Pekka ja Pätkä n-word movie with blackface actors raises questions and outrage in Finland

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Contrary to 2014, when YLE aired Pekka ja Pätkä n-word (1960),  the new showing of the movie Wednesday with blackface actors raised quite a storm on social media and was even reported by MTV, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, and HBL

Apart from showing a racist movie that insults black people, showing it during a time when anti-immigration sentiment and xenophobia is another question that it raises.

Reaction to the movie was so strong on social media that the program manager of TV1, Pentti Väliahdet, released a statement below.


The statement doesn’t do any justice to some of the 31,000-strong African and Afrofinn community in Finland and doesn’t even offer an apology.

YLE appears defiant showing its white privilege and power.

Väliahdet justifies the airing of the movie by stating that one of YLE’s  responsibilitiies is to air black-and-white Finnish movies from 1940-60. Older viewers watch these movies, according to him.

“The movie should be seen and studied from the perspective of when it was filmed [in 1960]. Finland was back then an isolated country and we didn’t see any dark-skinned people in public. This move pictures above all Finnish attitudes and prejudices [towards blacks]. To those type of people the movie laughs at them, and even the viewer should laugh at the attitudes and prejudices of those times.”

Some of the comments that Migrant Tales received were equally surprising since they justified “the attitudes and prejudices” of those time against blacks.

One comment on Facebook stated that the Pekka ja Pätkä movie with blackface actors and another one that is even more racist called Ketjukolari aired by YLE in September, “were not demeaning, they were meant to be adventurous with comedic effects.”

He continues: “Not to mention that there actually WERE cannibals in Africa during that time [when the movie Ketjukolari was filmed in 1957]. Of course, there are people who get offended by anything, be it race, political views, sexuality or culture, but tolerance also works both ways.”

The statement by YLE and the comment above are points of views by white people of  blacks.

D4R, a longtime blogger at Migrant Tales, is black.

He writes: This movies [Pekka ja Pätkä n-word and Ketjukolari] are very harmful to colored kids living in Finland. It has negative stereotypes about africans. In USA they used to make fun of black people by wearing black faces and in some movies just to amuse white people and white people used to laugh at black people because they saw them as lesser humans almost comparable to apes. Name ommited, your justification for this movies is very weak because you say it was something to do with the past, well in the past we humans were ignorant about many things, racism used to be normal part of life among white people. We shouldn’t go back to ignorant times so more people can be harmed, we should wise up and correct our behaviour.

When I was a child in Finnish school, Finnish kids were mocking me and making fun of my appearances, I wonder where they get those ideas to mock me. I dont want any other colored kid to go through what I went through. this needs to stop and yle needs to stop showing these hrmful movies. Some kids picked on me at school because of the image the media fed to kids and teenagers [about blacks].”

Let’s hope these two movies are aired for the last time on Finnish television.

If they are, however, aired for some reason again, they should carry the following warning: The movie has racist content that could insult some viewers and reinforce social ills like bigotry, prejudice, and other anti-social attitudes. 

  1. PS voter

    Anything can insult somebody, but that is not a good reason to sensor content. For example, I could say that this kind of artificial and manufactured “scandals” and faked outrage, like about these Pekka ja Pätkä movies, really offends intelligence and me. Isn’t there any real problems needing addressing when you have to make a mountain out of a molehill?

    Besides, I think not that many persons have even see this movie when it was shown on TV. I think it was shown during daytime, when children are at school and most adults at work. This is really a case of making a mountain out of a molehill, especially as the movie doesn’t really seem to be that racist in the first place.

    And it is stupid to get upset about the fact that word neekeri was used in the movie. Especially during that time, neekeri was proper word. We should have never imported this artificial outrage against using it from United States, especially when we remember that during history blacks themselves considered the negro the proper word to use and considered the word “black” as offensive. This is why some names of old African-American institutions etc still carry the word negro.

    There isn’t really anything offensive in the word neekeri in itself, if you really think about this issue by yourself instead of just copying the reaction to be offended about it from others. It is just word “black” in some other language, that has been slightly altered in order to make it a Finnish word. Loan words are very common in all languages.

    I really think that black persons themselves should reclaim word neekeri for neutral use. Just like sexual and gender minorities have done to the word queer (Wikipedia has more information about this). And we should remember that African-Americans by themselves even use a lot of words nigger or nigga in their own movies.