domingo, 18 de junio de 2017

ON STEREOTYPES

They're peanuts covered in chocolate. At first, there were only dark ones, and their mascots wore hula skirts and were armed with flint spears --not to mention the thick lips--. Their name? Conguitos. Which obviously comes from the place name Congo.



But the white Conguitos that appeared in the early 2000s gave a Copernican turn to the history of the brand, breaking the racial stereotype; first both white and dark Conguitos had thick red lips, now neither kind of Conguitos has this feature. Anyway, no matter the size of their lips, they're all completely unarmed, coming in peace, ever since the white ones appeared.



In a similar vein, the "Negritos del África tropical" that had been the mascots of Cola Cao ever since the drinking chocolate brand's inception became, in the same decade, a crew of space aliens (Los Kao Kao) that represented the various nutrients (iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A...) present in the product. No aliens from other star systems have been harmed psychologically by characters like Ferki, iron personified:





In the Germanosphere, similarly, a third chocolate mascot, the Sub-Saharan Muslim Sarotti Moor, has become the golden-skinned, but still Middle-Eastern, Sarotti Mage. No one has complained about the phototype lift, in spite of the turban and pointy slippers being retained.

 

Sarotti Mage (on the left) and Moor (on the right).

There is a film from postbellum Spain, script written by the Generalísimo himself, which bears the title of Raza (Race).
Nowadays, this is a four-letter word for a concept dismissed as total balderdash.
The climax of Raza, of which previous scenes had been set in Barcelona and Bilbao, takes place during the Battle of the Ebro, right before the downfall of the Valencia Region in general and the Castellón Province in particular (shudders). All the lead characters are rightist, while the leftists are portrayed as the bad guys unless they make a right turn (a dentist with «un pasado malo de izquierdismo» lo cual le dio «influencia en aquella sociedad corrompida» [sic]). The leftists defeated at the Ebro are "HOLLOW men" («hombres huecos»). Vae victis! Demonizing the wicked enemy to revel in the victory over them is nothing new under the sun; it's existed for as long as there's warfare.
But we hadn't been conscious of the labels attached to ideologies, religions, ethnic groups... and their negative innuendo before the countercultural revolution of the late 60s.
Victorian fairytales may be the perfect example. To put the most well-known example, the Pickaninny tribe of Neverland has recently been whitewashed over and over again (being portrayed as Caucasians in the latest Pan film): as early as in the 50s Disney film, the Pickaninnies were still so-called redskins, ie racist caricatures of the Sioux and other prairie First Nations tribes (lyrics of their crowd song even suggesting that the first Pickaninny prince turned red, a trait which has been passed to his descendants, due to an awkward crush blush while kissing his bride; and that the term "ugh" came to be when that first leader of the tribe saw his mother in law!)... More redskins appear in the Pecos Bill Texan legends as told by Disney; this time their warpaint runs off as the cowboy chases them, colouring the Painted Desert.
Oscar Wilde's fairytales also offer caricatures of, for instance:

"the old Jews bargaining with each other, and weighing out money in copper scales."

As if the only thing for Jews was greed, and similarly, that Negroes (Sub-Saharans) are prone to quarrel over glass beads:

"The negroes chattered to each other, and began to quarrel over a string of bright beads."

Hollow leftists, Jews bargaining with each other and weighing out money, negroes quarrelling over a string of bright beads. Add foppish gay men and butch lesbians. Nowadays, we frown at the sole thought of such stereotypical caricatures. The concept of human races is outdated. But in fiction from before the countercultural revolution, such stereotypes appear like mushrooms. 


A Croatian lieutenant who took to writing and illustrating storybooks after the Great War (trading the sword for the pen like many others), considered one of the Great Ones of Austrian children's literature, Franz Karl Ginzkey is most renowned for Hatschi Bratschis Luftballon (Hadji Bradji's Hot-Air Balloon), about the all-Austrian boy Fritz whisked away by a malignant and turbaned Turk skilled in sorcery (similar to the Jafar and the evil jinni of 1001 Nights), the titular villain, by means of the titular montgolfière. Turks, that even besieged Vienna more than once, had always been demonised by Austrians. More than Croats, Hungarians, or any other outgroup within the Habsburg Empire. The story ends with Fritz, who had wound up in Turkey after a series of adventures, freeing all of Hadji Bradji's European child prisoners from his dungeons, slaying the sorcerer, and returning in triumph home to Austria, followed by all the children he's freed.

