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Valenti @ MIT

I almost went to see Jack Valenti @ MIT tonight, but ended up skipping it. According to Guy’s account of it, I guess I’m glad I did. Though I am enormously amused to hear that there was in Valenti’s audience a row of mit geeks dressed up as pirates to protest the mpaa’s war on media duplication.” Bless ’em.

Instead I went to hear a guest speaker give a talk on Indian advertising in the class I assist @ MIT, Indian Popular Culture. And his talk was one that no Westerner could get away with. He started by showing two “stereotypical” Western ads that included superstitious Indians on elephants and which were greeted with angry criticism from Indians, who said “why do these Westerners insist on thinking India is a country full of elephants?” And his argument was, basically, “because it is.” His tagline was “We must come to terms with the elephant.” And he went on to discuss how even the most educated Indians have chili and lemon tied under their car fenders to ward off evil spirits, how the best-selling toothpaste in India is the one that proudly calls itself “vegetarian” (as if other toothpastes aren’t), how there is an actual shrine built to the legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, where people worship him as a god.

His point being not “Indians are supersititous fools,” but that in India both the modern and the ancient exist everywhere at once, and that can’t be denied. It is a delicate point that is best made by an Indian himself, if it must be made at all. Leave the essentializing to insiders of a group.

Also, did you know that there is NO television advertising for cosmetics in India because women find it shameful to be associated with cosmetics and vanity? All the big cosmetics companies have presence in India and they sell plenty of products, but they stick to print because TV ads would scare away their customers.

UPDATE: Somebody objects to this point about Indian cosmetic advertising–hey I’m just quoting the speaker, I’ve never been to India. He is Indian and lives in India and works in advertising, but if he’s wrong, he’s wrong.

2 Responses to “Valenti @ MIT”

  1. surya
    April 21st, 2004 | 6:57 am

    Oh my god!! where do you get all this information from? I live in India, and all i can see on TV is advertisers trying to sell cosmetic products!! What makes you THINK that Indian “women find it shameful to be associated with cosmetics and vanity”??? Cosmetics and vanity belong to women all over the world! India included!

  2. cynthia rockwell
    April 21st, 2004 | 8:54 am

    interesting. this is what the guy said in his talk, i’m just quoting him.