Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt

Racial weight of images in Wine Spectator

I decided to double-check the images in Wine Spectator, just to reassure myself I wasn't crazy. Here are the results from the 6 issues I pulled out of our recycling bin:
WhiteBlackAsianLatino/aIndianAndroidAmbiguousTotal% whiteb/w %
15 May 2007110120200512985%11%
31 May 200713472301415189%5%
15 Jun 200718320330219196%1%
30 Jun 20079640010110492%4%
31 Jul 200712002100312695%0%
30 Sep 200711830000412594%3%

4% black/white is a lot higher than the 1% I'd estimated, but the figure is still unimpressive.

My methods were admittedly imprecise. I counted only individuals that I didn't have to squint to see, so that a photo of a couple at a restaurant with people in the background, I might only count 2 people, unless the people in the background were very clear. When someone was in the foreground of a photo and I could not identify race, I counted them as ambiguous. I counted images that showed only hands (pouring a bottle of wine, preparing food, etc.), which may have skewed the numbers towards white (although those hands were pretty pale). I also counted drawings, if race was identifiable.

The category placements were based on my best initial guesses, although I changed 2 results from white to Indian. (Rajat Parr's image, in black and white, looked Caucasian to me.) Clearly, I'm no expert at identifying race.

There were several ads and a travel feature touting Buenos Aires, Argentina, where there were some women who could have been latina. Argentina is 97% white, so I leaned towards "ambiguous" in those cases.

Speaking of ambiguous, most of the other images that fell into that category were advertisements depicting an exotic, sexy woman in shadowy light. Is she tan? Mediterranean? Asian? Latin? Black with straightened hair? It's hard to say, but the very ambiguity suggests exotic, which is exactly what the advertisements were going for, I'm sure.

Specific issues:

May 15, 2007: 12 images of black people, the highest of all the issues I examined. All the images occurred in just 2 places. 7 images were in a GE ad featuring the ultra-wealthy B. Smith and Dan Gasby preparing gourmet food at both their Central Park penthouse and their Sag Harbor beach house. (Doesn't Gasby remind you of a certain F. Scott Fitzgerald character?) The other 5 images came from a crowd shot of New Orleans. There were probably other black people in the photo, but they didn't meet my "do I have to squint to identify them?" rule. (As an aside, this issue also featured Sammy Hagar.)

May 31, 2007: 3 images of black people, and 1 of them was in an ad for an African American vintners winetasting. (That event says a lot to me: the reason that African Americans aren't depicted in Wine Spectator isn't because they aren't involved!) This issue also featured an article on wine collection in China, which featured a photo of 1 Asian man. Oh, and in case you were wondering about the android? It was iPod white.

June 15, 2007: The only 2 black people appear in the background of an ad for Sullivan's Steakhouse. 4 white people are in the foreground and another couple, a white man and an Asian woman are in the background. That makes the ad probably the most diverse image in the whole collection, but I have to wonder why the minorities have to sit in the background. This issue was skewed heavily towards whiteness by a 2-page spread containing 64 portraits of vintners, every one of them an old white man.

June 30, 2007: 4 black people depicted: baseball player Torii Hunter in a small photo; fictional Tanqueray pitch-man Tony Sinclair in an ad for Tanqueray Rangpur gin that also features a barefoot Indian man playing sitar and 2 scantily-clad female Indian dancers; and a golf ad that shows a white couple in a golf cart in the foreground and a black couple teeing up in the background.

July 31, 2007: Zero black people? What?? OK, I'll admit that the back of a man's head in a San Pellegrino ad may actually belong to a black man, but I couldn't tell. Also, there's a Jaguar ad featuring a very James Bond-esque man that shows a shadowy silhouette that sports an afro. I suppose that's an implied black person, but I didn't count shadows and implications in any other images.

September 30, 2007: Ah, the afro appears again, but this time with a body! The Jaguar ad is now missing James Bond, and a real woman, not her shadow, is depicted with the car. Tiger Woods is in a full-page ad for Net Jets, and baseball player Manny Ramirez has a small photo in a sidebar.

I think that it is interesting that the advertisements seem to be more progressive than the wine industry itself. I was really impressed when I saw the 4-page GE ad (although I was somewhat crestfallen to find that it depicted actual filthy rich African Americans instead of picking a couple models to pose as filthy rich African Americans—does that make sense?). The ads that portray both white and black people seem to be saying, "We recognize that this magazine is for whitey, but if you happen to be black, we're happy to take your money too!" But even that is disappointing, because it suggests to me that the white American consumer isn't ready to relate to a black American in an advertisement. (Of course, African Americans are obviously supposed to relate to whitey.) I want to see the black family in the foreground and the white family in the background. Better yet, leave the white family out entirely! I think we see enough white people as it is. (When I made online ads, I tried to avoid white people whenever possible, just to balance things out, but even our stock photography discs seemed to be against me.)

Of course, there are reasons why the content may be more white than the ads. Much of the wine industry is located in France, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand—all places that have less diversity than the United States, so far as I know. Many vineyards are generations-old family run operations, and it's a business where there's a pretty substantial economic barrier to entry. Again, that's just my conjecture. On the flip side, advertising agencies probably want to tailor as few ads as possible to specific publications, so it's possible that the same Tanquery ad that ran in Wine Spectator also ran in VIBE.

I wish now that I had counted men and women as well, for I assure you that men far outweighed women.

(well_lahdidah says I have spent entirely too much time thinking about this and typing it up. She went to the gym and burned 300 calories while I've been sitting here.)
Tags: advertising, race, wine, wine spectator

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