As time has gone by since the Roaring Twenties, the titular villain has been regularly less and less Orientalised, his home country changed from Turkey to some Morningland (Morgenland) in the Middle East, and nowadays the turban and the Hadji title (given to male Muslims who have undertaken their Pilgrimage) are the only things that remain intact in the storybooks. The initially Jafar-esque malignant and turbaned Turk has become a jolly, hefty figure like a Dickensian gentleman (Mr. Fezziwig, Mr. Micawber, Wemmick the Elder...), but still with a sinister side as a child abductor.
Also, the monkey episode. Originally, when Fritz had anchored the balloon on a small island to harvest dates or bananas and have a rest, it were Negro cannibals (Menschenfresser, ie Human-Eaters), who stormed forth to eat his flesh. Just like when it comes to the gipsy outlaws who want to eat Gerda and butcher her entourage in the Fifth Story of The Snow Queen, dark-skinned Others attempt cannibalism on the innocent, blond European child hero/ine, who finds a lucky, providential escape (Gerda is saved by the leader's daughter, Fritz manages to set sail on the balloon just in time). Nowadays, in the present-day updated version, Fritz is attacked by monkeys, who are less interested in his flesh and more in defending the fruit he is wresting from them.

Nazi storybooks like Der Giftpilz (The Poison Mushroom, a series of anecdotes about sinister and/or greedy Jews waylaying innocent Germans), or Der Pudelmopsdackelpinscher (The Poodle-Pug-Dachs-Pinscher, about the counterparts of the Jew in the various provinces of the animal kingdom, one of them being the titular mutt), as well as Francoist kidlit, go the extra mile. The same can also be said about left-wing, let's say Stalinist, propagandistic children's fiction --the far left being as interested in this strategy as the far right--. But still the most vivid examples are from the Third Reich.

In Der Giftpilz, a mother and child, both obviously German (blond, good-looking; all the Jews in this book are dark-haired caricatures with potato noses and thick lips, and sinister looks in their eyes: what a stark contrast to the mother and child in the introduction!), serve as a way to break the ice while picking mushrooms in the woods. 



Jewish lawyers, Der Giftpilz. Contrast the two men on the right with the two girls on the left, and also with the mother and child in the prologue illustration below.


"Just like there are good and bad mushrooms," Mami says, "there are good and bad people. The toxic mushrooms of humankind are the Jews. Often, just like when we take a really poisonous mushroom for an edible one, it's hard to see the Jew as the scoundrel he or she is."
The titles of the stories are as ominous as: 
HOW TO RECOGNISE A JEW, 
HOW A GERMAN FARMER WAS DRIVEN FROM HOUSE AND HOME,
THE EXPERIENCE OF HANS AND ELSA WITH A STRANGER,
INGA'S VISIT TO A JEWISH DOCTOR,
HOW JEWS TREAT THEIR DOMESTIC SERVANTS,
HOW TWO WOMEN WERE TRICKED BY JEWISH LAWYERS,
and
MONEY IS THE GOD OF THE JEWS...

The cover, which has mushrooms with caricature Jewish features not unlike those of the stories' villains, already gives an idea:




It makes even Wilde's "old Jews bargaining with each other, and weighing out money in copper scales" look innocent in comparison.

