Filipinos and the Color Complex

by Misa Fukutome 

During class a lot of questions and topics were thrown about still, it has ended without getting closer to a theory or something clearer. The discussion started with those three questions.

  1. Why do Japanese cosmetic commercials use only Japanese models to represent?
  2. Since definition of beauty has changed through out the centuries do you think that the sense of beauty will stay “light” or shift to “tanned”?
  3. Do you prefer “skin-whitening” or “skin-lightening” ?

Breaking down the first question, the book mentions that it is common to use mixed-race models, mixed-race as in half-Asian half-Westerners, for cosmetic commercials. Since they have some Asian features, they can feel a connection. However, in Japan it is less common for mixed race models, such as Becky, for cosmetic commercials instead there are Japanese or Asian mixed-race as models. Therefore, my presenters and I came up a theory, which is that Japanese people have the impression that Western mixed-race are a “perfect” or “ideal” feature that they don’t need anything more to get better, meaning that it contradicts with the reading that they are able to connect to the models. Then, the theory is that for East Asian it is their goal to look more western and “exotic”. However, for the South Asians their goal is to look East Asian with lighter skin but still maintain their Asian features.

The second question, the possibility of the shift in definition of beauty from “light” to “tanned”. This is all about what the market demand is. For now, Westernization has been a big influence, nevertheless this can change and the influence from China could be the next market and their sense of beauty becomes the demand. That is why the sense of beauty might change in the future, or even looking into the past one can see the shift in the change of beauty. Even in Japan, there was a time where they thought being “tanned” was beauty, where as now they would do anything to stay “white” and to remove the dark spots from their skin.

Then what is the difference between “skin-whitening” and “skin-lightening” if there might come a time where it will turn into “skin-blackening” or “skin-darkening”? This brings us to the third question. This “skin-whitening” and “skin-lightening”, is it just word play or is there a focus for different types of complex? The presenters and I thought that the two have a difference in the sense that the consumers are different. For the “skin-whitening” it would be focused on the African American consumers who want to become European, where as the “skin-lightening” is for the Asians who want to keep their Asian features but just purify and cleanse their skin. Is this just a naïve assumption that we do not sound racist?

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