racism

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

 

THE RETAILER WHO PROMOTED AN ANNE FRANK HALLOWEEN COSTUME?

 

Anne Frank Costume, 2017.

 

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

 

Disgraceful exploitation of the young Dutch Jewish girl who perished during the Holocaust brought condemnation from the public and Jewish organizations, as well. Consequently, costume distributors removed the young woman’s name from the description and renamed it a “Girls World Evacuee Costume.” It was a change in nomenclature but the same tasteless costume for young women compelled to flee their homes during WWII.

 

THE COMPANY THAT CREATED THE LION KILLER DENTIST HALLOWEEN COSTUME?

 

The Dentist who murdered Cecil the Lion Costume. 2017.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

 

Why would anyone want to emulate Dr. Walter S. Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who slaughtered Cecil, the Lion in Zimbabwe just to show off his hunting prowess? Not only that, but he and his local guides enticed the magnificent and beloved black-maned Cecil out of a protected national park by dragging an animal carcass tied to a vehicle. After the kill, the men beheaded and skinned the once-regal lion.

Four hundred protestors gathered in front of Palmer’s business, and one enraged animal rights supporter used a megaphone to protest outside his home yelling, “Murderer! Terrorist!” To avoid the public’s wrath, Palmer closed his office and left his home for almost a month.

Why would a costume company think this would be an appealing costume? Who would want to wear it? It’s baffling to contemplate such a loathsome party reveler.

 

ZARA CLOTHING DESIGNERS WHO CREATED AN OFFENSIVE SWEATSHIRT AND T-SHIRT?

 

Zara clothing line with two insulting pieces of clothing. 2016.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

My first speculation when I discovered these two highly obnoxious articles of clothing was that the designers were so young, they didn’t know about the Kent State Massacre (May, 1970). They may not even have been born yet when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on peaceful student demonstrators against the Vietnam War. The National Guard killed four and injured nine. So, whoever thought that wearing a faux blood-stained sweatshirt was an appropriate response to a crime?

And who possibly could not be aware of the symbolism of a yellow six-pointed star on a prison-striped shirt? Did that person not have knowledge of atrocities perpetrated against the Jews by Hitler and his Third Reich? Besides, ignorance is no excuse. And what about the bosses? Certainly, someone at the Zara company should have caught these insensitive creations before they were foisted on the public.

 

 

THE ENGLISH GIRLS WHO ATTIRED THEMSELVES AS THE BURNING 9/11 TOWERS AND WON FIRST PRIZE?

Brits winning prize for their costumes depicting the burning of the twin towers.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

In this situation, we can’t blame a corporation for such a tasteless representation of a disaster, only the two ditzy dames who dreamed it up. Did they think it was funny to play off the tragic death of 2,753 human beings? Even worse, they were awarded a prize for the best costume? No one was thinking about the feelings of the 9/11 survivors. Shame on them!

 

THE SAMFORD UNIVERSITY (AL) SORORITY THAT DESGINED T-SHIRTS FOR THE SPRING FORMAL DANCE THAT DEPICTED A BLACK MAN EATING WATERMELON AND SLAVES PICKING COTTON?

Offensive t-shirt depicting degrading images of African Americans.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

Despite disapproval ahead of time by a university official, the girls went ahead with their T-shirt production anyway. Later, Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford, wrote: “I was repulsed by the image. I lack the words to express my own sense of frustration.”

That apology seems sincere, and I trust that appropriate action was taken against the sorority.

 

 

IN JAPAN, THE MANUFACTURER THAT PRODUCED A TAMPON IN ANNE FRANK’S NAME?

 

In Japan, the Anne Frank tampon.

 

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

According to Alain Lewkowicz, a French Jewish journalist, to the Japanese Anne Frank symbolizes the ultimate WWII victim. The Japanese identify with her victimhood because of their own suffering after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The reason they selected the tampon to honor Ann is because her diary reveals anticipation and excitement about her first day of menstruation. To me, it doesn’t quite add up: 2 + 2 = 5? I just don’t quite follow the logic. But then I believe cultural differences may come into play here.

 

SWISS COMPANY RECALLS 2,000 HITLER COFFEE CREAMERS?

