A Chinese detergent commercial has sparked a wash of international outrage.
In the viral ad for Qiaobi, an Asian woman is doing laundry before she is joined by a young black man leaning by the doorway. He has white paint splattered on his face, arms and pants, and wears a brown-stained white shirt. He walks towards the woman, exchanging flirtatious advances as she motions him to come closer. Once she lures him in close enough for a kiss, the woman shoves a detergent pod into his mouth and forces him head-first into the washing machine.
Smiling, she hops on top of the rumbling machine while muffled pleas are heard from inside.
Much to many upset viewers’ surprise, an Asian man emerges from the machine in the same outfit - clean white shirt included. The commercial ends with the woman delighted with the new development and the closing voiceover, “Change, it all starts from Qiaobi laundry detergent pod.”
Many view the advertisement as an apparent, inverted ripoff of a very similar Italian detergent commercial released in 2006.
In this commercial, a young Italian woman is doing her laundry when a scrawny white male appears, in loose drawers and white tube socks. Though initially upset to see the man, the woman flirtatiously motions the man to come closer, luring him to the laundry machine, which she also shoves him into.
Only this time, a young, athletically-toned black man emerges from the machine. Gaping at his physique against the background rap music, the woman appears very pleased with her results. The commercial then ends with three words flashed across the screen: “Coloured is better.”
However, though both commercials are shocking to thousands of consumers, online users have pointed out that such advertisements are not the first to play on society’s perceptions of color.
Colors have long carried on layers of moral and social meaning, with the concept of blackness often entangled with filth, which is shown historically as a common play in advertisements.
The link between black and dirt (and white and virtue) has fueled racist branding in the United States and other countries, from the early days of Buckwheat and Aunt Jemima to to the modern era.
This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.