Thus Spake Zuska

Keep Your Eyes On That Prizey Kitchen!

Today I googled the phrase “eyes on the prize”. Here’s an excerpt from one link that came up.

The fire hoses and police dogs. The Montgomery bus boycott. The march on Washington. You’ve probably seen scattered footage of these images, but no project ever connected pictures to context with the tenacity of Eyes on the Prize.

The 1987 PBS series brought the strategies and struggles of the civil rights movement to new generations worldwide. Now, after years of wrangling over copyright and licensing issues, Eyes is finally available on DVD for a new mass audience. (It was already available for educators.)

The six-hour series is a masterwork of visual storytelling and eyewitness recollection, spanning the events from the grisly murder of Emmett Till in 1955 to the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. In between, we find heroes both famous and obscure, many bearing witness for the first time, others who died for the cause of equality.

I have no doubt that is why IKEA felt compelled to create this homage to racial justice and equality, featuring the use of the phrase “eyes on the prize” by a white woman who has seen the light.

A black couple could not have been cast in this commercial, because it is meant to illustrate how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America.

Comments

  1. #1 Brian
    April 7, 2010

    I did not get that from this commercial at all. This commercial, to me, was all about streamlining your kitchen and making each appliance part of a team in accomplishing a large task (i.e., an upcoming pork chop dinner). The entire commercial is chock-full of sports pep-talk cliches, complete with chest-bumping.

    “Eyes on the prize”, whether appropriately or not (which is, I think, a different issue altogether) has long been part of a long list of sports cliches, if I’m not mistaken. Appropriate? Maybe not, but I think it’s a far cry to say that Ikea’s intent is what you seem to think it is.

  2. #2 ambivalent academic
    April 7, 2010

    My familiarity with the “eyes on the prize” phrase was also from athletic pursuits. I had no idea that its use in that context had been co-opted from the civil rights movement. Thank you for pointing it out.

  3. #3 Keith
    April 7, 2010

    I, too, don’t see anything at all about race in this. I know I have heard this saying many, many times, and have never known that there was anything about it associated with the civil rights movement. I also searched IMDB’s quotes, and found 9 different TV shows or movies with this line quoted in it, and none of them were dealing with race.

    Why should this phrase be only relegated to use by black people? Can you show any proof that it came strictly from the civil rights movement and didn’t exist before that? I have heard this phrase and always assumed it meant to stay focused on the goal.

    After this and your smile posts (btw, I’m a male and have been told by a teenage girl to smile) I can’t help but think you are just desperate to find controversy where there is none.

  4. #4 Tlazolteotl
    April 7, 2010

    After this and your smile posts (btw, I’m a male and have been told by a teenage girl to smile) I can’t help but think you are just desperate to find controversy where there is none.

    And you, or course, are just the man to point out how wrong and disagreeable Zuska is!

    L-O-L

  5. #5 SKM
    April 7, 2010

    As I’ve expressed in the smile thread, discussion about orders to smile is far from “controversy where there is none” from my perspective.

    Co-optation of Black civil rights work by white folks is similarly far from nothing to many people who have lived it all their lives.

    The question becomes, then, why Keith feels his individual perspective is the One True Perspective.

  6. #6 Orac
    April 7, 2010

    Oh, please. This commercial has nothing to do with race. “Eyes on the prize” as a phrase was long ago coopted by sports, and this commercial is nothing more than a takeoff on an after-game speech by a coach to his team who just won a big game in the context of praising kitchen appliances as a winning team. Silly, yes. Racist, no.

  7. #7 SKM
    April 7, 2010

    IKEA’s intent does not matter here.The ad does not have to be deliberately “about race” to have racial implications. My impression of the post is that it’s about co-optation, not deliberate racist dog-whistling.

  8. #8 dhex
    April 7, 2010

    as comedy blogging goes, this was pretty good, though without any real exposition between unrelated fact a and unrelated fact b, it falls a bit flat. relying on your audience to complete the cycle of laughs may be “meta” to some, but is mostly just lazy humor writing.

  9. #9 Ram
    April 7, 2010

    This commercial would work perfectly well with a black couple (or any other color). Though, I suppose that seeing racism and sexism where it doesn’t exist is better than missing it when it truly does.

  10. #10 Brian
    April 7, 2010

    That’s fine, SKM, but why pretend that it is Ikea that has co-opted this phrase knowingly in order to communicate “how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America”?

    The entire post is either a joke, or a serious failure.

  11. #11 NAME
    April 7, 2010

    This is seriously retarded.

  12. #12 Zuska
    April 7, 2010

    Wikipedia has this to say about the song “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize”

    “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” is a folk song that became influential during the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Although the song was composed as a hymn well before World War I, the lyrics to this version were written by civil rights activist Alice Wine in 1956. It is based on the traditional song, “Gospel Plow”, also known as “Hold On”, “Keep Your Hand on the Plow”, and various permutations thereof.
    Notable recordings include those by Duke Ellington featuring Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and Mavis Staples.

    This page further explores some of the issues around the creation of the song, and gives the lyrics. Changing the lyrics from “keep your hand on the plow” to “keep your eyes on the prize” is of particular significance.

    These profound words have indeed been co-opted by the sports industry. Within that industry, they may or may not have special significance for individual athletes of color, especially as breaking the color barrier in many professional sports was a very visible part of the civil rights movement. And let us not forget the black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

    What are we to do about their co-optation? Wring our hands, shrug our shoulders, and say “that’s capitalism for you.” Make no note of how the words are being further depleted of their original force, power, meaning, and significance by their use in a trivialized setting to plug kitchen makeovers?

    If the people who were largely in charge of making commercials were those who emerged from the civil rights struggles, and those today who are concerned with racial justice and equality, would we see a commercial like the one in the video in this post?

    I suppose I am wrong. This commercial is “just” about streamlining, and has nothing to do with race – it would work just as well with a black couple. Who knows why they didn’t cast one. This has nothing to do with race, and is seriously retarded. Because talking about race – even if you are wrong – is just like being developmentally disabled.

  13. #13 Brian
    April 7, 2010

    What are we to do about their co-optation? Wring our hands, shrug our shoulders, and say “that’s capitalism for you.” Make no note of how the words are being further depleted of their original force, power, meaning, and significance by their use in a trivialized setting to plug kitchen makeovers?

    But Zuska, that’s the thing: Those words had been depleted of their original force, power, meaning, and significance long before Ikea decided to plug kitchen makeovers. “Eyes on the prize” is a sports pep-talk cliche. As I said before, you can argue if you want whether it’s appropriate that it has become a cliche, but it makes no sense (in my opinion) to excoriate Ikea as you have done.

  14. #14 Zuska
    April 7, 2010

    Really? It makes no sense?

    Because IKEA had absolutely no choice about what sort of commercial they could make?

    Is “excoriate” really the right word for the what I wrote?

    Is IKEA my main, or only, target audience?

    What the hell am I actually doing here?

    You can listen to the song “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize” here.

  15. #15 JD
    April 8, 2010

    That’s an excellent question – what the hell are you actually doing here?

    Yes, “Eyes on the Prize” is a phrase that originated in a song significant to the civil rights movement. Yes, it’s interesting that it’s been co-opted as a sports pep talk cliché and is now turning up so far from home in the mouths of two white people in a commercial for Swedish kitchen appliances. It is sad. It devalues an important part of history. These things are worth discussing and shouldn’t be dismissed, I agree.

    The problem isn’t a matter of tone, it’s a matter of clarity – until 14 comments sat down and teased out exactly what was going on here, nobody could figure out what on earth you were trying to do. Were you trying to go after Ikea for a perceived willful appropriation of the phrase? Were you making a really avant-garde joke? Were you trying to suggest that this was a clumsy, wink and nudge attempt at racial sensitivity? It was really hard to tell.

  16. #16 Zuska
    April 8, 2010

    I think you still don’t get it.

