There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Joe Six Pack’s race. NPR was speaking to voters about whether he is white, black, or brown. Macon D on his blog, “stuff white people do” came up with a list of 68 euphemisms for ‘white,’ and Joe Six Pack was on the list. Wikipedia identified the term as an evolution of John Q. Public, who is undoubtedly intended to be white, given the era of origin of that term. But other blogs and sites, such as urbandictionary.com, go on to qualify his whiteness:
“Average American moron, IQ 60, drinking beer, watching baseball and CNN, and believe everything his President says.”
What’s interesting, beyond the question of his race, is the politics of class and food that the image conveys. I noticed it when going from Newbury Street, Boston’s Rodeo drive, where only croissants and bagels were served at meetings, to working for City Government, where donuts were the more common fare. Is the sauce on the pasta (aka Spaghetti) marinara, or tomato sauce? Is the Friday night unwinding drink a glass of Merlot, or a cold beer? The image of Joe Six Pack, rather than being a “median white guy” is more striking for his lack of education, two-dimensionality, and character presence based on his habits, these latter habits probably added by white people, to distance themselves from the stereotype.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions given Sarah Palin’s affinity for him, but I imagine she thought of this as a positive reference, a cheer for the common man. As it turns out, it’s more of a warning of how use of stereotypes in advertising can and invariably will backfire. What stereotypes do you continue to see popping up in ads or television? Is the group leader a white man? Is the black family dancing or saying “unh hunh” in their meal out? How is the Latina dressed? Nobody wants to be typecast or culled into a single qualifying characteristic. While a handful of people may identify with the stereotype, most people, who are indeed more complex, will rebel.