When Coon cheese changed its named to Cheer last year it was Australia’s indigenous peoples who celebrated loudest, after decades of protest against the offensive name. Predictably there was the inevitable backlash from the gaggle at Sky News and various right wing politicians who saw it as just another casualty of political correctness. The makers of Coon, Saputo Dairy Australia stated that the name change would reinforce values of acceptance and respect but I suspect there was more at play than just an ideological commitment.
After all Coon had for a long time had a reputation as an almost generic brand of unexciting cheese, despised by real cheese buffs and a favourite of bogans and the less discerning. Whilst they definitely succumbed to pressure from indigenous groups led by academic Dr Stephen Hagan, perhaps they also saw it as an opportunity to rebrand the product for a new generation. Judging by their current advertising blitz, Cheer is pitched as both a groovy teen and family friendly product, uniting us all in a feel good celebration of toasted cheese sandwiches.
The Coon switch has just been one of a number that have seen products on our supermarket shelves either disappear forever or rebranded in a more acceptable way. This is by no means a current phenomenon and has been going on for years, as public sensibilities change, people become better educated and the evils of racism are much better highlighted.
In the 50s and 60s you could go to the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and come home with a ‘Nigger Boy Liquorice Bag’, emblazoned with crude racial caricatures. I probably bought one myself and my parents, who were anything but racist, would not have blinked an eye at the time. This was a time when young girls collected Gollywogs and the most popular brand of toothpaste in China was ‘Darkie’, complete with a brand image of Al Jolson.
Ignorance and complacency are by no means excuses for overt or even subtle racism but mercifully times have changed and we now know a lot better. Most of us anyway. “Like I’ve always said, you give an inch to the PC woke mob and they will take a mile.” That’s the reaction from Pauline Hanson, who along with many right wing stalwarts, saw the Coon brand change as just another violation on the part of the politically correct.
Earlier this year I came across an internet story where Hanson had called on Arnotts to rebrand their Ginger Nut biscuits, calling them “an attack on people with red hair”. She had stated that it was a travesty that Coon had been forced to rebrand, whilst Arnotts were allowed to continue trading under their existing name. “I’d like to try one of these biscuits one day, but I will never do so with the existing name,” she apparently commented. “It’s unAustralian, I don’t care if they have ginger in them or not. Just call them Yummy Snaps or something.” I must admit when I first read the story, it sounded exactly what Hanson might have said, I was sucked in, but as it turned out it was just a clever spoof, posted by the satirical site, DBT (Double Bay Today).
When the foul tasting Redskins are axed by Allens only to be reincarnated later as Red Rippers or a similar brand change, it’s the perfect opportunity for people such as Andrew Bolt, George Christensen, Sky’s Chris Smith and of course Hanson, to seize on the opportunity. They pitch their outrage not only to people’s sense of nostalgia but the much broader agenda that all our accepted rights and freedoms are being chiselled away. Ironically the only thing that’s changed for the consumer is the packaging and you can still make yourself horribly sick with a jumbo bag of sugary, jaw breaking Red Rippers.
And whilst we are on the subject of offensive brand names, let’s hope we never see the Swedish chocolate bar ‘Plopp’, marketed in Australia. I’ve heard they are quite tasty but the name is sheer shameless onomatopoeia – and need I go any further. Surely, the now well very educated Australian population, would balk at buying such a product. Then again it could well be embraced by certain outspoken shock jocks, News Ltd columnists and other assorted demagogues who have been generating ‘plopp’ for decades.