  17. #17 Zuska
    April 8, 2010

    Just to be clear, in comment #12 above when I say “it would work just as well with a black couple” – that is sarcasm.

  18. #18 JD
    April 8, 2010

    Well, I get it now. If #12 had been part of the blog post, it would have made much more sense.

  19. #19 JD
    April 8, 2010

    And yeah, the tail end of comment 12 was obviously sarcasm.

  20. #20 Zuska
    April 8, 2010

    Why do you think I had to add that extra part for anyone to get it? Presumably anyone could google and get the same links I did and ponder things a little too. It’s true that perhaps those kinds of things are more on the minds of some people than others. Why? Why do you think that information is so, relatively speaking, hidden from view? Why are we not normally encouraged to think about things like this?

    Why are people not just puzzled by, but actually made irritated and angry by, a post like this one?

  21. #21 idioms don't evolve
    April 8, 2010

    The phrase was inspired by Bible verses written by the misogynist Paul. The verses also smack of ableist privilege, referring to running a race. And referring to eyes is an example of sighted privilege. Instead of hallowing “eyes on the prize” we should be purging it from the language along with “rule of thumb.”

  22. #22 Jag
    April 8, 2010

    Since I have a weak spot for IKEA I have to point out that I think it is entirely possible to work with equality issues in Sweden without knowing about the historical context of this phrase in the US. I know of other occasions when large Swedish companies messed up their commercials because they were not aware of additional meanings of a word or phrase, although normally in a humorous way.

    But I have to admit that I think your interpretation is more likely, at least someone in the group should have known about the connection to the American civil rights movement but they chose to ignore it to make a funny video.

  23. #23 idioms don't evolve
    April 8, 2010

    Also, we aren’t posting because we are angry. We are posting because we enjoy FWDAOTI.

  24. #24 Zuska
    April 8, 2010

    Apparently you know very little about FWDAOTI.

  25. #25 idioms don't evolve
    April 8, 2010

    We know it stands for f-ing with dumba-s on the internet. And in our opinion that is what we are doing.

  26. #26 csrster
    April 8, 2010

    Allow me to whitesplain that for you …

  27. #27 Comrade Svilova
    April 8, 2010

    What struck me (especially since I’ve been watching a lot of old musicals lately, full of racist cliches) is how the white couple talked to their appliances. They use the same tone of voice as the heroes and heroines of classic Hollywood musicals use when addressing their black servants.

    At first I didn’t see what Zuska meant. But when I noticed the similarity in tone of voice and performance between this white couple addressing “things” and the whites addressing blacks in films from the 1930s and 1940s … it gave me pause.

  28. #28 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    Oh. My. God.

    (Oh, yeah, and excoriate was prolly too strong a word for what you were doing. My bad. It’s fun as shit to write and say, though. Try it!)

  29. #29 SKM
    April 8, 2010

    The way they talked to their appliances bugged me too, Comrade S, and I wasn’t sure why–I figured that it was just because the ad presents appliances and people (players) as interchangeable. People-as-appliances is bad enough, but there is indeed more to it.

    @Brian: by using “excoriate”, you inadvertently compared verbal analysis with physical violence. You may not have noticed this, but comparing analysis with violence is a tactic often used to shut down discussion. (“I know you’re going to kill me for saying this, but…”, etc.). Words are not fists, but there is a clear pattern of comparing the two when the topic is privilege and social marginalization. Since that’s obviously not your intent, I figured you’d appreciate the perspective.

    One person’s colorful metaphor is another’s silencing tactic (deliberate or no)–take a look around, and you’ll notice it too.

  30. #30 dhex
    April 8, 2010

    Why do you think I had to add that extra part for anyone to get it?

    because of what happens when you google “keep your eyes on the prize” rather than “eyes on the prize”?

    What struck me (especially since I’ve been watching a lot of old musicals lately, full of racist cliches) is how the white couple talked to their appliances. They use the same tone of voice as the heroes and heroines of classic Hollywood musicals use when addressing their black servants.

    try watching hoosiers and get back to us on that one.

  31. #31 a
    April 8, 2010

    ‘Double-teaming’ can also mean two men having sex with one woman. They’re trying to suggest that this woman has a fantasy of her ‘Negro’ ovens gangraping her. It’s like ‘Mandingo’ or something.

  32. #32 Comrade Svilova
    April 8, 2010

    @dhex, if you’re interested in how the ad compares to the film Hoosiers, why don’t you post your own analysis rather than asking me to do it? Frankly, it’s just not a comparison that I find particularly productive.

    My background is in formal analysis of media, which tends to privilege the surface aesthetics of media (sets, acting, framing, editing, colors, costumes, you name it) over plot/dialogue. I see a lot of similarities between the aesthetic choices made in the ad and the aesthetic choices of classic musicals, TV commercials, and other media from the 1940s and 1950s. Of course the text of the ad is very similar to the text of a sports film, but the subtext of a piece of media is what I find interesting. And that is generally found in looking at the aesthetic and formal choices rather than the stated message of the plot/dialogue.

    For anyone interested in a few more thoughts on some interesting choices in the ad (things many of you have probably already noticed) … the woman’s dress (especially the full cut of the skirt), pearl necklace and hairstyle strongly evoke the 1940s and 1950s, and although the man is not wearing the sport coat that is usually featured in films from that era, his classic cardigan is something that Fred Astaire might wear (say in “The Band Wagon”).

  33. #33 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    C. Scilova,

    The man isn’t wearing a “classic cardigan”, for Heaven’s sake! He’s wearing a V-neck cashmere sweater, pretty standard dude springwear. Not being a particularly close follower of women’s fashion trends, I leave it to others to determine how the dress worn by the woman in the commercial fits into contemporary fashion. Wouldn’t a sober analysis of the surface aesthetics of this commercial be incomplete without first determining whether the fact that their outfits are evocative of a particular era might not be merely a byproduct of current fashion trends, in which evoking such bygone eras is in vogue?

    I mean, really, what in the heck are you trying to say here? Are you honestly saying that the “subtext” of this commercial is a nod to prewar racism? I call bullshit.

    This really seems to be making much ado about nothing.

  34. #34 AtomicFruitbat
    April 8, 2010

    This seems like a heck of a stretch. The “eyes on the prize” formulation is indisputably currently used in reference to sports. The context of the ad is clearly using it in the current, sports-related way. How do you make the leap from “The phrase ‘eyes on the prize’, in reference to a Bible verse, was appropriated by both civil rights groups and sports figures” to “Therefore Ikea’s ad managers are racist”?

    I think you’re trivializing the actual, harmful effects of real racism by trying to hang that label on this ad.

  35. #35 Dick
    April 8, 2010

    Yeah, Comrade Svilova, so what if you have a background in the formal analysis of media – that’s bullshit. Honey, don’t you read fashion mags? That’s a better use of your time that media analysis, and would help you understand that there’s nothing to see here, nothing to see, especially not any of that stoopid “subtext” shit. There’s no future in trying to understand things from the past.

  36. #36 Zuska
    April 8, 2010

    Please point to where I said Ikea’s ad managers are racist.

  37. #37 SKM
    April 8, 2010

    Whenever I find myself tempted to type words like “reaching”, “that’s a stretch”, “much ado about nothing”, etc. I stop and look harder. I learn a lot this way. Also, there’s nothing to lose: typing those words adds nothing to a discussion, so they won’t be missed.

  38. #38 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    Yeah, Comrade Svilova, so what if you have a background in the formal analysis of media – that’s bullshit. Honey, don’t you read fashion mags? That’s a better use of your time that media analysis, and would help you understand that there’s nothing to see here, nothing to see, especially not any of that stoopid “subtext” shit. There’s no future in trying to understand things from the past.

    Wow, Dick. That was quite a caricature of what I actually wrote.

