Fair, lovely, handsome and blah!

Shah Rukh Khan is everywhere. Yesterday, after being assaulted with images of him sending out flying kisses to the audience during the cricket match, I gasped and grunted as today’s BBC Breakfast show did a little piece on an advert featuring Shah Rukh Khan. The advert is for Fair and Handsome.

Here’s the Youtube video showing SRK urging a “brown” boy to turn fair. And not use creams meant for women.

Now, I find the whole idea of fairness creams rather unpalatable. But I can’t really pass a judgment. As I was told very politely a few years back when it was pointed out that I already belonged to the “fair category” and rightfully had no say about skin lightening. But in India, you can never be too fair.

In the end, so much is about affluence. In India, if you’re fair it means that for generations your ancestors had no work that had to be done in the blistering sun. Which doesn’t really make sense. But what really is the right response anyway? For years, I cringed whenever Bollywood movies quickly showed a dark man as “Madrasi”. But why was I cringing? Did I want North Indians to know that “not everyone is dark”? In the North, when people discuss a bride’s appearance, they hardly ever say she is beautiful. They will just say she’s fair. It’s assumed that you know that fair = beautiful.

It’s no different in this Brit culture. The whole notion of a tan rests on the assumption that if you’re wealthy enough, you can afford to holiday in a nice sunny place. And so it is that every year, around April, there is this flood of fake-tan products staring at you from every window shops. How to tan evenly. How to tan well. How to keep the tan from yellowing. How to tan without getting skin cancer etc. So it amused me quite a bit as they went on and on about how some “Asian communities” are obsessed with skin colour.

I don’t want use some “black is beautiful” cliché. Or go about saying that society must change. That fairness creams must be banned. How can I tell somebody else what is beautiful. How can I claim something is “more beautiful”. If a dark person wants to be fair, that’s his or her prerogative. I can only hope that at some point it all becomes less relevant.

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14 Comments

Filed under Culture, Rants and Rambles, UK

14 Responses to Fair, lovely, handsome and blah!

  1. K

    I found this ad very funny. When SRK says “aur tumhari rough and tough”, I was reminded of Rajni in “oru koodai sunlight” from Sivaji. It couldn’t have been more artificial!

  2. In all fairness, to be fair to all fair people and not be unfair to the not so fair, this fairly tiresome affair of becoming unfairly fair by using fairness creams is fairly ridiculous. Now that was fairly simple, to say! But to put it in fair practice, is another matter all together. Or to be more or less, fairly clear – so I got a few litres of melanin more than you do – whatcha gonna do – sue me! :P

  3. Good Analysis and Perspective.

  4. WA

    I demand that you do more posts with my favourite word ‘Madrasi’

  5. Interesting blog entry. I actually found this commercial yesterday as well, and I think it brings up a lot of sociological questions as to what’s appropriate for a company to use in order to sell its product.

    You may find the whole concept of fairness creams unpalatable, but I don’t think that’s the biggest problem with the ad. The bigger question is why does the ad imply that fair skin begets women and success?

    I have more to say on the website link I’ve listed above. I’d be really curious to hear what you think of my own analysis.

    Best of luck!

  6. Pingback: A Time To Reflect » Blog Archive » In all fairness

  7. ronita

    Shahrukh Khan with Fairness cream is a hot topic now. Many places I’ve found discussion on it. Guys, here is a link http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7010885.stm where you’ll found a nice discussion on fairness cream related obsession. Also you’ll find some negative thinking of people and above all Shahrukh Khan, the no.1 Celebrity of Bollywood.

  8. Pingback: The “fair” society « ????? ????

  9. Agra

    If a white person can use tanning cream /product to become dark and no big fuss about it, then why we have to be so bothered about fairness cream for men. I think let the decision be on individuals. If it works for some one whether actually or phycologically, what is the wrong in it. I think this product has nothing to do with various society differences. Let it be a democratic decision for all.

  10. Agra: There IS discrimination based on colour. No point in denying it. People deal with it in different ways.

  11. dipali

    The fairness obseesion is responsible for so much pressure on people, particularly women, to conform to a particular, supposedly desirable, stereotype. It’s particularly distressing when you see young women from less affluent backgrounds deciding to use these products which they can ill afford. If it were guaranteed to boost a person’s self confidence, maybe I wouldn’t object to the entire concept.
    I want a world where people are actually comfortable in their own skins:)

  12. Well written. Its tragic and yet hilarious to read most of the Hindu matrimonials – “Fair, convent-educated, house-trained, docile, engineer degree, working, vadama, idlima girl for ivy league brown skinned boy with balding hair”. “Fair” is always the first adjective. “Wheatish” is always the euphemism for brownness. I wrote a short post a while back asking why my state is obsessed with suffering from skin cancer?

  13. sra

    Hi Neha, this is a good post. But there is so much pressure and desire to be fair everywhere, even when it’s futile – I saw an African woman buying a sack, and I’m not exaggerating, of fairness cream a few years ago!

  14. Boy

    I read a few articles on the whole fair and handsome issue in which there was a whole concept of people in India wanting to be lighter because they have been ruled by lighter skinned people like the British/Aryans/Turks/Iranians blah blah blah. In Europe alot of people who are “too white” try and get a tan to get a little darker. Indians try to get a lighter. I just feel the preffered skin color is somewhere in the middle. Not too pale like some Europeans, and not too dark like most Indians. I mean, even amongst black people, the light skinned black women are considered more attractive. Myself, and most of the people I have asked, they don’t like women that are too white, nor do they like women who are too dark. Just like alot of men dont like women who are too fat or too thin. A nice body with a few curves are liked by most men. So I guess that is why Indians want to get a little lighter and Europeans want to get a little tanned. I am punjabi, and my Mother is persian background, so I have a mediocre complexion. I don’t have to worry about getting tanned or buying fairness creams ;-)