Cheese ad misses the mark on ethnic stereotypes

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There is a lot of cheese adverts in the Netherlands, but this cheese brand usually has beautiful Caucasian/Dutch people frolicking in the fields, with glimpses of breasts.

Here’s how this advert goes:

“In an ideal world, the Netherlands would be one big village.”
– ‘Morning!
– ‘Morning!
Then it goes on to say what farmers and farm girls would look like, emphasising they’d of course be young and have hair, not be old and balding. And eat said cheese brand.

Then we see farm girls, then we name the girls (typical farm region names), then Fatima. The narrator says “Fatima? Ooh, that’s good too!” implying that because she’s pretty, it’s OK. A giggle ensues.

In a time of political backlash against anything not perceived as being traditionally Dutch or Frisian with blond hair and blue eyes, this brand does a good job of throwing in ‘Fatima’ for good measure. The problem is, since the Dutch stereotype is highly exaggerated, throwing in a normal looking, non-exaggerated Fatima just doesn’t work and makes her an anomaly.

In many other Western countries, it’s downright normal for people of different cultures to be lumped in to the identity of a country. I’ve seen Spanish adverts with blonds, Italian ads with redheads and Asian-looking people in adverts of all kinds . They all belong there, but in this case, Fatima just doesn’t.

The message here is that Fatima was put there ‘as a joke’ and doesn’t belong there. Had they exaggerated her, it might have worked. Fatima is an oddball that unfortunately reinforces the Dutch stereotype of what is Dutch and what is not. Remember: 20% of the 16.5 million people in this country just voted for a right-wing, racist and anti-Muslim party in the last national elections.

In my ideal Netherlands, everybody counts, young or old, cheese or not, Fatima or not.

8 Comments »

  1. I disagree, I thought it was well made.

    Comment by Branko Collin — June 29, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  2. It was well produced of course, but the point doesn’t work.

    Comment by Orangemaster — June 29, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  3. I think it’s perfectly accurate to call this ad racist (not to mention the obvious sexism): Dutch equals white and blonde, others are well, ‘others’.

    Comment by dersk — June 29, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

  4. Let’s not forget this is the country that gave us Ushi= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CGMG9F0Gck

    Comment by ratkat — June 29, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  5. By the many comments, I see this post has a lot of interest.

    If the advert is considered by most most/many Dutch people to be written in good taste(pun not intended) then it does say something about the society – the narrative and how its told – is acceptable to most people.

    The way Orangemaster links the commercial with right-leaning voters may not lead to a reasonable conclusion but then Orangemaster is simply concluding about her preference for a more ideal Netherlands, one that is tolerant of diversity in its self-image.

    For me, it is interesting discussion becuase I have not lived in the Netherlands and I am interested in Dutch society and values because my people came from a small town near Elberg five generations ago.

    Comment by Neil — June 29, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

  6. It’s the equivalent of someone saying “Some of my best friends are black/jewish/gay/turkish” etc. — the person making the comment thinks he’s showing how modern and tolerant he is, when in fact he’s showing just the opposite.

    Comment by eduard — June 29, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

  7. The Dutch have a history of these things, Zwarte Piet being the most infamous – they are not badly intentioned (or “slecht bedoeld” in Dutch), but racial stereotyping is quite mainstream here and the usual defense is that it’s not “slecht bedoeld”….the Dutch also seem to be very hesitant to cave in to what people from outside their country think (in many aspects, for example, the “coffeeshops”, legal prostitution, euthenasia, etc)….they are not the most empathetic people, however, so I think it is difficult for them to accept or understand what the fuss is about. They seem to have a “if it offends you, that’s your problem” attitude. I see their point on some levels, given how insane political correctness has become, especially in the US. I think they fail to grasp how these subtle things can shape people’s, especially children’s, perceptions, even subconsciously. I am fairly certain that back in the 1920’s, the blacked-up minstrel performers would have said it was not badly intentioned, just a bit of fun.

    Comment by ratkat — June 29, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

  8. Maybe he’s trying to show that Fatimas are an ideal part of Dutch Society, but that many Dutch would not consider that to be so, and should therefore think again. We could say that narrator has prejudices, and he is used in the advert to show that those prejudices are unfounded.

    Comment by BM — June 30, 2010 @ 9:55 am

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