The same goes for the animals used as counterparts for Jews in Der Pudelmopsdackelpinscher, aside from the titular mutt, which is described as the scourge of the street where the author lives. Most of them are toxic or parasitic species, or pests: hyenas (scavengers), cuckoo chicks (nest parasites), bedbugs (vampiric pests), locusts (crop pests), venomous snakes, and the crowner may be the last two stories about endoparasites: tapeworms and pathogens, respectively.
The first story, the one with the tapeworms, opens with little Hans's Mami, Frau Müller, taking him to an obviously German doctor: "My lad is so weak, so pale, he never smiles... but he eats like a horse, more than both his parents! It happened overnight..." After examining Hans's abdomen, the Herr Doktor breaks the news to a shocked mother and child: "He's got a... tapeworm!" He then explains that it can be several meters long.
FRAU MÜLLER: And does that huge... thing live inside my boy?
HERR DOKTOR: In the gut of a human, it grows to reach that length of several meters.
The Herr Doktor explains that tapeworms wind up in the human gut if the host has ingested rare pork or beef meat, or rare freshwater fish: the pig, the cow, the pike already had the bug in the flesh, and only cooking it well can remove the parasite before it gets in... but this tapeworm is currently feeding off the nutrients Hans has consumed, so he has to take a purgative medicine to flush both the head and all the proglottids of the dead tapeworm out of his system. If the dead head's out, the infestation will be no more, he reiterates, warning Frau Müller to cook her meat and freshwater fish well to kill the cysts and prevent further tapeworm incidents.
This short tale might as well be completely positive tapeworm prophylaxis... if not followed by an allegory of how the Jewish fifth column is undermining, and sapping, the health of the Reich's system from within, and this parasitism will never stop until the land is completely purged of Jews. 
In the next story, in which Jews are compared to pathogens and we see young Hans Müller and the Herr Doktor once more, things get equally ominous. The comparison of a healthy system to a well-ruled state isn't that new either, dating back to the Greeks and/or Egyptians...

ANGEL CAKES (falsetto, mincing on their toetips) One and two and three, four; one and two and three, four... You should marry one of us because we are so good!

Moving away from Nazis and back to Disney before the 1990s Renaissance, and to when-Walt-was-still-alive simple stereotyping (as opposed to propaganda)... from the various stereotypes in the Cookie Carnival short ("queeny" gay angel cakes, alcoholic babas au rhum, a negro Miss Licorice and an Eskimo Miss Coconut), to the jive-talking crows that encourage Dumbo, the yellow-peril Siamese cats who threaten Lady and the Tramp (similarly, space overlord Ming the Merciless of Mongo was distinctly Asian before his skin was changed to chartreuse [tennis ball green-yellow])... Long story short, the redskin Pickaninnies in the 1950s Peter Pan are only the tip of the ominous iceberg.
There was a time before political correctness, and, whether we like it or not, we should take such stereotypes in fiction with a grain of salt. If present-day B movies like Foodfight or Sausage Party want to perpetrate such noxious stereotypes, it's a free world but I'm nevertheless at least slightly offended.


 
The "leftish" drinking chocolate on the left, the "rightish" brand on the right.
There's nothing that says all tub-bathers are rightists and all showerers are leftists. The same goes for brands of drinking chocolate (Cola Cao vs. Nesquik in Spain, Ögon [owned by Fazer] vs. O'Boy in Sweden) and newspapers. Being called a Commie (Sp. "rojo") is as much of a slur as being called a Tory (Sp. "facha"). The lyrics of the Gaber song Destra-Sinistra do nothing more than satirising stereotypes, this time related to ideology. Leftists and rightists are portrayed as not so different at heart: no matter if you have a swim in a private pool or a lake, wash yourself in a tub or a shower, prefer one brand or another... it says that stereotypes are merely labels not to generalise with...

Tutti noi ce la prendiamo con la storia 
ma io dico che la colpa è nostra 
è evidente che la gente è poco seria 
quando parla di sinistra o destra. 

L'ideologia, l'ideologia 
malgrado tutto credo ancora che ci sia 
è il continuare ad affermare 
un pensiero e il suo perché 
con la scusa di un contrasto che non c'è 
se c'è chissà dov'è, se c'é chissà dov'é. 

PS. MORE GREEDY JEWS IN VICTORIAN FICTION:
1) THE THIEF IN "THE DISCONTENTED TREE:"
A well-known moral tale about a conifer tree wishing for other kinds of leaves, I first heard it in kindergarten. His first wish is for golden leaves, but that night a thief (only specified to be a thief in my childhood versions) creeps by and strips the golden tree entirely of leaves. It wasn't until my late teens that I found the original British Victorian versions, in which the thief is a stereotypical old Jew (Replacing "Jew" with "thief," in both the verse and prose versions, was all that the politically correct version needed to set the tale right):

Now, by came a Jew, with a bag on his back,
       who cried, "I'll be rich today!"
He stripped the boughs, and, filling his sack
       with the yellow leaves, walked away!


