Mayan group's logo too much like Toucan Sam, Kellogg's squawks
By Tiffany Hsu
The group added its own accusation: Kellogg’s Froot Loops advertising strategy sends racist messages to its young target audience with the presence of a dark-skinned villain named the Greedy Witch Doctor who steals from children, it said.
Kellogg quickly removed the video after people noted it was blatantly racist. But every good blogger knows to save screen images of controversial items. So let's see how many problems this commercial has:
What's going on here is obvious. The commercial is treating Indians as primitive people of the past. There's no hint whatsoever that millions of Maya Indians still live in Central America.
"There are no Maya Indians or government officials around. Let's climb these irreplaceable ruins without permission."
We've seen this attitude in everything from the Indiana Jones movies to Avatar. It's a classic example of Western (white) privilege in action. Historically, Euro-Americans haven't cared if someone owned something they wanted. They simply assumed their divine right to possess everything and took it.
"Treasure! I see, I want, I take! Because I'm an American toucan!"
Note the unintentional irony when they call the witch doctor "greedy." They think he's greedy because he objects to their taking his possessions without permission. Another word for the toucans' actions is thievery.
In reality, the toucans are the greedy ones. They want something they haven't earned. They exemplify this infamous John Wayne quote:
"No, you can't have my Froot Loops. I'm greedily keeping them to myself rather than giving them to you for no reason."
Indian looks evil
"Look closely at my beady little eyes and big hooked nose. And the weird lighting that keeps most of my body in shadow even though you toucans are well-lit. Clearly I'm not just evil, I'm evil incarnate. I'm as evil as the Jews who were also caricatured like this."
The point again is obvious. According to this commercial, Native religion is primitive, superstitious nature worship. It's a Halloween mask, chant, and dance. And Kellogg can fabricate Maya beliefs because (it thinks) no one is left to care.
"All us superstitious savages practice primitive rites that involve black magic. Here's an example."
Catholic Witch Doctor?
Imagine the toucans entered a cathedral and said they wanted the gold altarpieces. A Catholic priest in a toucan outfit tried to stop them. He used magic dust to scare them off with images of Christian saints. Like Kellogg's Indian, he's identified as "Greedy Witch Doctor."
This scenario is identical to the one in the commercial, but it's inconceivable that it would appear in America's mainstream media. People would immediately condemn it as false and prejudiced. Kellogg would apologize profusely, chastise the executives who approved it, terminate the ad agency, etc.
But, some may object, the scenarios are not identical. Catholic priests don't wear toucan outfits and aren't witch doctors. That's the point: The same is true of Maya priests.
In fact, central Africa is much closer to the Vatican than it is to Mesoamerica. Some Africans are now Catholic bishops and priests. And Catholic ceremonies supposedly heal or prevent Satanic influences, same as witch-doctoring. So a Catholic priest has more in common with a witch doctor than a Maya priest does.
No blacks, just Indians
It goes without saying that Kellogg would never show an actual witch doctor. You know, an African in a grass skirt with a bone through his nose. Like the one below.
But the company thought nothing of showing an evil Indian in the same position. Once again, Indians win the "Oppression Olympics." Sometimes America's racism is simply incredible.
For more on the subject, see Stereotypes in Tarzan of the Apes, Tribalism in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and Indian Religion Isn't Shamanism.