Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Corcoran Goes Multicultural

Take a moment to survey the photo above. This is an advertisement for Corcoran Group Real Estate found in the March 31, 2008 issue of New York Magazine. The text in the caption reads as follows:

At Corcoran, we understand that your home is the site of your family's
future history. So we go beyond what matters now. We listen to what will matter
tomorrow - the hopes, the dreams, the visions, the goals, and the thousand
wished-for moments that define you and those you love. Then we help you find a
home that's perfect for the family you are today, and for the family you hope to
be in the future.

Live who you are.


built to last

When I first saw this ad, I thought to myself, "Wow, they have a biracial couple in a real estate ad!" Next I thought, "Wow, the couple happens to involve a black woman and a white male as the couple. I rarely see that!" To go further, my final thought was "...and she has dark skin, too! Amazing!!!"

All of these thoughts happened in about a 5 second time period, mind you, but I thought they were worth noting in stages. For one thing, it's rare that you see interracial couples in advertisements, period, especially those selling the concept of family. According to today's media, family values and bonding are restricted to solely "monoracial" families and couples. Ironically, in the case of black monoracial families and couples, the matriarch always happens to have light skin and sandy corkscrew curls. You know- that generic, stock photo racially ambiguous black lady with the carbon copy children to match- hence my surprise when I saw the photo above as I flipped the page from celebrity gossip to info on the Bear Stearns debacle.

I was reminded of the recent Old Navy television ad featuring ebony-skinned black model Nina Keita with a white male (quasi-) love interest:

Needless to say, part of me was incredibly excited to see that Corcoran had tried its hand at relationship/family diversity. However, when coupled with the caption, the photograph takes on a slightly different meaning. Were Corcoran's expressed hopes for appealing to the family of the future meant to relate to the interracial pairing in the ad? Was Corcoran attempting to show that this family transcended "what matters now" when it comes to the role of race in relationships? Lastly, is their line "built to last" in any way linked to the assumption that those involved in interracial relationships are doomed to failure? Is the success of such relationships a sign of the future Corcoran speaks of?

Even gender roles in this ad are a bit inverted, with the mother posing casually in the foreground of the photo with the youngest child, while the father, in the background, speaks with and appears to prepare breakfast for his daughter. The mother's appearance is flawless and far from matronly, as her model figure stands out despite her four children!

What is this dream that Corcoran is selling in the ad? Is is one of interracial harmony or one of unrealistic expectations? I could be overthinking this, but I can't help but wonder if the wording and the photo, when paired, were meant to signify something beyond a comfortable home in a competitive real estate market. Their promises of the future most certainly relate to more than just a mortgage. What do you think?

- Wendi Muse


coco said...

i was excited about the Old Navy ad until i heard the jingle. "do you see, white? ...turn your shadows white..." I can't help but hear and see the reference to her color and his color... it's a heavy handed treatment.

i see it as a positive change that black women are being cast as universal identifiers for the role of wife, and as all American girls.

however, i was just reading a site by an asian woman who objected to images of asian women routinely being paired with white men instead of presenting romantic asian male leads.

i don't want to swing to that extreme. it's important to continue portraying black couples.

Wendi Muse said...

i agree coco
it's a catch 22

♥bri♥ said...

ok F the song alright!!. Who cares!! What progress! That is an awesome commercial! And I mean that model was D-A-R-K... Not the little light skinned bi racial looking ones they normally pair the white guy up with IF they pair him up with a non white girl anyway. And on top of that there were OTHER white girls he could've checked out!! Freak that,,, but here's the thing that's a commerical they'll play like twice on TV and that's it. Ugh when are we going to get beyond this!!