    First of all, I didn’t discount C.S.’ background in formal analysis of media, and certainly never said she should “read fashion magazines” instead. Rather, I was making the point that if you’re going to discuss the “subtext” of what two characters in a fracking commercial are wearing, it’s at least helpful to know how their outfits fit into contemporary style. Without that information, without knowing whether their costuming was consistent with current trends or a completely anachronistic fashion choice, can one really make any substantive point regarding the subtext of it?

  39. #39 Comrade Svilova
    April 8, 2010

    Thanks, Dick, for reminding me that I ought be reading fashion magazines rather than pursuing my intellectual interests. Oops, I guess I stepped outside my proper sphere there.

    But actually, fashion magazines provide great opportunities to do media analysis. With the proliferation of media around us, it’s never going to be easy to get someone like me to shut up. And telling me “There’s nothing to see here”? Haha, nice. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean I don’t.

    (Dick, if you were trying to humorously parody Brian’s comment, my apologies. Your comment is a great parody, intentional or no.)

    Brian, I’m not sure that the ad has an intentionally racist subtext; in fact, I’d bet that the producers of the ad didn’t intend it to be racist. But ultimately intention doesn’t matter when it comes to consumers’ reception of images, and I found it interesting and provocative to read the ad in comparison to media from the 1950s. Yes, of course, the couple would also not look out of place today. But today’s fashions include power suits for women and button-downs-sans-cardigans for men. As well as a plethora of other fashion choices that don’t recall the 1950s. And as others pointed out, it is a white couple rather than any other race. That doesn’t make the ad racist, but all these choices — the clothing, casting, performance — are part of what make this ad what it is, and they can’t be dismissed in an analysis of how it functions.

    I doubt that the ad’s creators intended to be racist, and I’d guess that they would have been happy to make the ad with a black couple wearing more distinctly modern fashions.

    But that’s not the ad that’s in front of me.

    Personally, I prefer to talk about media as it is, not as it might have been. If you prefer to discuss all the alternative possibilities that could have been featured in the ad, by all means have fun with that.

    Dick and Brian: By giving my interpretation, I’m in no way suggesting that other people shouldn’t contribute theirs. Don’t try to shut me up; if you feel that the ad is simply echoing sports metaphors, don’t demand that I agree. Do your own d**m analysis of how it does just that.

  40. #40 bigskirtsrfab
    April 8, 2010

    @Comrade Svilova

    Vintage-y fashions are in, specially for partywear. And all the hip kids love ‘Mad Men’ which, set as it is in the very early Sixties, features full-skirted frocks quite a bit. For me, the woman’s hair doesn’t really evoke the Fifties/Forties. It’s way too loose and tousled. Length is right, I’ll grant you. And, yes, as one poster has already pointed out, if you don’t actually know what a cardigan is, it’s hard to trust you to tell us what it means.

    And what if the ad IS trying to evoke the Fifties? Yes, that era is associated with racism/conservatism – but it’s also strongly associated with glamorous living, with domesticity, and with the emergence of the modern, appliance-packed kitchen. ‘The 50s’ only strongly evokes racism in this ad if we accept Zuska’s contention that the ad was deliberately referencing a civil rights song, which is a fairly shaky contention.

  41. #41 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    No, Comrade. You must agree.

    Point taken.

  42. #42 Comrade Svilova
    April 8, 2010

    And what if the ad IS trying to evoke the Fifties? Yes, that era is associated with racism/conservatism – but it’s also strongly associated with glamorous living, with domesticity, and with the emergence of the modern, appliance-packed kitchen.

    Exactly. If anything, the ad’s evocation of the fifties can raise all kinds of problematic subtext about sexism (in connection with domesticity) and white Americans’ rising standard of living being supported by imperialist policy overseas. It could address our anxiety right now about our standard of living and speak to our nostalgia for the 50s. What else does that nostalgia imply? There’s so much interesting material in this ad.

    Again, this is not to say (as Zuska also didn’t say) that the ad is intended to be racist. Speaking only for myself now, I am not at all interested in whether the ad was intended to evoke the 50s, racism, sports metaphors, etc. I’m interested in what it evokes for me, a spectator, and I shared that interpretation. My analysis isn’t going to change because you make fun of it. But if you share your own analysis of the ad and how it functions (aesthetically or otherwise) I’d be interested in having my view expanded.

    As SKM points out, saying “that’s a reach” becomes too easy a way to close your mind to other ways of seeing things.

  43. #43 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    Oh, and Zuska, to answer your above comment: I, at least, don’t think you are or were literally saying that Ikea’s ad managers are racist. Rather, I got the impression (wrong though it may be) that you were arguing that Ikea’s ad managers made a conscious decision to attempt to convey whites’ understanding of racial issues, which of necessity would come from a position of privilege and power.

    Racist or racial? Either way, I read you stating that Ikea was making a conscious effort here.

  44. #44 Carmen the elektraphysiologist
    April 8, 2010

    Even if “eye in the prize” were “just a sports metaphor”, sports metaphors are gendered discourse and part of the gender smog that the privileged mansplainers never even notice.

  45. #45 dhex
    April 8, 2010

    @dhex, if you’re interested in how the ad compares to the film Hoosiers, why don’t you post your own analysis rather than asking me to do it? Frankly, it’s just not a comparison that I find particularly productive.

    i picked the most obvious sports movie with a variety of locker room pep talks i could think of. my sports movie brain bin isn’t very large, and i’m going to guess you’ve not heard a pep talk personally, so i’m doing the best i can with my limited abilities, lacking your formal training and expertise.

    that said, do you think that your particular analysis:

    a) the shared cultural response meant to be invoked by the ad

    b) a subtextual reflection of an older racist idiom/aesthetic transmitted via dominant social images

    c) a reflection of your own creativity?

    one could easily imagine the religious conservative version of zuska (let us call them conservazuska!) talking about how this entire thing is a sad commentary on the secularization of a religious hymn about enduring turned into a religious hymn about the hope for racial justice and peace, parlayed into a game by our debased secular society. and furthermore how it laughs at the truth of natural gender roles; the mocking subversion meant to be invoked by a 50s-style hostess dress with the aggressive, shouting masculinity of a basketball coach – the man relegated to a background/assistant position, reflective of our fallen feminized times.

    lord knows what scientologists would make of it.

  46. #46 replytosvilova
    April 8, 2010

    I am not at all interested in whether the ad was intended to evoke the 50s, racism, sports metaphors, etc.

    But your first post was clearly in support of Zuska, and she quite explicitly imputes a racial motive to the ad’s makers (“it is meant to illustrate how far whites have come”.)

    If anything, the ad’s evocation of the fifties can raise all kinds of problematic subtext…I’m interested in what it evokes for me, a spectator…

    Well, I’m not. Zuska didn’t ask, ‘Hey gang, what does this ad evoke for you, personally?’ She quite clearly stated that she saw a racial motivation for the use of a particular phrase in this ad. (Or at least, that was her position in the original post. She went on to do some spectacular back-pedalling.) Some people are arguing that a racial motivation seems very unlikely. If you’re just floating in to tell us the stream-of-consciousness associations the ad evoked for YOU, you’re not really addressing Zuska’s original post. It was, at least until Zuska started back-pedalling, very much about the intentions of the ad’s makers.

  47. #47 SKM
    April 8, 2010

    I dunno; I read the “meant to” in the OP as snark. *shrug*.

    That is, the ad makers didn’t need to sit down and say “let’s talk about how far whites have come”, because by default, that’s all they consider–it goes without saying that white experience is the one that’s centered.

    All one has to do to further the status quo is…nothing new. That’s what makes it the status quo, folks.

  48. #48 sportsux
    April 8, 2010

    sports metaphors are gendered discourse

    Really? Is it all the balls? Or what?

