Last week confectionery giant Fazer announced that the product was to be re-designed after complaints that the current packaging featured a “racist” image.
“Kinapuffar” (literally: Chinese pops) is a chocolate-covered sweet with packaging that features a caricature of a bright yellow Chinese face with a red pointed rice hat.
Fazer’s move to change the packaging came in response to the debate following the publishing of a column in Swedish newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad (HD) which questioned the stereotypcal picture used to market the sweet.
In his column, HD journalist Patrik Lundberg wrote that “to joke and laugh at Asians seems to be the only racism which can pass by unremarked”.
“All it takes is stretching your eyes with your fingers or saying L instead of R, then the audience explodes with laughter,” Lundberg wrote.
After Fazer’s decision to revamp the packaging, Swedish artist Lars Vilks wrote an opinion piece on a Sveriges Television (SVT) website where he said that Lundberg was fighting a losing battle if he hoped to eradicate national stereotypes.
“It is probably impossible to get rid of prejudicial opinions on ethnic and national differences. You can tire yourself out by straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel,” Vilks wrote.
Lundberg, however, was quick to respond.
“Vilks is urging people to just ignore these things. I suggest we all ignore Lars Vilks’ opinion on the matter and instead do our best to treat our fellow human beings the way we want to be treated ourselves,” Lundberg wrote.
Although Fazer’s sweet might be a small matter in the larger scale of things, wrote Lundberg, “it doesn’t mean that it is OK to go up to me and stretch one’s eyes , or shouting ‘Chinese-bastard’ to me in a bar. It doesn’t mean that someone gets to call my Asian girl-friends Thai whores”.
However, when SVT asked a thousand Swedes whether they thought the picture was offensive, only 3 percent said that they did.
Although there was little difference between men and women’s answers, in the age group 15-29, eight out of a hundred said they found the picture in bad taste, which was slightly higher than the average.