Pouring down rich dark pellets: examining racial stereotypes in Finnish lakristi

In 2007 the Scandinavian candy company Fazer came under fire for using African pejoratives on the licorice candy Lakistri where Black persons are depicted in a racially offensive fashion. Fazer is known to use racial caricatures in its most notable Kina snacks featuring stereotypical Asian in style and color. (Dalston 2012) While Fazer removed offensive images in favor of more neutral shapes that still conveyed racial messages, there is one that remains in use with distinct racial connotations. This is Lakristi Pastilleja,

Fazer_lemon_lakritsi
Image 1: Revised Lemon Lakristi Candy 

which are a sensationalized Finnish treat of flat small licorice circles stored in boxes that look like movie candy. This post will explore the Lakristi Pastiilleja brand in closer detail, and the harmful implications it has with connecting black persons with commercial commodities like licorice. A secondary ad in challenging and bringing a conscience to the current ad will be explored, in addition to the sociocultural histories behind racial stereotyping in candy advertisements.

The current Pastilleja ad contains a black background with grinning faces and red smiles. The other colors the ad features are yellow for the lettering and white for the facial features of wide eyes and mouths. Fazer first started packaging licorice and using black persons in advertisements in 1927. (Ron 2012) The Lakristi ad conveys playfulness with

licorico 008
Figure 2: Current Lakristi licorice ad Finland

gazes, but the poses and coloring have deeper constructs. Although color is not explicitly pinpointed as with the Likristi lemon ads, the black background does allude to African persons. The wide smiles can be pinpointed to earlier advertisements depicting African Americans with oversized heads and large eyes and lips associated with minstrels. (Robertson 2009, p.36) The other stereotype is the pickaninny frieze. (Merleaux 2015, p.126) Also the wide exaggerated smiles allude to American slavery where African captives were forced bear wide smiles. (Martin 2016)

 

The advertisement in response to the current Pastrilleja ad features Scandinavian caricature and the Lakristi candy itself. It challenges the previous ad through cultural symbolism and consumptive patterns. In this ad a young reindeer is depicted as licking

Scan 2
Image 3: Revised Lakristi pastileja ad

Lakristi drops falling from a tree. The young deer is depicted as innocent, and effortlessly but satiable in enjoying the product. The doe alludes to African children caricatured in earlier chocolate ads with the wide eyes and mouth. It also has the same naïve senses except instead of using vernacular English it wanders for food. (Robertson 2009, p.38) It symbolizes the addictive and thoughtless consumption in Finnish Scandinavian culture. The doe enjoys the candy at exorbitant rate, but doesn’t think of the source.

Placed in contact with each other Image 2 helps Image 1 in confronting its racial insensitivity with advertising. The new ad without using a person or a certain nationality uses an image to make Finnish persons confront themselves on racial sensitivity. This is opposite of historical candy ads that made images far from European likenesses with ‘harnessing differences. (Robertson 2009, p.40)’ The new ad also teaches the original Pastilleja ad that licorice does not have to be associated with a specific race specifically African, and all nationalities should be embraced as evidenced with the different color lettering, and the band on the doe which respects Finnish culture.

Examining racial undertones in the Lakristi ad, and the responding ad on national or conscious identity helps to understand the sociocultural contexts of racial stereotyping in advertising. The widened gazes in the original Pastrilleja ad allude to Conguitos chocolate advertisement where chocolate malted milk balls in Spanish commercials are depicted as primitive Congolese African warriors. (Martin 2016) The second ad depicting the small doe does have imagery constructs, but in a more dignified racially sensitive fashion that respects nationalities. Finally the candy touches on the less refined quality of sweets, and how that affects lower income populations children specifically. (Merleaux 2015, p.126) (Martyris 2015) The ads help to debunk racial stereotyping by making majority consumers see and confront themselves in the images.

 

Dalston. 2012. “Title.” dalstonliteraryreview, April 1, 2016. https://dalstonliteraryreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/crisis-in-scandalavia/.

Martin, Carla D. 2016. Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. In AAAS E 119, edited by Harvard Extension School: Harvard Extension School.

Martyris, Nina. 2015. “Tainted Treats: Racism And The Rise Of Big Candy.” http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/30/453210765/tainted-treats-racism-and-the-rise-of-big-candy.

Merleaux, April. 2015. “From Cane to Candy: the racial geography of new mass markets for candy in the 1920s.” In Sugar and civilization : American empire and the cultural politics of sweetness, 125-146. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Robertson, Emma. 2009. “‘A deep physical reason’: gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption.” In Chocolate, women and Empire: a social and cultural history, 18-63. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

Ron. 2012. “Title.” US Slave, April 1, 2016. http://usslave.blogspot.com/2012/03/finnish-candy-with-racist-twist.html.

Image Credits

Figure 1: http://www.kioskpiraten.com/product_info.php?products_id=54

Figure 2: http://lakrisbloggen.blogspot.com/2012/06/lakritsi-pastilleja.html

Figure 3: self; deer doe image used from Disney Pixar’s Frozen coloring book 2015

 

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