I eat stereotypes like you for breakfast.

In advertising, branding, land o lakes, noble savage, plains, Stereotype Breakfast, stereotypes by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

My friend Jeremiah sent me this picture last night via twitter, and in my head, I thought “I could make some stereotype biscuits for breakfast!” Which got me thinking. How many products with stereotypical imagery could I fit in one imaginary breakfast?

All of these products are readily available (though some are regional), and I decided not to include vintage products, because that would mean about 2 million more pictures. Ready? Welcome, dear friends, to the first annual Stereotype Breakfast(TM)!

On our fictional menu: Cornbread with butter and honey, orange juice, toast, iced tea, and then some bonus snacks and drinks for the rest of the day. Who knew racial inequality could be so yummy?!
So our cornbread is ready to go, made with the Calumet baking powder and Indian Head Corn Meal pictured above. Served with some, of course, Land ‘O Lakes butter
and some Sue Bee Honey:
Close up on the logo, in case you can’t see it (is she saying “how”? omggaasjfbkh, how ADORABLE!):
Then I think I’ll have some toast. Hmmm, this one looks good! Oh wait, WHAT?

Ok, so maybe no toast. I’ll just have some Orangina

You know, I’d prefer it if my orange juice didn’t wear a sacred headdress. Iced Tea, perhaps?
Guess not. Well, we could screw the whole breakfast idea and just have some ice cream. Who doesn’t love ice cream? 
Yeah. That didn’t work out too well. Good thing I have my soda and snacks to hold me over for the rest of the day…
Cherikee Red. My favorite. With the authentic Cherokee regalia on the front and everything! And don’t forget the Beef Jerky:
Something in here stinks. It must be all this racism. Good thing I’ve got my air freshener right here:
The sad thing is I could keep going and going…I’m sure you come across other products in your daily life as well (feel free to share in the comments). And this is just food. In isolation, each of these would seem like no big deal–these are the “good” stereotypical images. The “noble savage.” No wild eyes or big noses, just headdresses and Indian maidens. But when taken as a collective, is it any wonder that most people in the world think of Native peoples as headdress-wearing Plains chiefs or buckskin-clad Indian women? I’m not saying there isn’t stereotypical imagery of other racial/ethnic groups in branding, but the ubiquity of Native imagery is striking. 
Many/most of these products have “historic” ties to the logo, but that’s no excuse. If you look in the “about” pages of the companies, many of them mention the wish of the founders of the company to “honor” the local Native peoples. But, for example, sorry Umpqua Ice Cream, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians don’t wear plains headdresses. It’s 2012. I think it’s time to critically examine the way that Native peoples are represented in branding and advertising. Why is this still socially acceptable? 
Much like Indian mascots, these images are not “honoring,” they serve to collapse hundreds of distinct nations and cultures into one stereotypical lump, and perpetuate stereotypes of Native peoples living like they did in the 1700’s, rather than modern people who are shopping at the local Star Mart (without a headdress on). Truly, for many people, these are the only representations of American Indians that they see. Add on to that Indian mascots, hollywood stereotypes like Tonto and Twilight, and is it any wonder that Native peoples and issues continue to be marginalized and forgotten? How is a small child supposed to know that all Indians don’t say “how” and wear feathered headdresses everyday, when every morning they are putting Land ‘O Lakes butter  and Sue Bee Honey on their squ*w bread? 
I don’t know about you, but this breakfast didn’t sit too well with me. Turns out racial inequality isn’t so yummy, it just makes my stomach hurt. 
(Thanks Jeremiah!)