    Women play and coach sports. They are sports fans. I guess you could claim that sports itself is an essentially patriarchal endeavor, but you might get some pushback from a lot of sportswomen on that. Some women might even argue that sports has been an arena for them to explore and develop qualities – physical strength, competitiveness – that are well outside the traditional feminine norm. Is a sports metaphor patriarchal if, say, Martina Navratilova or Serena Williams is using it?

    Some might also argue that the ad in question subverts the gendered discourse of sports – by making both the woman and the man ‘coaches’ – i.e. they are both authority figures of equal standing. These are just my subjective, Svilova-like speculations, of course.

    Oh, and I hate sports.

  49. #49 dhex
    April 8, 2010

    it goes without saying that white experience is the one that’s centered.

    because only whites throw dinner parties or understand sports cliches? man, you gotta expand your mind!

    seriously though, the original comparison was spurious because it slid right on past a very common usage of the phrase to make a point that has far more to do with PBS’s SEO routines and marketing efforts than idiomatic expressions and how they get that way. (see the difference between googling the longer and shorter phrases respectively; someone with lexis-nexis access will have a more detailed roadmap)

    a similar post about the original christian hymn being subverted for secular marketing purposes would be equally silly, because it would have to pretend a shared and obvious cultural context is invisible for the sake of getting one’s rage on.

    that’s why i thought it was a parody at first.

    anyway, this is kinda fun and i can see why people would major in it. for the peanut gallery:

    http://www.thatblackgirlsite.com/thatblackgirlblogs/mystery-solved-venida-evans-is-the-ikea-lady/

    model minority versus the magical negro? or a subversively subtle call to miscegenation?

  50. #50 replysvilovaskm
    April 8, 2010

    @ SKM:

    I dunno; I read the “meant to” in the OP as snark. *shrug*.
    That is, the ad makers didn’t need to sit down and say “let’s talk about how far whites have come”, because by default, that’s all they consider–it goes without saying that white experience is the one that’s centered.
    All one has to do to further the status quo is…nothing new. That’s what makes it the status quo, folks.

    No-one’s questioned the idea that whites are America’s privileged race. No-one’s questioned the idea that mainstream American media generally reflects white experience and uses white people as ‘default’. It’s disingenuous of you to suggest anyone has.
    This is about a very specific issue – the significance of the phrase ‘eyes on the prize'; it’s not about denying or affirming the existence of racism in general.

    As to whether ‘meant to’ was snark or not? According to you, SKM, we mustn’t ever say ‘that’s a stretch’. We have to keep an open mind, you know. So, I’ll ask you to keep your mind open to the possibility that Zuska meant exactly what she said in her original post.

    @Comrade Svilova:

    Personally, I prefer to talk about media as it is, not as it might have been. If you prefer to discuss all the alternative possibilities that could have been featured in the ad, by all means have fun with that.

    Sorry to go all the way back to this comment, but it really bugs me. You act as though imagining alternative versions of this ad were something the ‘mansplainers’ inserted into the thread, when of course Zuska initiated it by stating that the ad couldn’t have been made with a black couple. So you’re basically setting a rule that the blogmistress herself broke in the original post.

  51. #51 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    Actually sportsux, the (presumably but not necessarily) wife was playing the role of the Head Coach, while the husband was pretty clearly a stock portrayal of an Assistant Coach!

  52. #52 SKM
    April 8, 2010

    because only whites throw dinner parties or understand sports cliches? man, you gotta expand your mind!

    Umm, who are you talking to? You’ve missed he point.

  53. #53 SKM
    April 8, 2010

    We have to keep an open mind, you know. So, I’ll ask you to keep your mind open to the possibility that Zuska meant exactly what she said in her original post.

    I said only how I read it–nothing about my interpretation being the One True Interpretation.

  54. #54 sportreallydoessuck
    April 8, 2010

    @Brian:

    Actually sportsux, the (presumably but not necessarily) wife was playing the role of the Head Coach, while the husband was pretty clearly a stock portrayal of an Assistant Coach!

    Well, who knows how sport works? It all flies over my pretty little head. I’ve never been into it – as Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suitable for delicate boys’.

    So, just to recap and get it all straight in my mind – the woman’s the Head Coach, the man’s the Assistant Coach, and the appliances are all being played by Stepin Fetchit and Hattie McDaniel. God, this ad has unexpected complexities, doesn’t it?

    @SKM:

    I said only how I read it–nothing about my interpretation being the One True Interpretation.

    No more did Keith claim his interpretation as the ‘One True Interpretation’. He merely offered his opinion that Zuska is an overreactor. Why is that thought exempted from your ‘Hundred Flowers’ style free market of ideas?

    And you didn’t seem so averse to definite statements when you unequivocally declared that “IKEA’s intent does not matter here.” Says who? So is the statement ‘IKEA’s intent does matter’ another of the exceptions to your ‘anything goes’ policy? Seems like your stance against bold assertions has developed in a very curious fashion over the course of the thread.

  55. #55 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    Well, who knows how sport works? It all flies over my pretty little head. I’ve never been into it – as Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suitable for delicate boys’.

    The hell was that for? Alls I was doing was building on what you said before.

    As is a common problem on the internet, apparently you misunderstood the purpose of my comment.

  56. #56 LovelyBrianForgive
    April 8, 2010

    @Brian:

    The hell was that for? Alls I was doing was building on what you said before.

    Brian, no! I realized what you were doing – that you were reinforcing the point I’d made.

    I was joking about my own lack of interest in sport, and how stereotypically gay that makes me. I wasn’t bothered by anything you’d said – you’re the coolness.

    Yes, the fact that the woman is the Head Coach just makes the ‘sports=patriarchy’ thing even weaker.

  57. #57 SKM
    April 8, 2010

    No more did Keith claim his interpretation as the ‘One True Interpretation’. He merely offered his opinion that Zuska is an overreactor.

    OK, somebody does not understand the difference between “I statements” and “you statements”.

    I’m stepping away–there’s a lot of bullshit out there on the internets today IME, for whatever reason, and nothing is being accomplished.

  58. #58 Brian
    April 8, 2010

    Oh, very well, then. Carry on.

    All subtlety is lost on me on the webs. Sorry.

  59. #59 Bexley
    April 9, 2010

    Why do you think I had to add that extra part for anyone to get it? Presumably anyone could google and get the same links I did and ponder things a little too.

    Thats assuming anyone understood your post enough to even think about googling the damn phrase.

    Im from the UK and the phrase “eyes on the prize” meant nothing to me either as a biblical phrase or as a song from the US civil rights movement. Seriously, when i first read this post it came across as:

    1. The name of a doc on the civil rights movement is “eyes on the prize”

    2. You think that is why IKEA created “this homage to racial justice and equality, featuring the use of the phrase “eyes on the prize” by a white woman who has seen the light.”

    As iread it my only thought was wtf? It was so bizarre that it didnt even cross my mind that there was more to the phrase than what you’d posted. Some more explanation for us non-USians would have been handy.

  60. #60 Comrade Svilova
    April 9, 2010

    You act as though imagining alternative versions of this ad were something the ‘mansplainers’ inserted into the thread, when of course Zuska initiated it by stating that the ad couldn’t have been made with a black couple. So you’re basically setting a rule that the blogmistress herself broke in the original post.

    Just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t at all questioning Zuska’s statement that the ad couldn’t be made with a black couple (I agree with her). And in response to the person who wrote the italicized comment, I certainly wasn’t trying to establish rules for commenting on this thread — that would be none of my business, of course. I just wanted to respond to people who, in challenging my analysis, ignored the actual content of the ad because they felt that it would have conveyed the same message if many details were different. I suppose that’s a valid way to see media, but it doesn’t make sense to me; I respond to what I see as it is.

    I have more to say about the ad, but like SKM, I’m feeling like this discussion has gone places that don’t make sense to me. Thanks for raising the issue, Zuska, it provided much food for thought for me.

