Representation notes: Talking about Us and Them

Nimen Hao,

welcome to our sixth class for the semester.

Today we’re going to look at some representation examples and discuss them, drawing on our conceptual toolbox (signs, discourse, ideology).

Let’s start by looking at some recent adventures in advertising.

First, the (Chinese) Girl with Freckles.


Jing Wen, who is from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, has become a recognisable face in the modelling world over the last five years.

She has modelled for a number of luxury and high-street brands, including Calvin Klein and H&M.

Having clear, unblemished skin has been the preferred beauty norm for decades in China, as well as in wider East Asia.

Consequently, her appearance in Zara’s latest campaign has been regarded as controversial in China, and drew significant backlash from users on the popular Sina Weibo microblog.

Since Zara launched its advertising campaign on Friday, many in China have voiced confusion about the brand’s decision to feature a model with freckles.

Some said that Ms Li’s appearance looked “ugly” and that her appearance in the Zara campaign “uglifies” the Chinese people,

Others have gone further, questioning whether Zara was “insulting” or “defaming the Chinese”, with one saying: “such pictures featuring an Asian model with freckles and an expressionless pie-shaped face mislead Westerners’ impressions about Asian women, and can lead to racism against Asian women.”

Many users say there are similarities between the reception to Zara’s campaign, and a campaign last year by luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana.

The latter, which featured a Chinese model eating pizza with chopsticks, received fierce criticism from the public for being culturally insensitive.


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