Friday, March 30, 2007

Is Robert Guillaume available?

Y'all know who Uncle Ben is, right? At least you know his rice - wholesome grains of white or brown rice that go with everything from stir-fry to rice pudding. For decades one of the most popular brands of rice has been Uncle Ben's, and for just as long the symbol of the company was, well, Uncle Ben, an old black man in a snappy suit who was always beaming, even though he seemed to be nothing more than a servant in the employ of rich, white folk. Them were the days, right?

Well, not anymore. In an effort to return to the modern confines of the 21st century, Mars, the food company that owns the Uncle Ben's brand, has transformed its mascot from an old and wizened African-American man at the bottom of the economic ladder into an old and wizened African-American man who now runs the entire freakin' operation. That's right - Uncle Ben is movin' on up to his own deluxe apartment in the sky - or, at least, a deluxe office.

The reason for this update is obvious - in a world where the most powerful person in the country is black, when a black man is a legitimate candidate for president, when African-Americans are winning Oscars with nary a eye blinked, it really didn't make much sense for Mars to be using a stereotypical Negro as the face of one of its products. Thus, the makeover. But will it work? (Hey, it worked for Benson DuBois.) And what does this mean for Aunt Jemina? Two words: Dr. 90210.

1 comment:

jimikeen said...

I have written on this topic twice! Once while he was just palin old Uncle Ben and just a day or so ago, I found an article in the New York Times about it. I tied it into the Imus mess to make an example how racist images can change over time.