InsideMovies: Racism or marketing tactic?
Universal is facing a potential PR mess for its decision to digitally remove the names and images of the only black couple in ‘Couples Retreat’ on the film’s UK movie poster.
According to England’s The Daily Mail, a Universal spokesman said the updated ad was released “to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognizable in international markets.”
But some are calling foul on the complete removal of actors Kali Hawk and Faizon Love from the film’s poster. “I think this was an ill-conceived move,” Mediawatch-UK director Vivienne Pattison told the Mail. “We celebrate diversity in Britain and we could have coped with seeing the same poster used in America.”
In the U.S. version, all eight principal stars, including Hawk and Love, are seen standing knee-deep in water with their names displayed above. For the UK version, a different backdrop is shown with only the six (white) actors and actresses on display.
“Any discrepancy between the posters is cause for alarm because it makes racist assumptions about target markets,” says Ann Simonton, founder of the non-profit organization Media Watch. “But this is a somewhat common response to how advertisers target audiences. So much of advertising depends on our ignorance and it’s important for the consumer to remain ignorant. When they eliminate diversity, it maintains this false view of our world. It’s sickening to think about what the industry’s motives are, but it’s important that they be called on it.”
Daily Mail film critic Jason Solomons weighed in over the weekend, noting, “We don’t cater much for the black cinema-going audience in this country, which is a great shame, so it seems strange that when there are black stars in a major feature film, this fact isn’t promoted. And, in terms of business decisions, this seems a pretty counter-productive one.”
For its part, Universal has acknowledged the omission, saying it regretted offending anyone and is abandoning plans to use the revised poster in other countries.
But you have to wonder: If they regretted offending anyone, why would they alter the poster in the first place?