Ah, The Media Liberties of the White 5 Finger Discount

The other day I was in a store at a time when 2 women were eating snacks they’d pulled from the shelves, that they “planned” to purchase, but had yet to do so.  The store manager rightly and assertively called them on it. Which resulted in a shouting match of B-this and B-that until they finally left the store upon threat of a call to law enforcement.

I thought to myself, “Who does that?! Who goes around openly and obviously eating food from the shelves before they’ve paid for it?”

Well, apparently openly asserting a 5 Finger Discount has become a thing. People of all color steal, but it’s only when 1 color does it, that apparently it’s…funny? The humor and success that comes with a 5 Finger Discount is not universal though.

  • The Lay’s Potato Chip commercial that features a white guy in the grocery store eating from a variety of their brand’s chips without paying for them first
  • The white Verizon guy who casually swipes 3 cells phones as he makes his way around the store
  • The Toyota Prius commercial that features several white guys robbing a bank and their gleeful white fan-following encouraging them on (see post “Toyota Prius Ad “Gets Away” with Sad Truth” about that here)
  • The white baby that sneaks Hawaiian bread (White 5 Finger Discount Privilege starts young)
  • The opening scenes in “13 Reasons Why”, that features the white lead snatching a (brown kid’s) walk-man with no repercussions- when he could easily have asked for it and received it willing. What was the point of that?

Maybe it’s only my keen eye, but I’m noticing an inordinate number of commercials and other media programming that present a white guy casually STEALING -as comedic farce.

Of course, a white guy stealing is nothing new. They’ve stolen land, people, lives, bodily autonomy, culture, ideas, money and just about anything else from others that they could get their 10 fingers on-and they’ve been doing that four centuries. It’s also true that they have been unashamed in doing so, but only the most obscene openly laughed about it.

It seems media-makers think the fact that white people are still able to steal with incredible success and without penalty is funny. It’s so hilarious to them that they don’t even attempt to obscure it in phony contriteness. (Let us not forget the scene in the movie Bad Moms where the white women White 5 Finger Discount their way around a grocery store, trashing it and leaving it for someone else to clean-up.)

The stealing-as-a-form-of-comedy shtick might get a pass (on a short leash) if there was at least some sense of self-deprecation, some self-de-preciation, some universality in the spoils to them. Instead, they perpetuate a Colonialist/Entitled/Unaware/Ill-gotten selective privilege and universal mentality.

Their privilege is so out-of-hand that many media-makers think it much more lucrative to be obvious, obnoxious and to make light of stealing as a form of comedy, then it is to present us with something that is actually funny. That’s so lazy, and non-creative.

Still, unfortunately, there are enough people who will “pay no mind” that these media-makers and the companies who they make media on behalf of, will indeed keep laughing all the way to the bank (but not on my pay, mind you).

In seeking a well-rounded if not 360° view, when I see these commercials and programs lauding and promoting White 5 Finger Discount Privilege, I ask myself, “Is it simply just the usual case of goofy white guys and gals not being aware of how not funny and how not cool they are?”

Then, I come full circle and realize that’s what they want me/you/us to believe. There is capital in the unsuspecting masses not understanding. There is capital in the masses believing that, this type of humor is innocuous-even if it’s not funny.  If we can be made to believe it’s all harmless, and done in good fun, then it will prevent us from understanding that, that type of humor is just an ill-gotten and selective privilege.

If we don’t see it as harmful, then we will not see it as something to question and we’ll keep spending our money with these companies (some of us will keep spending with them regardless of what we understand their messages to infer. Sigh).

If we are not media literate, then when we see or hear about actual poor people that “steal” food to feed their families, we will be tempted to believe they are doing so as a matter fun and games and not as a matter of life and death. We will come to see those acts with a sense of “moral” outrage.

We will come to see what is often a necessary acts of last resort, as a high crime committed by those people-not a misdemeanor. We will be so disgusted with them that our “moral” sensibilities and thus, outrage, will help promote that for them- law enforcement and jail is justified. Yet, for others who assert the White 5 Finger Discount Privilege, gales of laughter and monetary rewards are supposedly warranted.

So, to me it seems these types of media are not funny. They are more examples of white guys and gals being allowed to openly assert their White 5 Finger Discount Privilege, at the same time they openly assert their 3rd finger privilege.

Do conscious white people co-sign on these media depictions of them? If they are uncomfortable with them, then it’s time to see something and say something to the media-makers. Otherwise, the trope of “It wasn’t me”, as they continue to benefit from this “comedic” form of privilege will be as inaccurate as it ever was.

If we all don’t recognize it for what it is and call-it-out and/or stop patronage of these companies and products, then it’s not only “sad” but true that the joke is on us.

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La Femme
International woman of mystery and consciousness. Media Analyst. People Analyst. Seeking the Truth. Speaking the Truth...as I See it.

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