But as evening drew nigh, an old Jew, with a long beard, came walking through the wood, carrying a heavy sack on his shoulders. When he saw the tree, with its brilliant, glittering foliage, he quickly plucked the golden leaves, one by one, thrust them into his sack, and hastened away, leaving the tree empty and shorn. 



The story is apparently Germanic, "Es ist ein Bäumchen gestanden," written by Friedrich Rückert in 1813, and the original verse/lyrics has "ein Jude" as well. Both schoolroom and home versions of the poem have changed it to "ging ein Räuber durch den Wald" (as it appears as early as in the 1830s version!) in the present day (Considering the impact of the Third Reich, it would come as no surprise)...

ORIGINAL NAPOLEONIC-ERA VERSION:
4. Aber wie es Abend ward,
ging ein Jude durch den Wald
mit großem Sack und langem Bart,
der sieht die goldnen Blätter bald;
Er steckt sie ein, geht eilends fort
und läßt das leere Bäumlein dort.


1830s VERSION, SUNG AT SCHOOL AND HOME IN PRESENT-DAY GERMANY:
4. Aber wie es Abend ward,
ging ein Räuber durch den Wald
mit großem Sack und langem Bart,
der sieht die goldnen Blätter bald;
Er steckt sie ein, geht eilends fort
und läßt das leere Bäumlein dort.


The reception of the Bäumchen song has appeared to fluctuate throughout German history, and one may trace a history of anti-Semitism and political correctness within the Germanosphere by simply regarding the timeline: the first Räuber version was published already as early as in the 1830s, but a Jude version from the 1840s was also quite popular... the Jude and Räuber version must have coexisted in the Kaiserzeit and the interbellum period... but the nail in the coffin, the last iteration, of the Jude lyrics was Heinz Tischmeyer's 1940 propagandistic animated short film adaptation of the song, like a black-and-white animated music video or a Disney Silly Symphony, but made by Nazis. Consider that the short was made in the Third Reich, and that, ever since its fall, the canonical, official Bäumchen song has been and is the Räuber version!

The Grimms also have a story with the antagonist title "The Jew in the Thorns," but nowadays mostly known as "The Dance in the Thorns" ("Der Tanz im Dorn", Germanophone title) or "The Miser in the Thorns" (Anglophone title), the villain torn down to a generic scrooge (or "Geizhals", in German) who might as well profess any creed.




2) THE CHEATING JEWELLER IN THE ORIGINAL "ALADDIN" TALE:
When he goes to sell the valuables he found in the cave of wonders, Aladdin, or rather Ala-ed-Din --in the written 1001 Nights-- goes to a pair of jewellers, the first of whom cheats him of his rarities. He then goes to the second, more honest jeweller, and gets the price right. In the uncensored version of the tale, the first jeweller was a Jew, "viler than all the devils" (and the other jeweller, a decent Muslim sheik):


