The decision by the Council of Ethics in Advertising of Finland that there was nothing wrong with Fazer’s gigolo television commercial says a lot about why there is so little respect towards minorities in this country. For those who lived in Finland in the 1970s, Fazer’s gigolo was the typical stereotype of the southern European man, who spoke broken Finnish, was useless but was a good lover.
Irwin Goodman even wrote a racist song about the ‘gigolo’ called Marcello Magaoni, or Marcello Macaroni. There a similar song in the 1970s by Esa Pakainen, who masqueraded in a 1960 Finnish movie as a blackface with his partner Pätkä.
In a similar story in Sweden in July, some members of the Finnish community in Sweden were outraged about a Heikki the drunk character in a book that they claimed reinforced stereotypes about Finns in Sweden.
Why does a large sweets company like Fazer of Finland think that it’s perfectly acceptable to reinforce stereotypes about minorities in order to boost sales? Are they saying that ‘humorous’ racist stereotypes hit the spot with Finnish consumers?
The response of the Council of Ethic in Advertising is one matter but the comments from readers on different newspapers are just as revealing.
The lion’s share of those responses about the Fazer gigolo didn’t see anything racist or wrong with the commercial and agreed with the Council of Ethics in Advertising that it was humorous.
Writes Pantterit on parhaita: ‘That was a really funny commercial.’
Funny? Certainly if you are white.
Read more comments (in Finnish) on Lappeenranta-based daily Etelä-Saimaa.
Why does Fazer think that the way to Finnish consumers’ heart is with the help of ethnicity and race? In 2007, after mounting pressure from the EU, it stopped using its infamous golliwog on its licorice brand and in it stopped using a Chinese man or women in one of its products in 2011.
Migrant Tales filed a complaint to the Council of Ethic in Advertising because the commercial promoted stereotypes of southern European men. Stereotypes are the breeding ground from with the fruits of intolerance feed off.
The decision by the Council and the reaction of many readers clearly shows how little weight migrants and minorities continue to have in Finland.
I for one will be one person who will boycott Fazer products and I hope that many more will do the same.