It is impossible to turn on television today and not see commercials suggesting intimacy of interracial couples. I want to go down this road in today’s column but let me first explore the early episodes of intimacy between interracial couples in the movies.
Understand, my focus is on Black and whites in intimate situations. Chinese, Asian, Native American, or ethnicities with a white person do not count.
So, what is the first movie that you recall showing or suggesting intimacy between a Black and a white? I am not a movie buff but the 1967 movie, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is my guess. While Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton were never shown in any romantic scenes, they were anticipating marriage. Intimacy was implicit.
The 1965 film, “A Patch of Blue,” which also featured Poitier as a teacher who becomes involved in a romantic relationship with his student Elizabeth Hartman, proved me wrong. Scenes of the couple kissing were removed from the film when shown in the South. Hollywood had to cast a pall on this relationship by casting Hartman as blind. Surprisingly, to make me further wrong, other films pre-dated 1965. “A Taste of Honey” in 1961 involved an English girl that became pregnant by a Black soldier and “One Potato, Two Potato,” released in 1964, involves a white divorcee who married a Black woman. Still others include “Band of Angels” and “Pinky,” interracial romance movies involving women who passed for white or were half-white and were involved with white men.
I remind you that it has only been in recent years that Hollywood showed Black couples kissing, not on the cheek but on the lips. An 1898 silent film, “Something Good—Negro Kiss,” is the oldest surviving film, depicting Blacks kissing in a passionate manner.
I thought that the first example of intimacy between Black and white couples on television was “The Jeffersons.” You might remember George and Louise Jefferson’s neighbors, Helen and Tom Willis, a married, interracial couple. Well, I was wrong again! I have learned that the television show “Sea Hunt” featured an interracial couple, Lloyd Bridges and Nolan McCarthy, in a kissing scene. “Adventures in Paradise,” “I Spy” and “Movin’ with Nancy” had kissing scenes. While these television shows reflected interracial intimacy, a 1968 episode of “Star Trek” is generally regarded as the first interracial kiss on television in our country. Still this kiss has some controversy as some claim that the actors, William Shatner, and Nichelle Nichols turned their heads and their lips never touched. This smooch may not have been a romantic one but to show a Black woman and a white man kissing was a big thing. I could devote this entire column to interracial intimacy in the movies and television, but this column is about interracial intimacy in television commercials; so, on to this subject.
I will not speculate or ask you to guess the first interracial commercial. However, I will share with you what I have uncovered. I was surprised to learn that in 2013, a Cheerios television commercial contained an interracial family. Perhaps you recall this commercial. Do you remember the little girl, carrying a box of Cheerios to her white mother to ask several questions? She then went to speak with her Black father who is lying on the sofa. This commercial ignited a storm and the station and the company were bombarded with negative and racist comments. HuffPost, on June 4, 2013, listed a number of “mixed-race” couples in television commercials. You may have seen some of them. They included Macy’s, Banana Republic, DASO, Old Navy and many others. There was a steamy, IKEA commercial involving a white man and a Black female interacting in a romantic rough house manner, so steamy and rough until they destroyed their furniture.
As I was writing this column, I saw interracial television commercials involving Geico Insurance, Vicks NyQuil and Rocket Mortgage. Of all of the interracial television commercials, Humira showing the little girl being picked up from school by her white father and walking to the ice cream parlor is my favorite. Their interaction seems so genuine until I researched to determine if they were daughter and father in real life.
I know of whites that detest such commercials as they are stark reminders of what many fear most, the browning of America. This is a trend they believe will result in a major change in who rules. You must know that this is what “make America great again” was all about.
So, what is behind all of these intimate interracial commercials? This is an interesting issue to explore but space limitations prevent an in-depth review at this time. I would love to spend time in corporate boardrooms and hear discussions on this subject. I wonder if there are deliberate decisions not to show or to modify commercials featuring interracial and biracial families in the South.
Obviously, the appearance of interracial relationships in commercials is a growing trend. No doubt that there will be a plethora of interracial commercials in the near future showing intimacy, commercials that include children. Just remember that such commercials are a sign of today’s times and were nonexistent, back in the day.