 

In Switzerland, coffee creamer with Hitler image.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

“IT WAS AN UNFORGIVABLE INCIDENT.”

 

This apology came from Tristan Cerf, a spokesman for the Migos company. He blamed internal controls for letting this image by that was created by a subsidiary in charge of  labels. Also scheduled but nixed in advance was a Mussolini label. That would have curdled the coffee even more.

 

THE TRAYVON MARTIN HOODIE WITH A TARGET IMAGE ON ITS CHEST?

 

Trayvon Martin Hoodie. Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI.

 

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

THEY WEREN’T.

OR WERE THEY?

WERE THEY COURTING THE RACIST MARKET?

 

I discovered this disgusting piece of clothing in the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on the Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. The sweatshirt was manufactured and sold by the Hiller Armament Co. of Virginia Beach, FLA. To make money off of this 2012 tragedy is unconscionable. We all know the story of the 17-year-old unarmed Treyvon Martin, carrying only a box of Skittles and a container of iced tea, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. He claimed to be threated by the lad. However, the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty.

If one buys a sweatshirt like the one above, what is the message? You’re jealous and wish you might have done it? You endorse Zimmerman’s deed? Note that it was an arms company that manufactured it. DISGUSTING.

 

THE ITALIAN WINEMAKER WHO PRODUCES WINES WITH HITLER LABELS ON THEM?

Hitler wine produced by the Italian company Vini Lunardelli.

 

WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

THEY ARE THINKING PROFITS.

 

When challenged by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the family-owned winery (Vini Lunardelli) claims that their line of dictator labeled wines are historical and not propaganda. Their biggest seller is The Der Fuhrer line, accounting for 80% of the company’s sales. Labels show Hitler giving the Nazi salute, with his autograph, and a portrait with the motto that translates into “One people, one nation, one leader.”

Regardless of negative reactions, the winery continues with their plans glorifying other enemies of the people: Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Goering, Himmler, Eva Braun.

 

 

Finally, in China where the Ivanka Trump brand is avidly pursued, one manufacturer wants to name a sanitary pad after her.

WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

Big bucks, no doubt, but I can bet that no woman, Chinese or otherwise, would have given a thumbs up to this idea.

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Every example is a disgusting commercial exploitation of innocents’ deaths and torture. They are disheartening illustrations of man’s inhumanity to man. How low must we sink to make an extra dollar or win a costume prize or sell extra tickets to the dance? This is sickening to contemplate because it demonstrates indifference to the pain of others. Are we somehow complicit in these horrendous acts? I don’t think so, yet I feel guilty, too.

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Norine Dresser is a folklorist who admits that never before has she punctuated with so many question marks. But never before have so many of her stories been so mind-boggling.

 

Visit her Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture to discover remarkable multicultural artifacts, entertaining calendar corners, and amazing objects on loan from monthly visiting curators: flpcgallery .org

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celebrations, folklore, health, vampires

Escapades of a Vampirologist — Now Retired

Pin replica of the USA Dracula postage stamp. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

I never dreamed I would become a vampirologist, at least that’s what others called me. But now that Halloween approaches, memories of that unforeseen former profession flood my consciousness.

It began when an Associated Press science reporter called me for a folklorist’s opinion about a paper delivered by Canadian biochemist, Dr. David Dolphin, at the 1988 American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Dr. Dolphin hypothesized that those who had been labeled vampires in the past (Middle Ages) might have been suffering from a disease called porphyria.

In brief, porphyria is a rare incurable genetic disease that can also be triggered by alcohol and sulfa drugs or environmental contaminants. In Greek, porphyria means purple and for many, not all patients, their urine turns purple after exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light.

Dolphin asserted that those porphyria patients whose faces were negatively affected by sunlight must remain indoors during the day. He argued that porphyria patients had a negative reaction to garlic. Most dramatically, he claimed that they had a need for blood, but in the Middle Ages since there was no technology for transfusions, they would satisfy their cravings by drinking the blood of others.

The problem was that the Dolphin’s proposition didn’t hold up clinically. In part, this was because there are eight different varieties of porphyria, each with its own symptoms and characteristics. Dolphin had lumped them all together.

