American Girl’s Hawaiian doll is a Caucasian

Hawaiian my assWhen last we checked in with American Girl™®© they were selling a doll which they described as homeless for a mere $95. But that’s so 2009. They are kicking off this year with their 2011 Girl Of The Year®, Kanani Akina™ who “loves welcoming visitors to her Hawaiian home.” No big deal if it weren’t for the fact that Kanani has dark blonde hair, brown eyes and a skin color that suggests a health-minded approach to tanning. In other words, she doesn’t look in the least bit like actual native Hawaiians who usually have black hair, black eyes and a darker skin color. It is especially odd that American Girl™®© decided to call American Surfer Girl Hawaiian at a time when The World’s Most Famous Hawaiian (and Leader of The Free World™®©) is known for his surfeit of melanin.

lilo2In Hawaiian Kanani means"the beautiful one." Apparently the beautiful one in Hawaii is Haole. While her last name, Akina, may sound Hawaiian it is actually Japanese (another group known primarily for black hair and eyes and a distinctly non-Caucasian skin tone). So American Girl™®© just decided to appropriate some ethnic sounding names, put a flower in the doll’s hair and call it Hawaiian. Aznuts, as the Hawaiians say. Hell, even Disney – which has a very long history of messing up on ethnic issues — was able to do this right.

wolf13This doll was brought to my attention by my wife, Jennifer — aka “Mrs. CollateralDamage” aka “Broke Hoedown” aka “One of Those Darn Cats” – who has spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii and so was totally flabbergasted when she came across it that her eyes did that Tex Avery thing. For that, at least, I can say, “Well done, American Girl™®©!”

BTW, Soong-Chan Rah has a wonderful tale of a parent and child dealing with American Girl’s issues around ethnicity. Highly recommended.

Why I’m over “Breast Cancer Awareness” marketing

tng-badge10 Back in the day – in this case the early ‘90s – I had many friends with HIV and/or AIDS. One of whom, a true gentleman named John Kelley, wore on his jacket a Star Trek badge (right) and a red ribbon which many people were wearing then to show they knew AIDS existed. When asked about this heraldry he would respond, “Because Star Fleet cares about AIDS.” (RIP, dear John.) Which is pretty much where I’m at with all the pink that washes over marketing each October.

Let me make one thing very clear: Like everyone else, I know many people who have had breast (and other types of) cancer. One of those is Mother CollateralDamage. So it will not surprise you to learn that I, like everyone else, don’t like cancer. Now plenty of companies have done a lot to help fund research into preventing breast cancer and to them I say, “You may stop reading now.” The other day the family was driving by the HQ of New Balance sneakers and we noticed a large pink ribbon affixed to the building. Mrs. CollateralDamage: “They’ve earned it.”

But the problem is that many companies are now just slapping pink on the product or advertising and claiming they support “Breast Cancer Awareness.” As a commenter on a wonderful NYT column about Pink Ribbon Fatigue put it, “Buying stuff with pink ribbons will send some money to research and/or outreach, but it hard to tell how much that yoplait helps. Posting ‘awareness’ status updates on facebook does absolutely nothing – I have yet to meet a person that wasn’t aware of breast cancer’s existence."

pink-your-drink1-250x255 My current favorite bizarro pink item is the Chambord special breast cancer edition liquor bottles. They were brought to my attention via this wonderful blog post at Change.Org by Brie Cadman entitled “Pink Ribbon Hypocrisy: Boozing It Up For Breast Cancer.” Ms. Cadman is understandably irate over companies that contribute to the causes of breast cancer then trying to earn good will via the Big Pink:

The biggest offenders are fast food and alcohol companies. According to the National Cancer Institute, both obesity and alcohol are associated with an increased breast cancer risk. Yet that hasn’t stopped these companies from claiming their goods help support or even prevent the disease. First off is KFC, the company that seems to know no bounds when it comes to using women to sell their products. The last time we checked in with the fried-chicken-slinging folks, they were using college women’s bums to promote their own buns. But they’re also capitalizing on breast cancer by selling pink buckets and donating $0.50 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

While I don’t agree with all Ms. Cadman’s arguments, I think they are part of a much needed dash of reality. Consumers need to be a lot more diligent about what a company means when it says it is “supporting” a charity.

