Actor Ben Stein has sparked backlash on social media after posting a strange video on Truth Social discussing Aunt Jemima syrup’s rebranding to Pearl Milling Company. In the video, the 78-year-old explains that he is making breakfast for dinner and proceeds to comment on the syrup’s former branding. He mentions the largely African American woman chef depicted in the old branding and how the corporate culture’s inherent racism resulted in it being changed to a white person or no person at all. Stein expresses his preference for the previous branding, showcasing a black person’s pancake-making skills, and ends the video by wishing everyone a good evening.
In response to criticism for its association with slavery, Aunt Jemima Syrup underwent a rebranding in 2020. The syrup’s previous 130-year-old mascot, inspired by the “mammy” minstrel character of the 19th century, depicted a contented black woman serving her white masters. The rebranding changed the mascot to Pearl Milling Company, distancing the brand from its problematic history.
Ben Stein’s recent comments on Truth Social regarding Aunt Jemima syrup’s rebranding have sparked strong backlash on social media. Twitter users have called out the actor for his racist views, with one tweet questioning whether anyone was surprised by his comments. This controversy highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing the problematic history and implications of branding and mascots. It also underscores the responsibility of public figures to be thoughtful in their words and actions, particularly with regards to sensitive issues such as race and discrimination.
Following Ben Stein’s controversial comments on the Truth Social platform regarding Aunt Jemima syrup’s rebranding, social media users have expressed their outrage, with some even questioning the actor’s reputation. Some comments, such as “I miss the good old days when Ben Stein was famous for saying ‘Bueller’ over and over,” seem to suggest that Stein’s past work is now overshadowed by his recent statements.
Some social media users emphasized the significance of understanding the context and historical background of sensitive conversations. One person highlighted the importance of listening and learning by saying, “A prime example of when you don’t know the context and history behind a conversation you should just STFU and listen.” On the other hand, a Twitter user added a humorous remark, suggesting that Stein’s comments were ridiculous by stating, “I like MY pancake syrup served out of a bottle that is a LITERAL RACIST TROPE’ -Ben Stein.”
Ellen Barkin, a famous actress, also joined the discussion, distancing herself from Stein’s remarks. She expressed her disdain for the actor by saying, “Please don’t call Ben Stein an actor. It makes us all look bad.” Her comment emphasizes that Stein’s behavior and views do not align with the values of the entertainment industry, which values diversity and inclusivity.
In June 2020, Quaker Oats announced the retirement of Aunt Jemima’s image, acknowledging that the character’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While the company changed its brand name to Pearl Milling Company, it maintained the same great-tasting products in their iconic red packaging. Kristin Kroepfl, the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America, stated that retiring the Aunt Jemima character from syrup packaging was part of an effort to promote racial equality.
This controversy highlights the importance of acknowledging and addressing the problematic history and implications of branding and mascots, particularly in regard to race and discrimination. It also underscores the responsibility of public figures to be aware of their words and actions, as their platform can have a significant impact on public opinion and discourse.