  61. #61 Cara
    April 9, 2010

    But Zuska, that’s the thing: Those words had been depleted of their original force, power, meaning, and significance long before Ikea decided to plug kitchen makeovers. “Eyes on the prize” is a sports pep-talk cliche.

    No, it damned well isn’t, and, no, they damned well hadn’t.

    “Sports”. Ye gods.

  62. #62 Brian
    April 9, 2010

    I have more to say about the ad, but like SKM, I’m feeling like this discussion has gone places that don’t make sense to me.

    Ironically, it began that way for me!

    No, it damned well isn’t, and, no, they damned well hadn’t.

    “Sports”. Ye gods.

    Is this a joke? I think every coach I’ve ever had since intramural soccer in 5th grade has said “eyes on the prize” at one time or another. So yes, they damned well had.

  63. #63 jc
    April 10, 2010

    Watching the video, I thought instantly of Zuska’s post on Hercules.

    http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2010/02/i_cannot_tell_a_lie_-_hercules.php

  64. #64 Cara
    April 10, 2010

    Fine, Brian. That doesn’t mean the other meaning has been eradicated, or overshadowed so completely that nobody (who’s not currently in a nursing home) has ever heard of the civil rights connotation of the phrase. The opening bars of the song instantly popped into my head upon reading the title of Zuska’s post, in fact, and I’m not even 40.

    So, yeah. “Sports”. Whatever. Saying you were unaware is one thing, but the remark about how completely out of touch Zuska must be to go there is absurd.

  65. #65 G
    April 11, 2010

    These comments are getting a little rough for me but here are my 2 cents.
    I though this was a sexist ad, with a twist. I didn’t see any racism at all, except that the couples were in an inverted sexist skit styled on the 50’s, which always seems racist to me, because that’s actually what I think of the 50’s. I thought all the humor was derived from the woman acting exactly like a stereotypical sport-loving guy, and the man reacting as the boosterish housewife, played up by the 50’s clothing when such role reversal would have been unheard of.
    I have read extensively on the civil rights movement and I missed the phrase connection to a classic series (that I did not see) because, even though I don’t watch sports, I have heard it a million times, from volleyball in primary school to field hockey coaches and for decades after, even while avoiding sports to the best of my ability.
    That’s my take.

  66. #66 KW
    April 11, 2010

    I didn’t get what Zuska caught from the ad. Mainly because I don’t live in the US and the white/black racial issue isn’t close to heart.

    Perhaps the creators of the ad were similarly not aware that this phrase had a separate connotation in the context of US history? I mean, it’s a pretty obscure reference if you think about it, and the fact that it has become mainstream sports talk kind of weakens your point.

    Words and phrases change their meanings. Especially for a meaning with a specific regional and historical context.

  67. #67 Brian
    April 12, 2010

    Is it not possible that the athletic world co-opted the phrase a long time ago, such that there existed by the time this ad was made two well-established parallel uses of the phrase? The fact that Ikea used it does NOT mean that they were cognizant of its racial connotations. Nor does it follow that they had any particular duty TO be aware of it. Certainly it does not follow that Ikea intended to “show how far whites have come…”. That is an extraordinary claim, and well, you know what they say about those.

    Try googling “eyes on the prize AND sports”, and you’ll see what I mean.

  68. #68 Yvonne
    April 12, 2010

    Is it not possible that the athletic world co-opted the phrase a long time ago, such that there existed by the time this ad was made two well-established parallel uses of the phrase?

    Does the commercial show “first degree racism” done with overt intent? I doubt it, because I doubt the commercial’s creators had enough knowledge of history to purposefully and knowlingly co-opt a civil rights message. The commercial makers know the sports usage of the phrase and only the sports usage. They were blissfully ignorant that there was any other possible usage.

    So the real question is how did the slogan get so completely co-opted into the sports narrative and why are white people so ignorant of civil rights history that we usually don’t even notice?

  69. #69 Yvonne
    April 12, 2010

    So the real question is…

    I got two words for you: that’s two questions!

  70. #70 Ariel
    April 12, 2010

    Thank you for telling this. I had heard the phrase used in sports but didn’t know the phrase had been co-opted. I’ll be sure to spread the facts.

  71. #71 Comrade Svilova
    April 12, 2010

    The fact that Ikea used it does NOT mean that they were cognizant of its racial connotations. Nor does it follow that they had any particular duty TO be aware of it.

    Nor does it follow that other people will not see unintended, subtextual meanings in media. They’re there.

    Death of the author, birth of the reader. (Roland Barthes)

  72. #72 idioms don't evolve
    April 12, 2010

    It doesn’t matter of the phrase has entered common use and taken in a new meaning separate from the context of the Civil Rights struggle. Those who do know the history of the phrase have every right to be upset that it has been used for matters far less weighty than the original usage. It’s a form of disrespect, and not knowing the history of words and phrases is a form of privilege.

    If, for instance, you knew Latin and Greek and old Anglo Saxon and medieval French and all of the other languages from which English has borrowed, you’d realize that most words and phrases don’t mean what you think what they mean. They mean something else to the people who first used them, and this so-called “linguistic evolution” is tremendously disrespectful to previous generations.

    I can’t even tell you how angry I get when I hear people speaking Italian or French or Spanish instead of proper Latin.

  73. #73 Luna_the_cat
    April 12, 2010

    Right, because of course there is no difference between 30 or 40 years and 2,000 years. There is obviously no reason to be angry over the fact that world-changing struggles within living memory have been trivialised to sell kitchens.

    Twit.

  74. #74 SKM
    April 12, 2010

    I’ll also point out that analysis is not the same as being “upset” or “angry”.

    Yet time after time, merely noticing things and talking about them is characterized as tooth-gnashing rage and bitterness. Interesting.

  75. #75 Brian
    April 12, 2010

    Luna,

    I hate to have to say it again, I really, really do. The phrase has not been “trivialised to sell kitchens”. It may seem pedantic, but when you write things like that, it reads as though you believe, as Zuska apparently does, that Ikea co-opted phrase. This is not the case. Just not. Sorry.

  76. #76 Brian
    April 12, 2010

    SKM, it would be one thing if the topic of the post itself was the fact that “Eyes on the prize” has gone from an iconic phrase of the Civil Rights era to a mundane cliche tossed about in struggles as trivial as a Pop-Warner football game. But that wasn’t the post. But it wasn’t. The post was very clearly about Ikea willfully using the phrase to signify white folks’ progress in understanding racial issues. That’s not analysis. That’s pure conjecture, and seemingly without benefit of knowledge of the fact that the phrase has already been co-opted by the world of athletics.

  77. #77 bexley
    April 13, 2010

    @SKM

    Yet time after time, merely noticing things and talking about them is characterized as tooth-gnashing rage and bitterness. Interesting.

    As I’ve already said on this post Im not from the US and had no appreciation that this phrase meant anything sportswise or civil rightswise. Hence I’ve stayed out of most of the debate since I didnt think I had enough knowledge to say anything useful.

    However your post is one thing I do want to comment on because it looks like instead of saying something about Brian’s actual arguments you are psychoanalysing him. This strikes me as a wrongheaded for the following reasons:

    1. On the whole the responses disagreeing here do not read to an outsider as being full of rage or bitterness.

    2. Even had responses been full of rage/bitterness that would be irrelevant until the actual arguments presented are refuted. Once you’ve established someone is wrong THEN you can start speculating as to why they are so full of rage etc.

    This style of argument annoys the hell out of me. Although it doesnt quite fill me with rage ;). It is something that woomeisters/religious nutjobs tend to come up with rather than responding to actual arguments. Normally the arguments run along these lines:

    1. Make some claim

    2. Someone argues against that claim

    3. The original poster says “I must have touched a nerve” or some variant. They then leave the debate having failed completely to address the substantive points raised by whoever disagreed with them.

