenues of interpretation, creating more emotional connotations of powerful racial perception.

“You (the black) have no room”, “I (the white) am more powerful” or “White, shoving black out of existence” are some of the things people would think when gazing to the advert. Looking to the signifiers used in this controversial image, it mainly uses black and white colors as a whole. The posture of two women models, one in white and one in black are used as a major target, filling most space in the advert, forces eyes to be fixed to them at first glimpse. The white woman demonstrates a more modern and stylish character, wearing only a blazer on top with a low-bottom pant, revealing some of her bare body, whereas the dark woman wears a fully covered black jacket, illustrating a less fashionable character. The use of white in her clothes and hair also accentuates the color white for the woman and also same for the black model.

The slogan: “PlayStation Portable White is coming”, appearing at top left corner along with a small picture of a white PSP at the bottom, only gives the idea then where the advert is all about a playstation. By investigating the connotations derived from these signifiers, it can be proven that this is a highly controversial material. The advertiser tries to convey the audience about their new version of PSP model coming soon, with a complete change of its original color.

The signifiers, despite that the ad imply as a harmless personification of the handheld console’s two available colors, and that it had no other message or purpose beyond their remit of promoting the ceramic white PSP, people all around have already deemed the advert racist – no matter what way it has been looked and no matter how unintentional it was. The Game Industry International has stated that Sony had withdrawn the campaign relenting under pressure.

“Whilst the images used in the campaign were intended solely to highlight the contrast between the different colors available for the PSP, we recognize that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising. As a result, we have now withdrawn the campaign” Sony’s statement.


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