Race Stereotypes on Products in the Noughties

When I was a small child you could get away with racial stereotypes in media and on product packaging that people today will find inconceivable. For example, there used to be a brand of preserves in England where there was an outrageous caricature of an african person on the label. If you saved enough of the offensive labels they would send you an offensive badge. I know because I used to have one.

In the same period the biggest hit show on English TV was something that you will never believe existed: a show where white men made up as caricatures of african men sang what I guess they thought were traditional songs of African people -- things like "Camptown Ladies", which is actually a white song mocking African Americans. You can read more about this awful show in the Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_and_White_Minstrel_Show.

So when I am browsing in supermarkets looking for products with unintentionally amusing names (you won't believe how many companies still call their product "Prick" or "Lekaculor") I am also on the lookout for the last remnants of this genre.

This week I found a Danish product called Atamon, made by Haugen-Gruppen AS, which is illustrated with a very dated caricature of what I guess is supposed to be a Chinese person. Memo to company: visit China please and tell me how many of the guys you meet have long pigtails. The product is apparently a preservative used to make jam. You can get product details from the company website at http://www.haugen-gruppen.dk/am/produkter/?opskriftaction=readmore&product=9490 My guess is that the product is an old established one and the package design was created in the 1800s or early 1900s. But tradition is still no excuse for not updating the package art. If there is some connection with China I am sure that any competent graphic designer with some knowledge of China could make an attractive and inoffensive alternative.

Most of the offensive package stereotypes these days represent Asian and African peoples, but I would be very interested if anyone can find one poking fun at Europeans or Americans. But I will not be surprised if they are hard to find.


Popular posts from this blog

Dear Best Regards: How to Start and End Your Emails

TED’s Magical Red Carpet

Reverting to Emails: Confusion and the Indian English Language