This ’12 Years a Slave’ fashion advice was a terrible idea

Do we even need to explain why this is terrible?


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Published May 19, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 7:11 am CDT

12 Years a Slave came out months ago, but apparently the DVD release is giving people fresh opportunities for bizarre and horribly racist advertising.

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British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s came under fire on Monday after a photo surfaced of a 12 Years A Slave DVD display that gave customers the opportunity to “get the look.” As in, the slave “look,” as if 12 Years a Slave was some kind of Hollywood fashion trend. The supermarket DVD stand included a mannequin wearing cropped trousers and a loose-fitting beige shirt: supposedly a slave-themed outfit.

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If you are a slave to fashion – @sainsburys has it covered suggest @SainsburysPR you get on to this rather quick.

— John Sargeant (@JPSargeant78) May 19, 2014

Has anybody else seen the ’12 Years A Slave’ stands in Sainsbury’s? The ones that include a ‘slave costume’??

— Reichenbach Falls (@rbachfalls) May 12, 2014

New at Sainsbury’s: Get the Slave Look (shackles, rape and beatings not included) HT @samambreen

— PukkahPunjabi (@PukkahPunjabi) May 19, 2014

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If you want to look like your favourite colonial slave but not sure where to go. Sainsbury’s have you covered.

— Michael Wood (@aMichaelWood) May 19, 2014

Hey @sainsburys how much much money are you expecting to make out of selling the slave look this quarter?

— PukkahPunjabi (@PukkahPunjabi) May 19, 2014

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When creating a shop display for, say, The Great Gatsby, this kind of fashion tip might be vaguely appropriate. But does it really need explaining why it’s incredibly offensive and stupid to advise shoppers on how to “get the look” of 12 Years a Slave?

According to Sainsbury’s PR Twitter feed, the display has already been removed. Why it was there in the first place, we may never know—particularly because it took some bad Twitter publicity to make them take it down. Of course, removing the display won’t remove the photos that have been retweeted all over the Internet.

@SamAmbreen 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

— Sainsbury’s PR (@SainsburysPR) May 19, 2014

Photo via Twitter

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*First Published: May 19, 2014, 11:21 am CDT