About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ally Bank: Are They Really an 'Ally' to All?

Kristen Fisher

Ally Bank, formerly GMAC, is in the process of rebranding itself. Its new name means that of supporter, assistant, or helper. When reading “Bye Bye, GMAC: Will ‘Ally Bank’ Work or Not?”, Jodi Xu states that in the past Ally Bank has not necessarily followed up to this new name they have. “On a day-to-day level, customers have grown fed up with hidden checking-account fees and elaborate mortgage fine print. That doesn’t even begin to reflect anger over the huge bank bailout and financial crisis.” According to their mission statement they are “A bank that values integrity as much as deposits.” Their advertising campaign is part of this newly packaged company.

Many of the comments from YouTube focus on this Ally commercial’s humor. One viewer comments, “I laugh every time I see this commercial on TV. ‘You did not say that I could have a real one’ oooh, the look in that girl’s eye! She looked like she could have torn that man apart. LMAO!” These viewers comment how funny it is when the first little girl doesn’t get the real pony and then seems extremely angry at the salesman.

In this commercial the first young girl that is asked if she would like a pony is clearly of a different background other than white. She seems as though she might have some Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descant. When she later says to the salesman “you didn’t tell me I could have a real pony,” one can hear a slight accent, signifying “foreignness”. On the other hand, the second girl that is asked if she would like a pony is given a real, live pony. This second girl is a blonde white child and clearly, she represents a higher socioeconomic class; her hair is combed, and she is dressed up in a nicer dress shirt. The man offering these girls a pony is a middle-aged white man that clearly favors the child that is seemingly wealthier and white. He has a much nicer tone with her and is actually a little rude in responding to the first girls comment when he replies “well you didn’t ask.”

This commercial frames our understanding of the children, inviting us to, ultimately, devaluing nonwhites. The irony in this commercial is that one of the last lines in it says “even kids know it’s wrong to hold out on somebody.” On one hand, the advertisement’s message is that of egalitarianism. Everyone should be treated equally. However, at the same time, it relies on naturalized assumptions about worth and ethnicity. In this case, the non-white child is given less. This line is further ironic because now even kids know it’s wrong to treat people differently and hold out on somebody based on their background.

The problem with this commercial is that it reiterates an acculturated schema. It is a representation of how we commonly see different ethnicities represented. This commercial helps categorize people into different groups by showing us the basic characteristics of these two girls, which allows us to assume that everyone with those characteristics are alike without really having to expend upon that or make much of a mental effort.

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