Every time I write about race, I swear I’m not ever going to do it again. But then something like this happens, and I suddenly find myself wanting to discuss it.
For those of you who don’t want to follow the link, here is the issue in a nutshell: Dig ‘n Dips (which is kind of a gross name in the first place) has chosen to use Disney princesses to promote its candy. Fine. Great. I can’t argue with that as a marketing decision because my 5-year-old goes absolutely apeshit for anything – anything – with a Disney princess on it. The issue is that they chose sweet blond Aurora to represent vanilla and Tiana, the first black Disney princess, to represent watermelon. Oof. I can’t muster up enough passion about this to actually be mad, but I am left shaking my head. As someone who A. used to work in marketing and B. has a modicum of cultural awareness, I cannot even fathom how this was allowed to happen.
Then again, up until I took a (required, and much-grumbled-about) cross-cultural journalism class during my junior year of college, I doubt that the juxtaposition of a black character with watermelon would have jumped out at me at all. I was amazed by all of the racial slurs and stereotypes I learned in that class, things I had previously been completely unaware of. We were given a book full of offensive things to watch out for; the entry for “watermelon” read only “See ‘fried chicken.’” Before paging through that book, watermelon, as far as I was concerned, was a delicious and refreshing snack for summer picnics; after reading it, it was suddenly a racially fraught symbol to be avoided. And I felt – and still feel – sort of torn. On the one hand, I am glad to be aware of this issue so that I won’t unwittingly offend anyone. But on the other, can’t a watermelon just be a watermelon sometimes?
In the case of the Dig ‘n Dips, I just can’t see how this could have been inadvertent. Then again, as I said above, Dig ‘n Dips is such a terrible name for a candy to begin with (“dig” makes me think of dirt and/or kids picking their noses, neither of which makes me want to chow down on candy) that I’m tempted to think that maybe the marketing “geniuses” behind the candy are just out to lunch entirely. Also, the if the flavors are meant to be eaten together, as it appears from the picture, why on earth would you pick vanilla and watermelon? That hardly seems like the most appealing combination (although making Aurora represent vanilla and Tiana represent chocolate would definitely be worse than what they have now).
I certainly have bigger concerns as a mother – both with the Disney princesses and with actual blatant displays of racism – but this just seems so poorly thought out. I’m more bewildered by who green-lighted this/disappointed that things like this are still happening in 2012 than I am actually offended. But still.
What do you think? Was this intentional? If so, does it offend you? If not, is it a good sign or a bad sign that people are unaware of this stereotype?