However, as a folklorist, the correlations delighted me and the Associated Press quoted me saying that I thought the proposal was, “Wonderful. It proves there is truth in folklore.”

Who knew where my flip comments would lead?

Almost immediately, I received a phone call from France, inquiring if I would be a consultant on a vampire film. Of course, I said yes. That offer, like so many that followed, never came to fruition.

Still I was buoyed by the excitement. I was instantly perceived as a vampire expert. It took some boning up on my part but eventually I became fairly conversant about the disease, porphyria (known to account for the madness of King George); Vlad, the Impaler (a Romanian hero for staving off the Ottoman Empire); and the book Dracula by Bram Stoker, that has never been out of print since the first edition in 1897.

However, some horrified porphyria patients blamed me for linking porphyria with vampires. One woman complained how ashamed the association made her feel and how relieved she was that most of her friends couldn’t remember the name of her disease.

A young male patient in Santa Barbara, CA, disclosed he was frightened to walk around the local schoolyard during the day lest parents might think he was stalking their children. Indeed, so much sensational press surrounded Dolphin’s concept, even the grammar school newspaper, The Weekly Reader, had an article about it.

But my friends and family loved it and could hardly wait to participate.

Bela Lugosi, Jr. had been a USC law school classmate of my brother, Mickey. He gave Mickey a Dracula watch that my brother insisted I must have.

A gift from my brother, Mickey, after Bela Lugosi Jr., gave it to him. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

My dentist, Dr. Rees Smith of Burbank, CA presented me with a custom-made pair of fangs. He assumed I would wear them on all the TV talk shows I was on, but I thought it would make me look to unprofessional.

Custom-made fangs by Dr. Rees Smith, DDS. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2017.

 

At my very first book signing of American Vampires, Forrest Ackerman, “Mr. Science Fiction,” showed up with one of the Dracula capes and rings worn by Bela Lugosi in the “Dracula” film. He let me sign some books wearing those treasured items. Additionally, he purchased 20 copies for celebrities. Imagine my thrill autographing a copy for Stephen King.

A film company invited me to Budapest, Hungary, to be in an international TV production, “Dracula, Live from Transylvania.” I even got to play a scene with actor, George Hamilton, who freaked out having to interview a real blood drinker. He turned that task over to me. I was pretty unruffled about it, too, until I asked one of the blood drinkers, “How much blood do you drink at a time?”

When she responded, “Half a glass.” I lost my cool.

“Half a glass?” I was incredulous as I visualized a glass half-filled with coagulating human blood. To the glee of friends and family watching in the U.S., I could not disguise my shock.

In 1995, I was invited by the Romanian Bureau of Tourism to attend the First World Dracula Congress. What a strange contingent of attendees: fifty international scholars (including me) and 150 members of the press from all over the world.

Upon arrival in Bucharest, my husband, Harold, and I were warmly greeted by Nicolae (Nicky) Paduraru, President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. But when Nicky began extolling my virtues in his Bela Lugosi-like accent: “No-rine, I love your mind; I love your brain…”, an irritated Harold demanded, “Leave the rest to me!”

I joined both the Canadian and Romanian chapters of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. In 1997, in Los Angeles, we sponsored a celebration that drew thousands for the 100th anniversary of the publication of Dracula.

After that, my interest in vampires waned, but still I have my old contacts with new ones always welcomed. When Frankenstein Jones requested to friend me on Facebook, how could I say, “No”?

If you’d like to see more vampire memorabilia, visit my online folklore and popular culture gallery: http: flpcgallery.org. While you’re there, check out additional cultural artifacts: Day of the Dead skulls; Milagros for healing; Evil eyes and hamsas for protection; Political gags.

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Folklorist Norine Dresser is the author of American Vampires: Fans, Victims & Practitioners (Norton, 1989; Vintage 1990), nine other books as well as an award-winning column for the Los Angeles Times (1993 to 2001).

 

Portions of this blog first appeared in the October 2017 edition (Vol.22 No.10) of the Southwest Senior (Las Cruces, NM), pp. 1 & 5.

norinedresser@yahoo.com