Some parts of this all this pinkosity I enjoy: Like the sight of professional baseball players having to make the Freudian subtext obvious by playing with pink bats. I just wonder how much good this actually does. I would be more impressed if more emphasis was put on helping an actual person cope with cancer treatment. Bring them a meal, if they want one. Hang out after the chemo when they have no energy and feel like crap and don’t want to be alone and are afraid they’re of being a burden to family and friends. Take them to a movie. Be available for middle of the night phone calls. Run errands, etc., etc., etc. Let’s move “cancer awareness” from the generic, wholesale level to a more personal, retail experience. It’s easy to support “people” with cancer, it is much harder to support an actual person.

And remember, Star Fleet cares about people with breast cancer.

Or, to quote DeathStarPR: “Earth, we can help you #beatcancer. Side effects may include loss of: sunsets, life on Earth, Earth itself. Because we care.#deathstarcares

Interview with a cranky guy talking about Disney, Epcot and American history

TDC Apparently it was a slow news week on the Disney front because Mrs. CollateralDamage had to resort to interviewing me for her podcast, Those Darn Cats. Mostly I talk about how Disney screwed up the telling of American history in the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot. Don’t tell anyone but I also say a few nice things about the House of Mouse, too.

Click here to listen or you can find it on iTunes under … wait for it … Those Darn Cats.

A character based on a pastry is killing Hello Kitty

anpanmanI just don’t want to live in a world without a nation as weird as Japan – and thankfully I don’t have to. Where else but Japan would you encounter Anpanman, which the NYT says is “a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry and is produced by Nippon Television”? (Dear NYT: An Anpan is filled with bean paste, not jam.) Further, where else would Jelly Donut Man be the best-selling character image in a nation obsessed with the images of cute cartoon characters?

According to the Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank (!!!!), Anpanman’s image is outselling the perennial powerhouse Pokémon and the rapidly fading Hello Kitty. This is quite a blow for Sanrio’s Kitty, who invented the category of cute characters created solely to sell product. Kitty is also facing challenge from two newcomers the panda Tarepanda, and Rilakkuma (“Relaxing bear.”FYI,  Rilakkuma has a sidekick Korilakkuma whose name translates into, and I’m not making this up, “co-relaxing bear.”) — which has charged up the Character Databank charts and ranks fifth in the latest survey.

As an aside (isn’t this whole blog an aside?) it is interesting to note Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered. That is the same year that Mrs. CollateralDamage made her pilgrimage to Sanrio Purio Land, the HK theme park near Tokyo. Coincidence? I report. You decide.

 

Los Lobos Goes Disney

Los Lobos goes DisneyThat is not a slight on one of my all time favorite bands* but the title of their latest release. On it they cover Roger Miller’s masterful “Not In Nottingham” (from Robin Hood), Randy Newman’s “I Will Go Sailing No More” (from Toy Story) as well as other great music from The House of Mouse. (And to think I scooped Mrs. CollateralDamage – who writes the Disney focused blog Broke Hoedown – on this. WOOT!)

This is not the first time that “Just Another Band from East LA” has done the Mouse. On the great compilation Stay Awake they performed “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book, which was recorded for the movie by the great Louis Prima (and is included on LLGD). I bought Stay Awake on vinyl back in the day (1988) and highly recommend getting the CD. It also has Sun Ra (!!!) doing “Pink Elephants On Parade” and Tom Waits’ version of “Heigh Ho (Dwarf’s Marching Song).”

Stay Awake was one of several odd and wonderful compilations that came out around then. The other one I have is “Lost In The Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill” (1985). While it does have Sting doing “Mack The Knife” this is more than balanced out by the other tracks including Lou Reed’s “September Song,” Stan Ridgeway (of Wall of Voodoo) does a sublime and terrifying version of “Canon Song,” Marianne Faithfull’s exquisitely ragged “Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife,” Todd Rundgren doing “Call From The Grave,” and many other great ones. It’s out of print, which is a shame, and used copies are selling for $23 and up. C’mon over to my house and I’ll play it for you for free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*In the ‘80s when people would refer to U2 as The Greatest Band In The World all I could ever think (and sometimes said) was “Did Los Lobos breakup?”

Still looking for that obnoxious Frenchman

Maybe it’s because I live in Boston where we set pretty good standard for obnoxious but after my third trip to France I have yet to encounter this mythical creature. Lest you think this is because I can pass for a native the entirety of my French consists of, “Pardonez moi, je ne parlez pas Francais.”

