The severe online response to a change in butter packaging reminds us that, even when the pandemic appears to upturn society altogether and redefine priorities, the internet is still the internet.
In February, Land O'Lakes, Inc. announced that some changes were coming.
A press release on the company's website laid out the plans and the reasons.
"Land O'Lakes was founded by a group of Minnesota dairy farmers in 1921, and as it approaches its 100th anniversary in 2021, the co-op has reflected on its treasured history and made the decision to showcase its greatest strength—its farmers."
"As Land O'Lakes looks toward our 100th anniversary, we've recognized we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture—and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O'Lakes' dairy products."
Below, find the old butter packaging logo.
Bob Berg / Contributor via Getty Images
And now check out the new logo, which the company included atop that same press release.
"Farmer-Owned" is now prominently displayed on the packaging.
Land O'Lakes, Inc.
The most obvious change is the conspicuously absent Mia, the Native American "Butter Maiden" caricature, which has long been criticized as racist and disrespectful by actual Native Americans. The choice of a Native product mascot was unrelated to the actual product—"Indians" and other minorities were simply popular advertising gimmicks at the time.
Dairy products are not a part of a traditional Native American diet. Cows were introduced to the Americas by colonists.
The decision to add the Native woman to the package was as arbitrary as picking an African American slave woman to sell your maple syrup or a male slave to sell your rice. While the slavery iconography in advertising was changed decades ago, Native mascots and caricatures endure.
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, praised the change:
Apparently, that February press release went largely under the radar.
Since the company actually began to distribute the newly packaged products in April, people have been absurdly angry about it.
Much of the surprisingly hostile response has taken place on line, of course.
When the Land O Lakes Facebook page changed their profile picture, the righteous indignation continued there.
Many claimed Mia was designed by a Native artist.
However the original Mia mascot was redesigned in the 1950s when a Native artist was specifically chosen.
Some respondents saw a humorous irony to the new packaging.
They ditched the Native woman, but...
Native activists and leaders saw a greater irony in the public's response to the removal of Mia from butter packages.
Others pointed to epidemic of missing and murdered actual living Native American women being largely ignored in mainstream media and online.
Meanwhile people rage online and write about a missing advertising mascot.
Adrienne Keene, a professor at Brown University and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, told the Minnesota Reformer:
"It could have been a very strong and positive message to have publicly said, 'We realized after a hundred years that our image was harmful and so we decided to remove it,' … In our current cultural moment, that's something people would really respond to."
The reaction from one segment of the population illustrates the importance those people place on things like product mascots over the lives of the people depicted by their beloved mascot.
Doctor Photograph came up with a compromise that might quell the fury of those whinging about a missing butter mascot.
Meet Lando Lakes:
The book Outdated Advertising: Sexist, Racist, Creepy, and Just Plain Tasteless Ads is available here.