Maybe we shouldn’t admit it, but we watch a lot of television.

And television can be – depending on what you are watching, of course – educational or just a complete waste of time. But that is just taking into account the TV programs you are watching.

We watch the commercials as much as the programs, because commercials are fascinating.

You might think commercials are just vehicles to sell products, but they are much more than that. They can be little glimpses into how society is changing, or not changing.

More specifically, they can be a window into how a group of people – often previously marginalized in society – are moving into the mainstream.

For example, in the past several years, more and more commercials are featuring same-sex couples. Not that many years ago, you would virtually never see a same-sex couple in a television commercial.

What has changed? Well, society has changed. Advertisers who would previously be terrified of including a same-sex couple in a commercial now feel safe doing so. They can now seek to get some money from those people without fear of offending other people (although there will probably still be some).

We have also noticed in recent years that commercials are more and more featuring fictional married couples from different races. Of course, people from different races getting married is not a big deal, but we still wonder why so many are featured in television commercials.

The best we can figure is that advertisers (more accurately, ad agencies) hope to appeal to two ethnic sections of the population in one commercial. A two for one, if you will.

If you are thinking it might be racist to notice such a thing, we can only point out that we also notice accents, the apparent economic status of commercial characters, regions of Canada where commercials are filmed, whether the characters are rural or urban, and much more.

As we already said, commercials can tell you a lot.

Most recently, we have seen more and more Muslims appearing in TV commercials. That’s pretty easy to figure out. Companies want to present themselves as open and inclusive. That’s just good for business.

So watching TV commercials can demonstrate the acceptance of various groups of people, such as same-sex couples and Muslims, into Canadian society. And it may also tell you about the economic power they possess as consumers.

And so that brings us to the real point of this editorial.

While others are making their way into TV commercials, where are Canada’s Indigenous people?

Of course, they are seen in government advertising and sometimes in commercials with distinctly Indigenous themes.

But we are not seeing Indigenous people in commercials featuring characters buying groceries, looking at a car, or talking about what kind of insurance to buy.

We’re not quite sure why that is. Other previously unseen groups have made it into TV commercials.

Commercials are designed to make us buy stuff, but they also help create impressions of the people portrayed.

And whether you believe it or not, such images can influence public perceptions.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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