Alton Towers latest TV adverts, featuring a black man peering out of the darkness beside the words “your worst nightmare” smacks of crude racial stereotyping. The screen-grab (above) was taken from a ten-second ad screened last night on Channel 5.
The full 30-second version can be viewed here:
The ad begins with two young white girls innocently playing with marbles before one ball rolls down a drain, falling on a large egg which cracks open with shafts of light coming out as if to birth an alien being. The face of a black man appears out of the darkness, the whites of his large eyes dominating the image. His nostrils are flared as if through anger. A white woman is then seen fearfully running away from something through a darkened alley before quickly closing the door behind her.
The advert – promoting Alton Towers’ new Nemeses Sub-Terra ride – is highly problematic. The fact that the black man is not seen running away from anything may subconsciously transmit the message that it is the black man whom the white woman is running away from.
The suspicion is that the ad seeks to make an air of menace inside the dungeon-like environment is made yet more frightening by the presence of a wide-eyed, nostril-flared black man looming out of the dark. If this is deliberate then it is disgusting racism. The harmful and insensitive portrayal of a black man, who will inevitably be viewed as threatening by many viewers, should be pulled from the ad breaks. The words “your worst nightmare, underground”, which appear beside the black man on the shortened ad version, compound the problem.
If the black man is also supposed to be scared then the ad is poorly put together because it does not necessarily transmit that message. Enslaved Africans in the South of America would certainly have exhibited such fear escaping the lynch-mobs including on the ‘underground railway’ to freedom in the Northern states. However, I strongly suspect that many of the white viewers of this advert will more readily identify that the fearful or pursued character is the white woman.
I have complained to the Advertising Standards Authority over this. I hope they take action, and will update this blog with their response. If you wish to complain, you can do so here. Incidentally some people who have tested the new ride are distinctly unimpressed. One ride enthusiast calling themselves Mew, wrote on this thread:
I… found the new ‘ride’ Nemesis Sub Terror simply abysmal and think Alton Towers must have spent more money on advertising and premonition of the attraction than actually on the ride itself. …the ride is basically:
Ride staff dressed in black security style uniform scream and shout at you to line up on dots inside a metal hanger. After more shouting, you are ordered into a mock elevator and ‘pretend’ to descend underground. More shouting and you are ushered into a large room with rows of ride seats where you sit and put the overhead safety bars over you.
There is a large egg in the room and some narrative about it. The room goes dark, the floor under your feat disappears and you drop about 10ft? There is more narrative before you ascend and exit the area to another mock elevator. Once you leave the mock elevator, there are more staff shouting at you and the ride is over.
If you have ever been to the London or Blackpool Dungeons, there is a ride called Extremeiss (sp?) The new Alton Towers ride is basically this ride with lots of unnecessary narrative and theatrics. With Nemesis Sub Terror, It is based in a newly constructed shed, has special effects and scenery from the 1980′s and the ride must be a part of a joblot Merlin purchased for The Dungeons.