Is Panasonic racist? Company photoshops White head on Black man’s body in promo pic

The company was found to have photoshopped Black man to promote its new SoundSlayer speaker but gets found out, EXIF data reveals the truth


                            Is Panasonic racist? Company photoshops White head on Black man’s body in promo pic
Panasonic's promotional photo for the SoundSlayer speaker (L) and the original stock photo (R) (Sean Hollister/Twitter)

Photoshopping an image is a perfectly normal, routine process for almost all adverts you see. So at first glance, Panasonic's new image for its SoundSlayer wearable speaker didn't really seem abnormal, until one journalist decided to get a closer look. After a bit of digging, Sean Hollister from The Verge noticed that not only was the photo heavily edited, but the company took a Black model and whitewashed him.

Photoshop controversies have been around for a long time, dragging everyone from presidents to actors down. In February 2020, Donald Trump slammed trolls for an image of his with very clear tan lines, tweeting, "This was photoshopped, obviously." In February 2021, Chris Pratt was slammed after age-old homophobic tweets surfaced, but it was later discovered that they were photoshopped. In March, British journalist Piers Morgan was slammed for using photoshopped images of Queen Elizabeth to promote his book 'Wake Up: Why the World Has Gone Nuts'.

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Unlike Pratt and Morgan, Panasonic's photoshop gaffe doesn't appear to have drawn national or international scrutiny. Shortly after Hollister pointed it out, it was taken down from Panasonic's website. The journalist also received a fair bit of backlash from social media users, who didn't see it as a big deal. In the grand scheme of things, it probably isn't, but it's just another small example of racism at work.

Attendees walk by the Panasonic booth during CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (David Becker/Getty Images)

'Lazy' Panasonic uses stock photos

When it comes to promoting a new product, you'd think companies would go all out and actually photograph it, but that doesn't appear to be the case here. Promotional images for SoundSlayer included royalty-free images taken from Shutterstock and Getty Images, The Verge found. The only effort Panasonic took was to photoshop the images, which it surely didn't need to do. One of the images features a White man playing a PlayStation 5, with the SoundSlayer on his shoulder.

The only issue? It wasn't actually a White man. Hollister found that Panasonic had used a royalty-free image of a Black man and simply edited the face and skin tone to make it a White person. "These might look like very different people, but that’s the editing at work — they clearly have the same hands, the same shirt (with the same exact creases), the same arm definition, and the same throat, in the same posture," Hollister noted. He followed up his story with a tweet, "Here's a quick juxtaposition to make it even clearer: this Black man's head was digitally replaced." By placing the two images side-by-side, it's very clear that they are the exact same. 



 

It appears that the company was so lazy with its promotion, that it didn't even bother to edit the EXIF data. Hollister found that Panasonic's image features the same title as Getty's original and the EXIF data also credits photographer blackCAT and Getty as the source. When Hollister pointed it out to Panasonic, they quickly took the images down on August 25. On August 26, they confirmed to The Verge they were "looking into the matter". 

'You are bored today' internet tells Hollister

Social media though hit back at Hollister and slammed him for his "discovery". "Nobody should retweet this. This race baiting crap needs to stop its obvious that its based off of facial expression, not skin color. You are bored today I see," one person tweeted. Another said, "I don’t see why this is a big deal?" One person commented, "So serious question. What led you down this path of detective work? Most poorly photoshopped images don’t usually get this level of intense scrutiny."



 



 



 

 

"Imagine being this much of a BETA male lmao. Not everything is about racism and clicks for views. Holy shit," one user commented. Another said, "This is just reaching. Maybe find something else that's actually offensive. This is why racism isn't taken seriously, even the legitimate ones."



 



 

 

The company didn't offer any explanation for why it would replace the original Black model when the rest of the image is the exact same. Perhaps if it had put a bit more effort into the photoshop, Hollister wouldn't have noticed, but unfortunately for them, he did. Face-swapping may seem insignificant, but it's a subtle hint at the fact that Black models are still undesired by companies when it comes to promotional material. It's one of the more subtle examples of racism at work. 

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