Parallels Between Columbus, Modern-Day Mass Media… and Groupon?
I was first drawn to this article
in the Huffington Post, “Groupon Gets Columbus, But Not the Rest of Us,” because the headline is an intriguing intersection of historical (and travel-oriented) reference to Christopher Columbus and my own interests in the advertising industry. Using a recent Groupon Super Bowl television ad (which was produced by Crispin Porter + Bogusky and consequently pulled off the air due to controversy
) as the case in point, the article raises some interesting parallels between the rhetoric used by Columbus and modern-day media representations of race and nationality.
Vamsee Juluri, author and professor at USF, argues that mass media portrayals of race are mere caricatures, without context and instead are reflective of the creators, rather than the race portrayed: “We are still talking at, around, and right through other people, as if they weren't really there, as if they weren't people at all,” critiques Juluri.
As discussed in the article and in class, Columbus appears to project his own imaginings onto the native people without considering the existence of their own culture and religion, demonstrating a time where “man colonized man by ignoring his voice.” Juluri contends that this same domineering perspective still exists in the language of our mass media, where “all that we see is a string of images hung out to display a narrative that is largely inside of one's own head and is almost entirely about one's own self.”
To be fair to Groupon, the creative idea
behind this television ad was apparently to parody celebrity-narrated PSAs that are more about helping oneself than the cause, though this was lost in the execution. But it is interesting how, centuries after Columbus’ time, the reimagination of others continues on.