  78. #78 Comrade Svilova
    April 13, 2010

    Bexley, it’s Brian and a few others who keep saying “you are hating on Ikea, stop accusing them of intentional racism!” SKM put it very clearly; there is a difference between analysis and rage, and by responding as if everyone who is analyzing the commercial is “enraged” and demonizing Ikea, Brian (and others) have derailed a thread that could have been an interesting exploration of a piece of contemporary society.

  79. #79 Brian
    April 13, 2010

    Svilova,

    I can only speak for myself, but I certainly haven’t characterized anyone here as “‘enraged’ and demonizing Ikea”, nor have I derailed the thread.

    Zuska made a specific claim regarding the commercial, namely:

    I have no doubt that is why IKEA felt compelled to create this homage to racial justice and equality, featuring the use of the phrase “eyes on the prize” by a white woman who has seen the light.

    and:

    A black couple could not have been cast in this commercial, because it is meant to illustrate how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America.

    That is almost the entirety of the post, Svilova! As I said above:

    The post was very clearly about Ikea willfully using the phrase to signify white folks’ progress in understanding racial issues. That’s not analysis. That’s pure conjecture, and seemingly without benefit of knowledge of the fact that the phrase has already been co-opted by the world of athletics.

    Have I misread Zuska? Is that really a derail? Have I labeled anyone as “enraged”. I responded specifically to the main claim of the post, namely that Ikea intentionally co-opted the phrase to signify something racial.

    If you want to talk about the use of the phrase “eyes on the prize” in a larger context, and lament its debasement while the struggle it was meant to commemorate still exists in living memory, that is an interesting discussion. The commercial could have even been used to show how common the “alternate” usage has become. But that’s not the post in front of me.

    Part of the problem seems to be that you and others seem to think that my arguing that Ikea quite plausibly (and, in my opinion, quite probably) had no racial motive in using the phrase in the commercial is the same thing as arguing that there’s no larger social commentary that could be addressed. That’s not the case at all, nor did I ever say it was.

    Don’t let’s pretend that somehow specifically responding to the thesis of the original post is a “derail”.

  80. #80 Comrade Svilova
    April 13, 2010

    Part of the problem seems to be that you and others seem to think that my arguing that Ikea quite plausibly (and, in my opinion, quite probably) had no racial motive in using the phrase in the commercial is the same thing as arguing that there’s no larger social commentary that could be addressed.

    Brian, I’m sorry, I did read your statement as “if there’s no intent on Ikea’s part, there’s nothing more to be said on the social commentary side.” Since that’s not what you meant, I’m sorry for singling you out in my post, and I’m very glad to reach more clarity on this point! Thanks.

    Reading what you quoted of Zuska’s original post, I guess I just didn’t take it as literally as you did; and later in this thread, Zuska wrote that she wasn’t trying to argue that Ikea is run by racists who were out to intentionally make a racist ad. I feel like this question has been repeatedly addressed, and that very few — if any — of the people in this conversation believe Ikea’s managers are actively, intentionally racist.

    It seems like (perhaps?) we can all agree that racism permeates our cultural subconscious. This particular ad is an interesting example of how that (unintentional) racism (and sexism, etc.) can appear in a seemingly innocuous setting. It seems like a sports allusion, but there are other references (intentional or unintentional) that are much more politically charged. (And I’m not at all trying to speak for Zuska here, just summarizing my understanding of the situation. Zuska, if I’ve spoken incorrectly, I apologize and will step aside.)

  81. #81 Brian
    April 13, 2010

    Thanks, Svilova. I’m totally cool with that breakdown; I should mention that I was among those who had not formerly been aware of the provenance of that phrase, so it was certainly an educational moment, and something to think about.

  82. #82 Cara
    April 13, 2010

    Perhaps the creators of the ad were similarly not aware that this phrase had a separate connotation in the context of US history? I mean, it’s a pretty obscure reference if you think about it

    NO. It’s not fricking obscure. That was Zuska’s point.

  83. #83 SKM
    April 13, 2010

    However your post is one thing I do want to comment on because it looks like instead of saying something about Brian’s actual arguments you are psychoanalysing him

    No. I can’t be psychoanalysing Brian because I was not responding to Brian. I was responding to idioms don’t evolve. Just to be clear. “Upset” and “angry” were words used by idioms don’t evolve, but it’s a very common theme in the blogosphere, in print, and in interpersonal interactions. I was making a general point, as well as a point about this thread, and I did not address my comment to Brian.

  84. #84 bexley
    April 13, 2010

    Aha – I’d just ignored it as a troll. Ignore my previous comment then.

  85. #85 Bethany Savage
    April 14, 2010

    Is it possible that the perception of intent (sports cliche vs. historical reference) is generational?

    As a Millennial, I was unaware of the previous meaning behind “Eyes on the Prize” but had certainly heard it used during sporting events.

  86. #86 Cara
    April 14, 2010

    What is a “Millenial”?

  87. #87 SKM
    April 14, 2010

    Cara, Millenials are the American folk born between 1982-2003, say.

    However, Just because a given viewer has not considered or is ignorant of the historical context does not mean it isn’t there. So I see how young folks’ ignorance of history influences their perception, but I’m not sure how relevant that is. Until there is truly a level playing field in America, our track record of inequality will remain relevant.

  88. #88 SKM
    April 14, 2010

    Sorry for the poor spelling. That’s “Millennial”.

    I also meant to add:

    I’m 36, and most people in my age-group don’t think critically about culture either, frankly.

  89. #89 Zuska
    April 15, 2010

    Just want to say – I’ve been sorta ill the past week, but following the excellent discussion and thinking hard. Hope to post something in reply to you all soon but meanwhile I just want to say thanks for to my readers for reading and for creating such good conversations on this blog.

  90. #90 Bethany Savage
    April 15, 2010

    To clarify: I certainly believe that issues such as race and civil rights are relevant. I recently spoke with a civil rights activist following a lecture on progressive community organization during the 60s and 70s. I see parallels and problems with how various groups interact, collaboratively or opposingly, regarding civil rights.

    While I do think that it is important to continue to make progress in civil rights areas (race relations, gender equality, sexual identity etc) one is not born with an innate knowledge of the history of all world struggles.

    I personally actively work to be aware of cultural issues on many levels, but I think it a bit unreasonable to hold people accountable for knowledge that they may not have been exposed to.

    It’s one thing to reject knowledge when it is presented, and another to have not yet experienced it.

    [Just a side note: I stumbled across this blog due to a cross-post by White Coat Underground. I shared the article on smiling-under-duress with my husband and had a really wonderful discussion on gender issues and misogyny. Thanks to Zuska for bringing these issues to the attention of this community!]

  91. #91 becca
    April 15, 2010

    For what it’s worth, I was also ignorant of the history of the phrase, and the blog post was therefore a bit hard to parse at first. There may be a legitimate (if lamentable) generational shift in the associative meanings of the phrase. However, I’ve been reading long enough that I have enough faith in Zuska that I was willing to take it at face value, and the subsequent clarifying comments really helped. Also, as soon as I read this post I started picking up on my local NPR station advertising showings of the series, so perhaps there is at least some hope for not staying ignorant.

  92. #92 SKM
    April 15, 2010

    Bethany, I guess it depends on what you mean by “held accountable”. I think getting called out on ignorance is rough, but critically important.

    My partner is Spanish and speaks English as a fifth language. If he says something ignorant (e.g. something with racist connotations of which he is unaware), he wants to know, and the sooner the better. And if the information is not presented gently? Well, too bad. After all, he is the one who said the hurtful thing, right? Intent and effect are often unrelated. BTW, I always extend him the benefit of the doubt if he says something that doesn’t sit well with me (and it’s almost always just a communication mix-up), but strangers and random coworkers aren’t going to do that, and he doesn’t expect them to.

