Images of large size black women in commercials

If you’re a black woman does this picture offend you?


A New York Times article, An Image Popular in Films Raises Some Eyebrows in Ads ( it was also featured in Target Market News) talks about the way large size black women are depicted in commercials.

Her onscreen presence takes on many variations, but she is easily recognizable by a few defining traits. Other than her size, she is almost always black. She typically is in an exchange that is either confrontational or embarrassing. And her best line is often little more than a sassy “Mmmm hmmm.”

This caricature, playing on stereotypes of heavy black women as boisterous and sometimes aggressive, has been showing up for some time in movies like “Big Momma’s House” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which often have directors and writers who are black themselves.

I’ll admit I do get tired of the sassy black woman image. All black women aren’t sassy.

The heavy black female makes one of her latest appearances in a commercial for the Dairy Queen Blizzard, a kind of milkshake. In the spot, a man boarding an airplane puts down his drink to load his bag into an overhead compartment. As he reaches up, another passenger on the plane starts drinking the shake. Seeing this, the first man lets go of his bag to reclaim his Blizzard, inadvertently dropping his luggage on another passenger’s head.

That unlucky passenger happens to be an overweight black woman who lets out an irritated gasp that reminds all the passengers around her who not to mess with.

I’ve seen this commercial and yes Sista Sassy goes off.

To be sure, sassy overweight black female characters appear to represent only a small fraction of the African- American actresses who appear in commercials. Marketers have made strides in recent years toward making U.S. advertisements with diverse characters.

I have seen slim black women in tv commercials. Just saw one earlier with a black mom making Mac n Cheese for her son. I’ve seen slim black women in hair commercials, car commercials and other types of commercials. As long as there’s variety I have no problem cause we don’t all act alike or look alike.

Advertising often takes its cues from movies and television shows.

But as is typically the case with racial stereotypes, who is laughing and why is complex and potentially inflammatory. Black actors and comedians have profited handsomely from creating bumptious female characters, raising the issue of whether they, too, are perpetuating the stereotypes that many blacks find offensive.

Tyler Perry, the filmmaker and actor, created an entire series of plays and movies in which the main character Mable “Madea” Simmons is a no-nonsense overweight matriarch. Monique Imes, a full-figured comedian, has built an entire routine on being outlandish, brash and, at times, downright crude.

Blacks are helping to perpetuate the stereotype of sassy black women. Black folks will flock to films like Big Momma’s House or the Tyler Perry films with black men dressed as large sized black women and they become huge hits.

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