The belated decision of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the Indian subsidiary of the London/Amsterdam-based globe-girdling household and personal care consumer products behemoth (annual revenue: $5.4 billion/Rs.38,785 crore) to drop the descriptive ‘fair’ from its best-selling Fair & Lovely (F&L) skin-lightening face cream, has come as a vindication for your editors in EducationWorld. For the past two decades, we have been highly critical of HUL for marketing Fair & Lovely which subtly conveys the message that being colonially light skinned is the pre-condition of being classified as beautiful.
Splashed across all media, the damage that aggressive marketing of F&L by insensitive compradors of HUL
has inflicted on the collective Indian psyche is immense. Braindead Bollywood producers routinely choose pasty white heroines or their heavily made up facsimiles, for lead roles in their movies. Relentlessly advertised for over half a century, this fairness cream has paradoxically transformed India into a colour prejudiced nation, as evidenced by its regressive matrimonial advertising and offensive treatment of African and black people.
One of the company’s “astonishingly insensitive” F&L ad campaigns was targeted by your editors way back in
2004. The storyline of the ad depicted a perfectly good looking ethnic lass with cricket commentating aspirations not getting anywhere until she lightens her skin tone and charms her way into national television. The irony was that the ad was aired on a programme hosted by former test cricketers Laxman Sivaramakrishna and V.V.S. Laxman, tall, dark and handsome, but implicitly disqualified because of their ethnic skin tones. Although the ad campaign was dropped soon after, our criticism cost this then struggling publication dearly. HUL cut off all ad support and has never advertised with us since.
Fortunately, the British Raj ended outside the Sobo headquarters of HUL 58 years earlier. If it hadn’t, the
price would have been greater. Your editor perhaps, would have been tending the gardens of the Cellular Jail
in the Andaman Islands.
Also read: Welcome privatisation