When it matters

Has anyone else noticed recent commercials using a particular word that rhymes with, say, "chatter"? This may have passed you by if you only watch TV by streaming or get your news strictly online. But it would seem that Corporate America is using calls to social justice as calls to consumerism. 

An appropriation of "Black Lives Matter" seems to be on the rise. 

If you’re a social justice activist or communicator you might want to consider the strategic importance of monitoring popular culture to see what stories are being told. And that story mapping includes advertising. 

Driving Matters. Roots Matter. Better Matters. You Matter. Values Matter.


A colleague directed us to use Google Trends to check if we were seeing and hearing right. Was it just us? Or was there really something going on that should be shared? In fact, it seems that a spike in the use of the word "matters" began in 2014, while "matter" shot up in 2015 and 2016. This word use over time matches the global use of the phrase "Black Lives Matter" (see the map time lapse below). Coincidence? Nope. Were corporations capitalizing on a sense of value agreement from consumers? In other words, were corporations thinking, "If we say _____ matter(s), then all those folks who think 'Black Lives Matter' may spend their money with us?" It seems they were.

Ironically, the first time we noticed this appropriation of "Black Lives Matter" was wile watching the "Hope" episode of black-ish on February 24, 2016. This entire episode is about Black Lives Matter but the show deliberately avoided the phrase. When asked about this omission, show creator Kenya Barris said to the New York Times, "I intentionally didn’t mention Black Lives Matter. We try to show the family is not monolithic and has a lot of different points of view and let people take what they may from it." 


You can see why our ears perked up when we did end up hearing the phrase and the sentiment of justice and connection that it evokes. Smack in the middle of the episode, Save Mart grocery stores aired "Roots Matter." Why were the show writers afraid of using the phrase while the corporations that fund their shows clearly were not? 

In the end, this is not the first time this type of appropriation has happened and it certainly won't be the last, because they will try to sell us everything: even our own popular social movement symbols. But this is also an opportunity for television and movie writers to use the phrase directly and in a positive way so that we can get the public to consume more than just products. We need folks to consume the spirit of the phrase and to live their lives every day in a way that shows that BLACK LIVES MATTER in the nonfiction world too. Because if we can change the fictionalized stories to include a direct use of "Black Lives Matter," then we can shift the larger public discourse and have a greater cultural impact. 

And that my friends is how we can #ChangeTheStory!

To learn more about the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement & current campaigns, please visit their website at www.blacklivesmatter.com.