I love France and the French. Yeah they’ve got an attitude problem – but I don’t think Americans get to cast that particular stone. Because of the current political debate I was keenly aware that pretty much every non-tourist I saw had full health coverage. No one worrying about what happens if you lose your job or have a “pre-existing condition.”

I’m waiting for some company to rule that being born is a pre-existing condition. I really have never understood this insurance exception as anything other than a way for the companies to make even more money. I have flat feet and so am not covered for a podiatrist (well, in the past anyway). But the insurance still has to cover it when my knees get messed up because of my feet. Feh.

Mrs. CollateralDamage assures me there are obnoxious French people. She says they were all at Paris Disney, either employed as staff or paying to go there as guests. My anti-Disney parks stand pays off yet again!

Went to Chartres. Sat in the cathedral for like three hours. It isn’t for God, it is God. My  mother tells me I followed in family footsteps by doing this. Her father, architect Barry Byrne, went to Europe once to meet with Gropius and the Bauhaus gang. He stopped at Chartes and spent two weeks there.

Paris 09 273

No picture does it justice. Just go.

Disney displays the lighter side of The Force

Heaven and Mrs. CollateralDamage know I do not like a lot of Disney stuff – early movies, Pixar and their overall marketing expertise are pretty much the entire list. This display of posters past and present for their "Star Wars Weekends” probably falls into the last category. Even I who avoid The Mouse like it was carrying Aporkalypse Fever was thoroughly bemused by these. (BTW, Mrs. CD and CD Jr. had a total blast at this last year.)

vader trooper 3_2006   1_20072_2007 vader2

He sounds like THAT?

For all of you wondering what I actually sound like (admittedly a number that’s probably in the low single digits) check out this week’s episode of the podcast Those Darn Cats. I bloviate about the propaganda cartoons put out by Disney during World War II — a subject I actually know something about. TDC is co-produced by Mrs. CollateralDamage (aka BrokeHoedown) and her adorable BFF Lisa. Thanks to Mrs. CD for making me sound so smart! BTW, if you want a funny and hip take on all things Disney this is the podcast for you! Damn they’re so cheerful over there it’s contagious!

Pledge to support Mrs. CollateralDamage in race to raise funds against cancer

The incredible & indomintable Mrs. CD is running Sunday in the Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure. Please go here to support it and her if you would. I know ours is not the only family that cancer has taken a huge toll on.

The issue is settled: Hallmark selling gay marriage cards

You can’t get more mainstream than this.

The nation’s largest greeting card company is rolling out same-sex wedding cards — featuring two tuxedos, overlapping hearts or intertwined flowers, with best wishes inside. “Two hearts. One promise,” one says. … The Greeting Card Association, a trade group, says it does not track how many companies provide same-sex cards but believes the number is expanding. “The fact that you have someone like Hallmark going into that niche shows it’s growing and signals a trend,” said Barbara Miller, a spokeswoman for the association.

Have to say since gay marriage became legal here in the Bay State the biggest difference I’ve noticed is … um … yeah … let me see … nope. Can’t think of one. I look forward to the American Family Association boycott of Hallmark. (My bad — it’s Concerned Women for America calling for the boycott.)

BTW, over on her blog Mrs. CollateralDamage has a most excellent post on First Same-Sex Civil Marriage at Disneyland. The couple is lovely and the fact that they got married at Disneyland puts the lie to the fact that only heteros are tacky. (Truth is I had to put in a snarky (and false) comment so I wouldn’t mention the fact that I got all choked up looking at the wedding pictures. I gotta protect my image. Don’t tell anyone I told you, OK?)

Photo by Chenin Boutwell.

C’mon now what marketer can look at a couple that is so happy and not think, “Damn, there’s money to made here!”

(BTW, this is the headline of the day: Gay misery continues with baton drop. Is that really all it takes to make the LGBT community miserable?)

High School Musical promo panties banned in UK

Mrs. CollateralDamage got the story:

Following objections by parents in Great Britian, Disney has stopped selling High School Musical themed panties for “tween” girls. The panties have the phrase “Dive In” emblazoned on them, prompting an uproar in the UK. According to Disney, the slogan is from the swimming pool scene featured in “High School Musical 2.”