    I agree that folks who are just clueless should be treated civilly, but that doesn’t mean giving ignorance a pass. If pointing out, for example, how something somebody said happens to be racist is holding them accountable, then I’m all for it. It doesn’t matter if they just weren’t exposed to the info before–it’s high time they learn. (Note the difference between saying “that thing you said was racist”, and calling someone “a racist”). It’s tough, but them’s the breaks. We’ve all had our asses handed to us at some point, and emerged stronger and wiser.

    That’s one of the great things about blogs such as this one. They are a great way to learn with relatively low social risk.

  93. #93 Bethany
    April 16, 2010

    Hmmm… I concur with the sentiment that education and situational awareness should be encouraged. I will caution that the method of introducing someone to a concept that is new, especially when it is in direct contradiction to their previously held reality, should be approached with tact and diplomacy, otherwise the message can get lost.

    Ultimately it comes down to intent. If the intent is to invite someone to a new way of thinking or a new concept the subject matter should be approached in a way that is inviting. If the intent is to scold, chastise or “hand someone their ass” then the original topic of discussion is irrelevant and the main focus should be on the method of communication.

    I work in Homeland Security (specifically disaster planning and mitigation) and tend to encounter this type of situation in a different area. For me, it’s trying to get a group of traditionally conservative government folk to understand that how they communicate with the public directly affects the success of their preparedness goals. For example, yelling at someone and telling them that they are dumb and stupid for not being more prepared surprisingly does not make them more prepared. However, working with citizens to empower them and instill in them a sense of purpose and control, does help them become more prepared.

    Sometimes it’s not so much the message but the tone.

    :)

  94. #94 SKM
    April 16, 2010

    Bethany, I think I was pretty clear that the purpose is not scolding, but justice. Still, nobody says it better than Jay Smooth!

    Also, a diplomatic tone is common-sense of course, but the flip-side is that “tone” arguments are among the most-used silencing tactics, in my experience. (statements that boil down to “If you said that nicer I/others might listen to you”, from someone who has no intention of listening to you, ever.), so, I guess if we’re handing out cautions, that’s a good one to watch for.

  95. #95 Yvonne
    April 16, 2010

    There may be a legitimate (if lamentable) generational shift in the associative meanings of the phrase.

    I would argue that the shift is not “legitimate” but is actually part of the racism imbedded in our society. This racism strips meaning from the Civil Rights Movement like a Virginia governor announcing Confederate History Month.

  96. #96 becca
    April 16, 2010

    What I meant by legitimate is that the phenomenon speculated to exist may actually exist- that is, it may not just be Bethany and I. That is, if you took a poll of 30-50 year olds, or 50+, and compared it to 7-30 year olds (approximate ages of Millennials), I’m guessing you’d find differences in connotations associated with phrase “eyes on the prize”.

  97. #97 Cara
    April 18, 2010

    And I maintain that it doesn’t matter if someone’s ignorant of the historical uses of the phrase.

    It’s one thing to read the post and say, “Really? I didn’t know that, I’d never heard that phrase used that way” and quite another to say, “You’re full of shit, lady, and you’re nuts to read this ‘obscure’ meaning into the phrase my soccer coach used last year.” If you’re doing the former there’s no problem. But there’s been a lot of the latter in this thread.

  98. #98 Yvonne
    April 18, 2010

    @becca: For that value of “legitimate” I think I can agree. It’s a measurable shift, but it’s not excusable as in “it’s not racist because everybody shifted meaning…” (And *why* did everybody shift meaning?…) Do I have your meaning now?

  99. #99 Brian
    April 18, 2010

    “You’re full of shit, lady, and you’re nuts to read this ‘obscure’ meaning into the phrase my soccer coach used last year.” If you’re doing the former there’s no problem. But there’s been a lot of the latter in this thread.

    No, there hasn’t Cara. Stop pretending there has. No one, least of all me, has honestly argued that, and you know it! The argument is not that the phrase has no other meaning. It’s that Ikea could plausibly (and, in my opinion, probably) have used the phrase and NOT, as Zuska maintains, have meant it to “show how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America”. That’s a completely different matter, entirely.

    To pretend that we’re arguing otherwise is disingenuous.

  100. #100 holly
    April 19, 2010

    I really dislike this commercial. It’s by far one of the most annoying commercials on TV. I wish IKEA would come up with a new one already….

  101. #101 becca
    April 19, 2010

    @Yvonne- precisely. To observe that a whole generation is undereducated in such an important topic is in no way an endorsement of that state of affairs. To my mind, the really sad part is that there’s some reason to expect I might have a *better* than average knowledge on this topic (hanging out with a lot of ex-activist hippie co-opers and so forth).

  102. #102 Cara
    April 21, 2010

    No, there hasn’t Cara. Stop pretending there has. No one, least of all me, has honestly argued that, and you know it!

    Okay, kiddo. You asked for it. (Note, these are not all *you*, and I didn’t claim they were *you*, but now that I look many of them, oddly enough, are *you*. Imagine).

    Comment 3: “I, too, don’t see anything at all about race in this. I know I have heard this saying many, many times, and have never known that there was anything about it associated with the civil rights movement. I also searched IMDB’s quotes, and found 9 different TV shows or movies with this line quoted in it, and none of them were dealing with race.

    Why should this phrase be only relegated to use by black people? Can you show any proof that it came strictly from the civil rights movement and didn’t exist before that? I have heard this phrase and always assumed it meant to stay focused on the goal.

    After this and your smile posts (btw, I’m a male and have been told by a teenage girl to smile) I can’t help but think you are just desperate to find controversy where there is none.”

    Comment 5: “Oh, please. This commercial has nothing to do with race. “Eyes on the prize” as a phrase was long ago coopted by sports, and this commercial is nothing more than a takeoff on an after-game speech by a coach to his team who just won a big game in the context of praising kitchen appliances as a winning team. Silly, yes. Racist, no.”

    Comment 8: “as comedy blogging goes, this was pretty good, though without any real exposition between unrelated fact a and unrelated fact b, it falls a bit flat. ”

    Comment 9: “Though, I suppose that seeing racism and sexism where it doesn’t exist is better than missing it when it truly does.”

    Comment 10: “but why pretend that it is Ikea that has co-opted this phrase knowingly in order to communicate “how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America”?

    The entire post is either a joke, or a serious failure.”

    (This is not what Zuska was saying, btw, which fact you seem to refuse to get).

    Comment 13 : “But Zuska, that’s the thing: Those words had been depleted of their original force, power, meaning, and significance long before Ikea decided to plug kitchen makeovers *says Voice of God*. “Eyes on the prize” is a sports pep-talk cliche.

    Comment 28 (which was simple trolling, but which demonstrates your lack of good faith in discussing this in the first place): “Oh. My. God.

    (Oh, yeah, and excoriate was prolly too strong a word for what you were doing. My bad. It’s fun as shit to write and say, though. Try it!)”

    Comment 33: “This really seems to be making much ado about nothing.”

    Comment 59: “Im from the UK and the phrase “eyes on the prize” meant nothing to me either as a biblical phrase or as a song from the US civil rights movement.

    As iread it my only thought was wtf? It was so bizarre that it didnt even cross my mind that there was more to the phrase than what you’d posted. Some more explanation for us non-USians would have been handy.”

    Comment 65: “I have read extensively on the civil rights movement and I missed the phrase connection to a classic series (that I did not see) because, even though I don’t watch sports, I have heard it a million times, from volleyball in primary school to field hockey coaches and for decades after, even while avoiding sports to the best of my ability.”

    Comment 75: “The phrase has not been “trivialised to sell kitchens”. It may seem pedantic, but when you write things like that, it reads as though you believe, as Zuska apparently does, that Ikea co-opted phrase. This is not the case. Just not. Sorry.”

    (When, clearly, the phrase HAS been trivialized to sell kitchens. And to give cheerleaders something to yell. And Zuska, again, didn’t say that. But I digress).

