I’ve been concocting some posts on nuclear testing and civil defense, but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about racial stereotyping in the 1950s as it applied to Asian people (because lots of the artifacts I study focus on the Korean War,) and something I’ve been drawn to are kids’ cereal commercials from the 50s and 60s.
I’ve been thinking about the racial tropes that so many of them engage in and was thinking of writing about that, but then I found one that, even though I don’t “do” halloween, was irresistible for October 31. It’s a commercial, apparently from 1956, for Post Sugar Rice Krinkles (readers: if any of you remember these commercials from back in the day, please let me know!)
I’m not sure I have much to say about this particular commercial (yet!) but I think we can all agree it’s REALLY creepy, entirely halloween appropriate, and may well have contributed to many cases of coulrophobia. Here’s a link to it on youtube:
However, despite the fact that the clown in this commercial looks like an even more alarming version of PennyWise from IT (what is it about black & white tv that makes clowns even weirder looking?!,) he is most certainly an improvement on his predecessor; a stylized cartoon of a Chinese man, named “So-Hi.” From what I can gather, he was named this because he was short: “he is only ‘so high.'” That character invokes pretty much every racist stereotype we can think of about Asian people (especially during the period right after WWII,) and represents all the clichés: he draw a rickshaws (a toy version of which could be found inside some boxes,) wears a conical hat, speaks in a bizarre approximation of what I can only assume was supposed to be a Chinese accent.
Weirdly, it seems to me that he was voiced by the clown; I’ve watched several of these ads now and the voice is remarkably similar across all of them, which suggests that it was a form of blackface as well (making the whole thing even more problematic in various ways.) Here is one of those commercials, in which the kids discover a toy rickshaw in the box:
So, I may well have more to say about these ads (among others) in future, but for now – happy halloween, and I hope everyone has sweet dreams of marauding clowns 🤡🎃