Why do I find this so disconcerting?

Meeting Nicole Kidman up close, I realised that she looks like a beautiful doll.

I have never met any woman as tall as her. I thought all the women from my slum would be so small in front of her. But her skin, lips and hands, they were all perfect. I thought if I touched her, she might get dirty. [More troubling stuff here]

What sounds like a heart-warming story of a girl meeting a world-famous starlet and wishing to be as beautiful as her (white, blonde, and very thin), is the stuff of fairy tales. But the meeting between Australian Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman and the child star of Slumdog Millionaire, Rubina Ali, recalls to our postcolonialist mind the history of imperialist worship and testament to a racist standard of beauty that sees women of the subcontinent subject to the alluring promises of skin whitening creams. What’s even sadder is that at a young and impressionable age, Rubina Ali has already formed the view that her skin, her race, her caste, are dirty and contaminating.

Update: Gareth alerted me to the new advert for Schweppes that Rubina and Kidman collaborated on. It’s just a little more than a minute long, but it’s long enough to hurt my eyes from rolling.

“What did you expect?” Orientalism, Miss Kidman.

7 thoughts on “Why do I find this so disconcerting?

  1. Yup….you nailed it! We were raised to think fair light eyed was the standard of beauty. And even today, one glance at the matrimonial adverts tells us we have a looooooonnnnnng way to go to get over this.

    But is it post colonial? I don’t know. I suspect it goes back to to the days of our own Rajas and Ranis, and was further rooted when the Brits showed up.

  2. Errmm what? (as in referring to the advert) I seriously don’t get product adverts anymore. What the hell does this have to do with schweppes?

    Good point Cycad!

    I am a bit disheartened though to see that Hindi actor (Arjun Rampal) in there!! I like him!!

  3. There is a link between Schweppes and India. Schweppes traditional product is tonic water, which contains quinine, making it a mild antimalarial. Old-fashioned tonic water was really bitter, so Brits in India drank it with gin to ward off malaria and take the edge of the bitterness. So I can see the connection, but the overtly-racist colonial fantasy of this advert is so over the top. If Schweppes want to be historical, they should show sweating British soldiers getting drunk on gin and tonic, and they say to the camera “Keeps malaria away!”

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