DisOrienting

April 5, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Posted in food, vie quotidienne | 8 Comments

McOriental

File this under: Things McDonalds wouldn’t get away with in the US. Oddly, I don’t think the name would even make sense in America — offensiveness aside, people would probably assume that a McOriental involved chop suey or some other Chinese-American dish. In fact, the only thing that makes this sandwich “oriental” is the use of flat bread and meat spiced with cumin and coriander. So I think it’s supposed to be more Middle Eastern than Far Eastern.

Still, you might think McDonalds would have learned their lesson from the McAfrika flap.

Still, say what you want about the global fast food industry — at least they’re not responsible for this cheerful display, found just around the corner from me on Mouffetard:

Au Negre Joyeux

The Happy Negro? Serving tea to his white mistress? I — uh — Yeah, words fail me.

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8 Comments

  1. Ah relics from times before political correctness. Offensive and racist? Naturally. But when it was made, nobody realised that or even cared.

    Europe does not have such a large number of blacks as the U.S. does, and the history of colonialism is not the black mark in history that slavery was to the U.S. (or at least Europe doesn’t see it as a black mark).

    Racial sensitivity was very low untill the sixties and references to black people being used as servants or mascots are frequent. Only the last 50 years has Europe been confronted with multi-etnicity on a large scale, and only that caused the birth of the sensitivity.

    To the French, this was not as offensive as it would be to Americans, since Europeans see a person employed as a servant, while Americans see a slave.

    And many things that could be considered offensive are surviving, not because people don’t realise it’s offensiveness now, but because of tradition and culture. In the Netherlands, Saint Nicolas comes to visit on the 5th of december. He is accompanied by servants, and you can see hundreds even thousands of people with black-painted faces running trought the streets then, acting silly, acrobatic and somewhat dimwitted, but always smiling and happy;

    Almost nobody there realises they are supposed to be black people and that it in fact is a racial parody.

    And when you were to point out the painting to Parisians now and tell them how you feel it is offending, many would need a few seconds to realise why it is offending. After that they will very likely agree with you, but claim that it was not “meant to be offensive” and is from another time.

  2. Interesting analysis, Chris. I wonder if Europeans of African descent would find such displays as charming as you do.

  3. I don’t find them “charming” actually. I’m just trying to show why they are there and few people see them in that light unless they think about it.

  4. Something about eating candy eggs spawned inside a large chocolate fish seems less appealing that eating the ear of a chocolate rabbit.

    Did you see Polly Vous Francais’ Easter joke?

    Why do the French love Easter so much?

    Because it’s a Bunny Day! 🙂

  5. Ya know, I think I did happen to notice this ad recently, and I stopped for a second to do a double-take and to see what exactly made the sandwich “oriental” as they claimed… But then I went on my merry way and didn’t think about it again ’til I saw it here, Amy — and you’re right, something about it just seems a bit bizarre! That’s the McDonald’s way of attempting to “adapt” their fast-food programs to each culture — sometimes it really is a complete flop! I think they should just stick to what they do best — les frites et les milkshakes! (Still, I was saddened to find quite recently that you simply cannot get a chocolate milkshake at the McDos in France — I’m absolutely certain you could in the past, who knows how long ago, but the lady at the counter told me this was not the case… Bummer! My favorite flavor after all.)

  6. Ah la la! Que les français sont Ă©tranges n’est-ce pas? 🙂 Nous ne faisons pas la diffĂ©rence au niveau du langage pour “l’Orient”… Bien sĂ»r le terme “Moyen Orient” existe, mais le français moyen l’emploie peu j’ai remarquĂ©! Aussi, “oriental” s’emploie pour la Chine comme pour la Turquie (sauf peut-ĂȘtre lorsqu’elle fera partie de l’Europe!!!). 😉 Tu aurais peut-ĂȘtre trouvĂ© McKebab moins perturbant? 🙂

  7. Yeah, I’ve been seeing this ad around and having a bit of a eye-roll/chuckle. It reminds me a bit of the way blackness and indigenousness work in my parents’ countries of origin. In both Columbia and Peru (especially in north-costal Columbia), it’s very common for white folk to call black people they don’t know as negrito/a (“little black man / woman”). In certain places, black folk call whites blanquito/a (“litte white man / woman”), but in other places, they call white folk “sir” or “madam” or some other honorific. Interestingly enough, the same relationship doesn’t hold between whites and aboriginals (so far as I know). What’s interesting about these situations is that there is a form of racism active, but it’s a “soft” racism of affection and infantilization, rather than fear or scorn.

    Mind you, I don’t things translate perfectly onto France’s leftovers of nĂ©gritude and legacy of colonialism. There is a thrift store that I pass whenever I go to the grocery store nearby. In the window, there is a set of kitschy plastic sculptures that are all minstrel-like caricatures of the “happy plantation negro,” with exaggerated body dimensions and all that. I didn’t see much of that in Peru or Colombia.

    I think part of the reason why certain racial discourses seem to circulate problem-free in parts of Europe is because the populations that are affected by it don’t have the massive and organized voice that blacks (and to a lesser extent other minorities) have in the states. Notably to say that “A French person would say there was no harm meant in that painting” I think implies that the French person you’re asking is white…

  8. Notably to say that “A French person would say there was no harm meant in that painting” I think implies that the French person you’re asking is white


    Luis, that’s exactly what I was thinking. A country doesn’t need a history of slavery to have a problem with racism.


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