An Oxford branch of Sainsbury’s has caused controversy on Twitter after advertising what appeared to be ‘slave fashion’ in connection with the DVD release of Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave.
Twitter user and Eurosport web editor Reda Maher (@Reda_Eurosport) said: “There’s so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start. What were Sainsbury’s thinking!?”
Placed at the front of the store, the advertisement featured a stand of 12 Years a Slave DVDs and a mannequin wearing clothes identical to those worn in the film by Solomon Northup, the protagonist. The outfit even comes with a twig in the pocket.
The mannequin wore a tag round its neck with a price tag on it, though it did not appear as if the clothes themselves were actually for sale.
Somerville student Andrew McLean commented: “the clothing of a slave on a mannequin suggests an image to be bought and emulated as fashion.
“But on the other hand it will just have been a handy human-shaped thing to put the clothes on. Clearly unintentional, but it accidentally sidesteps much of the issue at hand and makes it commercial”.
Meanwhile, Worcester student Oliver Davies remarked that the move was “probably not malicious, but hugely inappopriate and doesn’t really show an understanding of what the film’s about”.
Steve McQueen’s 2013 film about slavery tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked as a slave for twelve years before he was eventually released.
The film serves as an uncomfortable reminder of slavery to the Western world, and its success has brought slavery in its current form into the public eye and even into Westminster, where the government is currently drafting a Modern Slavery bill.
Management at the Heyford Hill store declined to comment when asked, as did several staff members.
Sainsbury’s released this statement: “We can only apologise. It’s been taken down from the Heyford Hill store and clearly should never have gone up in the first place”, but refused to answer further questions.