So perceiving that nothing remained to them to eat, he arose, and took one of the plates which the slave (the genie/jinni) had brought on the tray, which were of pure gold, though he knew it not; and he went with it to the market. And there met him a Jew, viler than the devils, and to him he offered the plate. And when the Jew saw it, he took ‘Ala-ed-Din aside so that none should see, and examined the plate carefully and assured himself that it was of fine gold; and not knowing whether ‘Ala-ed-Din was acquainted with its worth or was inexperienced in such things, he said to him: “How much, O my master, is this dish?” And ‘Ala-ed-Din answered, “Thou knowest its value.” And the Jew considered how much he should bid for it, since ‘Ala-ed-Din had answered him a business-like answer; so he thought to offer him a small price, and yet he feared that ‘Ala-ed-Din might know the value of it and expect to receive a high price. So he said within himself: “Perchance he is ignorant of it and knoweth not the value.” Then he took from his pocket a dinar of gold and gave it him. And when ‘Ala-ed-Din had looked at the piece of gold in his hand, he took it and quickly went away. So the Jew knew that the youth did not understand the value of the plate, so he repented with abject repentance that he had given him a dinar instead of a carat of a sixtieth. ‘Ala-ed-Din meanwhile did not tarry, but went to the baker’s and bought of him bread and changed the dinar and took and went to his mother and gave her the bread and the change of the gold, and said to her: “O my mother, go and buy for us what we need.” And she arose and went to the market and bought all they required, and they ate and were merry. And every time the price of a plate was exhausted, ‘Ala-ed-Din took another and went with it to the Jew, and the accursed Hebrew bought it of him for a pitiful price; and he would have reduced the price further, but he was afraid, as he had given him a dinar the first time, that if he reduced it the youth would go away and sell to some one else, and he would thus lose his usurious gains. And ‘Ala-ed-Din ceased not to sell plate after plate till all were sold, and there remained only the tray on which the plates were set; and as this was large and heavy, he went and brought the Jew to his house, and shewed him the tray, and when he saw its size he gave him ten dinars, which ‘Ala-ed-Din took, and the Jew departed. And ‘Ala-ed-Din and his mother subsisted on the ten dinars till they were done.  20
  Then ‘Ala-ed-Din arose and fetched the Lamp, and rubbed it, and there appeared before him the Slave who had appeared to him before. And the Jinni said to him: “Command what thou wilt, O my master, for I am thy slave and the slave of him who possesseth the Lamp.” And ‘Ala-ed-Din answered: “My desire is that thou bring me a tray of food like unto that which thou didst bring me before, for I am starving.” Then, in the twinkling of an eye, the Slave brought him a tray, like the one he came with before; and on it were twelve plates of the richest, and on them the proper viands; and on the tray were also bottles of clear wine and white bread. Now ‘Ala-ed-Din’s mother had gone forth when she knew that her son intended to rub the Lamp, that she might not look a second time upon the Jinni; and presently she came home and perceived this tray, covered with dishes of silver, and the odour of rich viands permeating her house; and she wondered and rejoiced. And ‘Ala-ed-Din said to her: “See, O my mother, thou didst tell me to cast away the Lamp; behold now its advantages!” And she answered: “O my son, God multiply his weal! but I would not look upon him.” Then ‘Ala-ed-Din and his mother sat down to the tray, and ate and drank till they were satisfied; and they put aside what was left for the morrow. And when the food they had was finished, ‘Ala-ed-Din arose and took a plate of the plates of the tray under his garment and sallied forth in quest of the Jew to sell it to him; but by the decrees of destiny he passed by the shop of an honest jeweller, a sheykh, who was a just man and feared God. And when the jeweller sheykh saw ‘Ala-ed-Din he questioned him, saying: “O my son, what dost thou want? for I have seen thee often passing by, and thou wast dealing with a Jewish man, and I have seen thee making over to him various things, and I am thinking that thou hast something with thee now, and thou seekest him to buy it. But thou dost not know, O my son, that the property of the Muslims, who profess the Unity of God Most High, is fair spoil to the Jews, who always defraud them, and worst of all this damned Jew with whom thou hast dealt and into whose hands thou hast fallen. So if thou hast with thee, O my son, anything thou wishest to sell, shew it me, and fear not at all, for I will give thee its value by the truth of the Most High God.” So ‘Ala-ed-Din produced the plate before the sheykh, who when he had looked upon it, took it and weighed it in his balance, and questioned ‘Ala-ed-Din and said: “Didst thou sell the like of this to the Jew?” And he answered, “Yes, its like and its brother.” And the other said: “How much did he give thee for its price?” And he answered, “He gave me a dinar.” And when the sheykh heard from ‘Ala-ed-Din that the Jew had given him only a single dinar for the price of the plate, he exclaimed: “Woe to this accursed who cheats the servants of the Most High God!” And looking at ‘Ala-ed-Din he said: “O my son, verily this rascally Jew hath cheated thee and mocked at thee; for thy plate is of fine virgin silver; and I have weighed it and found its value to be seventy dinars. So if thou wilt take its price, take it.” And the jeweller sheykh counted out to him seventy dinars, and ‘Ala-ed-Din took them, and thanked him for his kindness in shewing him the Jew’s fraud. And whenever the price of a plate was gone, he went and brought another, so that he and his mother became well to do, though they ceased not to live as of old, as middle-class people, without excess or waste.  21
  

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