    Comment 79: “Part of the problem seems to be that you and others seem to think that my arguing that Ikea quite plausibly (and, in my opinion, quite probably)< had no racial motive in using the phrase in the commercial is the same thing as arguing that there's no larger social commentary that could be addressed. That's not the case at all, nor did I ever say it was.”

    (Um, yeah, ya did. See Comment #1. But, again, I digress).

    Comment 81: “I should mention that I was among those who had not formerly been aware of the provenance of that phrase, so it was certainly an educational moment, and something to think about.”

    Now. If Comment 81 had been comment 1, there would have been none of the others. But it wasn’t.

    As I said, the proper response is not “you’re full of shit because my soccer coach says it and my long long life experience is key, not yours”, but “Oh, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT.”

    Unless, of course, you’re just looking to play Twit the Feminist, at which point you say, “THEY’RE NOT DELIBERATELY AND MALEVOLENTLY RACIST ZOMG YOU’RE REACHING” when that was never the point of the post.

  103. #103 Brian
    April 21, 2010

    Cara,

    Are you serious?! You’re actually trying to make the case that Zuska didn’t say something that she, in fact, did. Again and again, I have quoted Zuska, yet you’re going to seriously argue that she didn’t write it. Please. Here goes:

    I have no doubt that is why IKEA felt compelled to create this homage to racial justice and equality, featuring the use of the phrase “eyes on the prize” by a white woman who has seen the light.

    A black couple could not have been cast in this commercial, because it is meant to illustrate how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America.

    To which I replied,

    “but why pretend that it is Ikea that has co-opted this phrase knowingly in order to communicate “how far whites have come along the path of understanding racial issues in America”?

    Now you have the audacity to write:

    This is not what Zuska was saying, btw, which fact you seem to refuse to get

    So…. if this is a joke, I’m waiting for the punchline. Yes. That was what Zuska was saying. I’m not even sure how you can argue otherwise.

    You’re making a mistake when you equate saying that the meaning of the phrase as used in the commercial is the same thing as saying that there’s absolutely no racial component to it. And that’s just… not even wrong.

    So when you write:

    Unless, of course, you’re just looking to play Twit the Feminist, at which point you say, “THEY’RE NOT DELIBERATELY AND MALEVOLENTLY RACIST ZOMG YOU’RE REACHING” when that was never the point of the post.

    Now I get to say that that was never the point of my comments. It may not be a reach to say that this commercial is a testament to the degree to which a phrase that has a huge degree of meaning in the context of Civil Rights has been watered down. But that’s not the content of the original post.

    It is a reach to say, as Zuska originally wrote, that “Ikea felt compelled to create this homage to racial justice and equality, featuring the use of the phrase ‘eyes on the prize’ by a white woman who has seen the light.” See the difference there?

    It’s also worth noting that in Comment #43, I said:

    I, at least, don’t think you are or were literally saying that Ikea’s ad managers are racist.

    Note that saying that Zuska was arguing that Ikea had a racial motive in scripting this computer is not the same as saying they had a racist motive.

  104. #104 Brian
    April 21, 2010

    Cara,

    Sorry about the tone of that last comment. While I stand by the substance of what I wrote, I realize that I was writing fairly aggressively. I don’t have any reason to be angry with you (well, “kiddo” wasn’t very nice, but still..), and so I apologize for my attitude.

    -Brian

  105. #105 Cara
    April 22, 2010

    It is a reach to say, as Zuska originally wrote, that “Ikea felt compelled to create this homage to racial justice and equality, featuring the use of the phrase ‘eyes on the prize’ by a white woman who has seen the light.” See the difference there?

    Brian, you’re recognizing the irony but getting (or seeming to get) the wrong message, like if a comic said, “I’m kidding, I would never send my kid to bed without supper…I made her sleep in the car.”

    You’re making a mistake when you equate saying that the meaning of the phrase as used in the commercial is the same thing as saying that there’s absolutely no racial component to it. And that’s just… not even wrong.

    *snip*

    Note that saying that Zuska was arguing that Ikea had a racial motive in scripting this computer is not the same as saying they had a racist motive.

    Honestly, I have no idea what you’re saying, here.

    I’m curious. Tell me why you’re so personally affronted, so adamant that Zuska’s full of shit for saying (not directly, mind you, not in these exact words) that the commercial’s using a subverted civil rights meme. The flipping phrase was in the song first. The whole tone of her post was sarcastic and flippant and you’re plodding along pedantically, seeming to deliberately miss the point.

    And “kiddo” wasn’t intended to be mean, just so you know. Really. So, come on, you can tell me. What are you getting out of this?

  106. #106 SKM
    April 22, 2010

    Brian, you seem stuck on something that Zuska has already clarified. We’ve been over this.
    Not sure what you’re determined to do here.

  107. #107 Brian
    April 22, 2010

    Look, guys, I’m really not trolling, honest. I’m not trying to be thick.

    If Zuska really clarified it and I missed it, then I’m sorry I’ve been driving as hard as I have in this direction. I very well may be interpreting Zuska’s original post more literally than she had intended, in which case I’ll take my ball and go home.

    My understanding is that there are two issues here:

    One, that the phrase “Eyes on the Prize” was born from and is inextricably linked to the struggle for Civil Rights. And I completely agree with that 100%. I hadn’t known the provenance of the phrase, myself, and felt sorta cheated that I hadn’t ever been taught that (though one might say I didn’t look hard enough). That the phrase is used in an Ikea commercial is certainly a sad statement on the degree to which the power of a phrase has been steadily eroded by generational change and apathy, or whatever have you. Agreed. I don’t feel like there’s any question about this.

    So when Cara writes:

    I’m curious. Tell me why you’re so personally affronted, so adamant that Zuska’s full of shit for saying (not directly, mind you, not in these exact words) that the commercial’s using a subverted civil rights meme. The flipping phrase was in the song first. The whole tone of her post was sarcastic and flippant and you’re plodding along pedantically, seeming to deliberately miss the point.

    it is clear to me that she misunderstands my point entirely. I don’t think Zuska’s full of shit for saying that the commercial’s using a subverted civil rights meme. I’ve conceded the point and admitted to not having known that before.

    The second issue, and the one that I’m having trouble with, is that Ikea made a conscious decision based upon racial motives. That’s at least the literal interpretation of Zuska’s post, and I disagree that her meaning was sufficiently cleared up. If, as Cara says, the whole post was sarcastic and flippant, then obviously I missed that, and I apologize. I often wish there were sarcasm tags. When Zuska returned to comment on the post, however, I personally didn’t see her as backing away from the literal interpretation.

    I think (hope?) that at this point, we’re in violent agreement. The phrase does have a meaning. Its use as a sports metaphor to sell kitchen cabinets is an indication of how diluted that meaning has become.

    Oh, and before I finished up this comment, I went back and reread the original post a couple of times. My bad. I get it now.

    And Cara, having recently bid adieu to my 20s, I implore you to call me “kiddo” as much as you wish!

  108. #108 Guest
    April 22, 2010

    Just remember everyone: once a phrase has been used once, for a particular purpose, it is static. If you use it for any other reason, you’re a racist/sexist/etc-ist asshole! That’s just the way the English language works. Meanings are set in stone and can never be reused for anything else.

  109. #109 Cara
    April 22, 2010

    Shut up, “Guest”. Quit trying to stir shit.

  110. #110 Guest
    April 22, 2010

    I was just trying to sum up all of what’s been said here. That’s really the gist of what people have been saying.

  111. #111 Comrade Svilova
    April 23, 2010

    I’m glad to read the discussion between Cara and Brian and SKM. It’s very neat to see actual dialogue on the internet, even though things became heated at times in this thread!

    I just wanted to pop in and mention that Benjamin’s statement that “all culture is a record of barbarism” might be appropriate here.

    And no wonder some people (Guest? not you, Brian; thanks for sticking around to discuss this issue!) feel deeply threatened when they first hear the suggestion that something they felt to be neutral is really part of a cultural record of oppression.

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