Hello my name is Heather and my mind has been blown.
A bit of background: Nestle has been wooing mom bloggers. It makes sense ~ Nestle makes formula which they would like to sell to moms. There are many moms who love the Nestle brand and many who don’t. There is a point being made that Nestle goes against the WHO guidelines for promoting formula in geographical areas where formula might be an unsafe choice (IE areas where water is in limited supply or is contaminated.) I’ll admit to not really knowing that much about the issue, but there are some who are passionately boycotting the brand.
What does this have to do with Oompa loompas? Well, the discussion about Nestle has gotten so out of control on twitter that at some point it became a race issue and a post flew past me that said “Oompa Loompahs were a racist caricature based on African slavery. ”
Um, WHAT? Did I just fall off the turnip truck yesterday? Maybe I have my head in the sand because it seems this has been a point of discussion for some time. In fact you can read a whole essay on the topic here.
What can we learn from this? That while your ideas and words may be entirely your own, you are never the sole writer on anything. Your audience is going to manipulate your words by bringing their own experience into the mix. And the kicker is you have no way to predict what your readers experiences might be. Just because you write something one way does not mean it will be read and accepted in that way. Your reader will interpret words and ideas by placing them within a context that is familiar and proven to them. It is a very rare thing for someone to approach any situation with a completely open mind. Hell, I could write something hysterical about lollypops and it could be found to be offensive to a bald man.
Do I believe Roald Dahl intentionally meant to mock slavery? No. Do I see the parallels and possibility for someone to come to that conclusion? Yes.
I guess what I’m getting at is that when you are writing, you can’t be completely swept up in how others will perceive your words or your original message can be lost. But at the same time, you must keep in mind how someone else could manipulate your message by placing it in a different context. Don’t let it dictate what you say, but do think about additional themes that you could be putting out there with your name on them.
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