That filthy, filthy mouse.

My son’s first rant about air travel!!!!

The Whatchamacallit (a.k.a. CollateralDamage Jr.) writes about the heckish return from Orlando on United in
The plane of a million delays. A nice headline that plays off Disney’s Year of A Million Dreams theme which is only fitting as he and Mrs. CD had just visited Mouse Land.

and then over the intercom spoke, “Attention flight 1502 passengers, there is a slight wheater delay due to lighting near the ramps, this should clear up in just one minute,” we sat there for 15, 20 minutes, maybe even half an hour. Then, storm cleared up, and we could board, when we found out the flight attendants had left the plane. we sat in the gate, for another ten minutes. When all the passengers finally got on board, the pilot discovered a minor mechanical issue, which took up 20 minutes to half an hour. I’m no mathematician, but that sounds like over one hour.

It gets funnier and worse. It was so bad that Mrs. CD is giving up her allegiance to United. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that I don’t think any of the airlines is doing service any better these days.

Hello Kitty is 2nd marketing logo to be named ambassador by Japan

Japan has named Kitty an official tourism ambassador today. This follows the appointment last March of Doreamon to be the nation’s anime ambassador. While the press and public have been fooled into thinking these are benign actions, there is in fact a strong militaristic bent to both figures that should not be ignored. Both are frequently seen carrying weapons. I believe this is in fact Japan’s latest attempt at global domination.

I know first-hand the tourist power of the Kitty. It was the lure of the Sanrio Puroland theme park in Tokyo that got Mrs. CollateralDamage to convince us to go to Japan for a vacation (no complaints about this from me, btw). I am hoping that the siren call of Sanrio Harmonyland gets us back there for another visit.

If not she will have to make do with the multi-million-dollar musical featuring Hello Kitty that opened earlier this year in Beijing and is in the midst of a national tour. “Hello Kitty’s Dream Light Fantasy” is then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. over its three-year run. And there’s also the fact that, “according to her official profile from Sanrio, Hello Kitty lives with her family in London, which we will be visiting later this year.

My favorite April Fools: Discovery of flying penguins

By Monty Python’s Terry Jones, no less!

A couple of other favorites:

Disney changing It’s A Small World to “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”

There is probably no one Disney ride/attraction I loathe more than “It’s A Small World.”

It brings together all the worst of Disney & theme parks into one package.

In design terms it has a banality and mediocrity that makes it possible to forget these are the same people that brought us Oswald the Rabbit, Pinocchio, the early Mickey Mouse cartoons and a host of other wonderful works of real art.

It also has the problematic racial issues that litter the Mouse’s history: Song of The South, Epcot’s bizarre and historically inaccurate Eurocentric history lessons, an animatronic Native American village — (personally I was hoping Euro Disney would have an animatronic shtetl). In Small World the racial problem becomes that all the people of the earth who are not already Caucasian appear to have undergone a severe loss in melanin. Small World’s many deficiencies are wrapped in a song I can only compare to the aural equivalent of mixing Twinkies & Spam.

Given all this you would think it impossible to make the attraction* any worse. But NOOOOOOOO. In what seems to be a complete violation of Small World’s saccharine “we’re all alike” will now include a nice cuddly display of nationalism.

Mrs. Collateral Damage — aka The Queen of All Disney Media — quotes the following:

And in one of the most egregious and downright disgusting decisions in Disney theme park history, the gorgeous New Guinea rainforest scene, replete with some of Mary Blair’s most whimsical character creations (a crocodile with an umbrella, colorful birds hatching from eggs) and her drummer children with Tiki Masks on the opposite shore will be replaced with a Hooray for U.S.A sequence.

Now don’t get me started on the whole tiki masks thing and the gross condescension towards indigenous peoples — anyone surprised that we don’t get cute caricatures of any Christian religious images?

I really think Disney should go the whole way with this redo and insert a display of gross nationalism for every nation. Then they could have a follow-up ride called “It’s A Small World War.”

BTW, the headline is a quote from one of my favorite Disney attractions: Muppet*vision 3D.

Kermit the Frog: We will also see a rousing finale from Sam the Eagle. What’s it called, Sam?
Sam the Eagle: It’s called “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”.

*or is it a ride? that’s one of those distinctions that the Disney-centi are very particular about.

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