Last week, while perusing Twitter, I came across a conversation regarding Stranger Things. Because I hadn’t yet started season 2, I almost scrolled through it in fear of catching a spoiler. Instead what I found was a conversation about racism in television and advertising. Specifically in regards to merchandise and promotional products.
The issue was that Target released a nationwide advertisement for the new Stranger Things Funko Pop dolls. Fun right? Wrong. Take a look at the poster and what do you see? Better question is, who do you not see?
Twitter user @mikewheeler calls it out specifically, stating “Miss Barb had 2 minutes of screentime and Lucas was in every episode??”
My sentiments exactly.
Where is Caleb McLaughlin aka Lucas?!
Not only does Barb appear in the poster (who in my opinion is the worst character on the show), but so does the Demogorgon. THE DEMOGORGON, THE SEASON ONE VILLAN, IS FEATURED ON THE POSTER TOO!
Twitter and Stranger Things fans were not having it. Going down the comments thread on this tweet, you see fans asking the same questions.
At first glance, it may seem like a very innocent mistake. But, putting together a huge promotional advertisement for a multi-million dollar company like Target, comes with multiple eyes of approval and seats at the table. At least a dozen people had to give an okay for this to be published. And yet, no one saw an issue with one of the main characters not being prominently featured.
Target eventually made a statement that was pretty much a half-assed acknowledgement of the issue.
Instead of acknowledging the racial sentiment of the issue, they only say that a “character” was left out. Not just a character. But the ONLY black or person of color on the show, who is also a main character.
Seems a little too convenient.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in advertising for tv shows or movies. Similarly the promo poster for NBC’s drama The Night Shift, left out 1 of 2 of it’s black character’s, and its 1 gay character. Both are main characters. When asked why, the network claimed it was an issue with “fit”. They couldn’t fit everyone on the poster. The other black character played by JR Lemon barely makes it in. If you squint really hard you can see his body at the very edge of the right corner. That’s “representation”.
Living in a white supremacist culture, white is seen as good, and black, not so much. In the eyes of their marketing team, sharing the black character is an after thought. Something they can do with the click of a button, only after being called out on a national stage.
What further lends to the narrative that they purposefully left out Lucas’ character is the updated picture. Not only does Lucas perfectly fit into the poster, but it looks as if he had already been there, and a higher power chose to remove him.
When it comes to advertising and making space for black and brown people in the entertainment industry, there is still a long way to go. Throwing communities of color a token black or brown character in a otherwise completely white cast isn’t diversity and it isn’t progression. It’s cliche and obvious.