Ricky Muir calls out “political correctness gone mad” after advertising watchdog upholds complaint against Beechworth Sweet Co golliwog ad

Beechworth Sweet Company

A sign at the Beechworth Sweet Company in 2009. Source: AAP Image/Diana Plater

Victorian politician Ricky Muir has come out in support of a Beechworth Sweet Co’s television advertisement that featured an animated toy golliwog, labelling a decision by the Advertising Standards Board to uphold a complaint against the ad as “political correctness gone mad.”

Muir, a representative of the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party who appears unlikely to retain his Victorian Senate seat, posted a photo of him with his childhood toy golliwog named “Wally”, stating, “the sheer notion that somehow my childhood toy or mothers hobby is ‘racist’ is simply ridiculous”.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Muir says that the situation was “really political correctness gone mad” and that it was clear the advertisement was not intended to offend or hurt.

“The company had this in place for a very long time, it’s clear they mean no ill intent at all,” Muir says.

“It’s very disappointing to see this very extreme measure be made.”

Muir believes that the Beechworth Sweet Co should appeal the decision by the Ad Standards Board, and also encourages the company to seek public support.

“I’ve had lots of responses on social media, and many people agree that it’s nothing more than a doll and a fond childhood memory,” Muir says.

“My mother was a keen collector of golliwogs, I would go as far to say even a bit fanatical. At one point we did a count, and there were in excess of 200 dolls in the house.”

Muir says he is “disappointed” that one complaint could “stamp out the voice of the rest of the nation”.

“The people who dwell on this are those with a strong politically correct nature about them,” he says.

“It’s a childhood memory associated with fun and acceptance, as a child you don’t discriminate.”

New South Wales politician David Leyonhjelm was among those that commented on Muir’s post, expressing his support for the company’s advertisement saying it is “insane” to claim golliwogs were racist.

“For those who choose to take offence by assuming it is racist, I recommend they choose another feeling,” said Leyonhjelm.

The advertisement depicts an animated version of the confectionary company’s logo, which features a number of animals and toys surrounding a lolly jar with the golliwog character reaching in.

The complainant who contacted the Ad Standards Board said the golliwog is a “racist symbol” and it had “shocked me deeply.”

“I truly believe casual racism like this is so damaging to the community and this commercial should never be aired again,” said the complainant.

In their response to the complaint, the board agreed that the golliwog “represents a symbol that humiliates and ridicules a person on account of the colour of their skin” but clarified that the animation of the logo is the reason the advertisement was pulled down.

The board holds no jurisdiction over company logo designs.

After SmartCompany first reported on the board’s decision, a number of readers posted comments in support of the company and expressed their concerns over the board’s decision, also labelling it “political correctness gone mad.”

“I saw this complaint and immediately ordered online a quantity of sweets from the Beechworth Sweet Company. Strike back against political correctness gone mad with the most powerful weapon at your disposal – your own money,” said one commenter.

“Maybe everyone should buy a golliwog and sit it on the idiot that made this complaints doorstep. So many bad things happening in this world and they get offended by a golliwog, what a fool,” said another.

In response to the complaint, the Beechworth Sweet Co told the Ad Standards Board golliwogs “were very popular toys at the beginning of the 20th century and were characters in many children’s books.”

“We believe we represent gollies as part of happy childhood memories in a tasteful [and] respectful way,” the company said.

Beechworth Sweet Co has stopped the TV advertisement, pursuing “further correspondence regarding the processes and the possibility of a review”. On contacting the Advertising Standard’s Board, SmartCompany was told that there would be no public comment made until the case is resolved, implying that the company may be still pursuing a review of the decision.

Advertisers and marketers have a 10-day window to appeal board decisions after a ruling is made, and appealing costs advertisers $1000 or $2000 if they do not pay the Advertising Standards Bureau’s levy. An independent reviewer is assigned to undertake a review of the board’s decision.

A spokesperson from the Beechworth Sweet Co told SmartCompany the company plans to release a public statement on the matter tomorrow.

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helma Parkin
helma Parkin
5 years ago

Good on you all as “WHY SHOULD ONE PERSON BE ALLOW TO SAY WHAT IS RACIST” We have had it here in Qld because a company decided to sell Golliwogs and I wrote to the Courier Mail and took my Golliwog shopping with me and people thought it was stupid that one person can make a complain and have it taken down but PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW you can give an Aboringine Child a White Doll?????

N3rdism
N3rdism
5 years ago
Reply to  helma Parkin

It’s insane that a single complaint can lead to this. Would the ABC pull Jemima because I feel sexually discriminated? Or how Capilano Honey because the bee has black stripes, oh wait I’m bald so I’m feeling that Ronald McDonald offends and discriminates against me because he has too much hair……where does it stop???

hopporace
hopporace
5 years ago

Only makes people cranky-no wonder they voted for Pauline

Pault
Pault
5 years ago

“A spokesperson from the Beechworth Sweet Co told SweetCompany the company plans to release a public statement on the matter tomorrow.”….SweetCompany?? …..somebody is thinking about a sugar fix…..

Eloise Keating
Eloise Keating
5 years ago
Reply to  Pault

Thanks for spotting our typo! We’ve updated the article. Cheers, Eloise

Andrew n/a
Andrew n/a
5 years ago

I had a golliwog and a monkey in a pant suit. as a child . maybe they should ban monkeys in pant suits too because that could be considered as racist by some people.. maybe the Australian flag should be banned too because it has the british flag on it which may be considered racist for slave trading and what the british did to aborigines.. I recall reading
an article saying people were asked to not fly the british st georges flag because it was considered offensive..people need to grow up.. there are more important things to worry about than a stuffed childrens toy.. seriously, pack of drama queens they are… get a life

ChuckGoodwill
ChuckGoodwill
5 years ago

Let’s dial back a bit and ask ourselves WHY someone considered them racist. Golliwogs were dolls created in the likeness of blackface entertainers popular around the end of the 19th century. I don’t know how many of you have seen actual blackface stuff from that era but it was about as stereotypical as you could get when trying to parody/imitate black people in America.

The dolls in and of themselves weren’t made to be a slight on purpose, but they are still a product of a society that felt that black people were less than human. Their declining popularity is because it’s seen as unacceptable in the same way people now see asians portrayed as football-headed yellow people with slanty eyes and cymbals on their heads as generally a bad idea.

Instead, ol’ Ricky here tells us that these people CHOSE to be offended, while at the same time choosing to be offended by their finding a stereotyped black person as unacceptable. And then he gets on camera cuddling his little “Wally” like he’s in desperate need of a security blanket spouting hyperbole about someone trying to “stamp out the voice of the nation”. We have truly elected a bunch of manbabies this time.

Seriously, the only time I’ve ever encountered one of these so-called PC mad people you all rail against it was on the internet. I’m not convinced they’d have the stones to say what they called me to my face. The fact that people are having a cry about those people and treating them like they’re some sort of threat only goes to show that it’s not just them with thin skin around here.

Joanne Russell
Joanne Russell
4 years ago

When will this madness end! I live in Beechworth and have always enjoyed seeing their logo. In fact I have several Gollies at home amongst my Teddies and Dolls. One complaint changes it for the majority who love Gollies.

Kal
Kal
4 years ago
Reply to  Joanne Russell

If the majority of people loved them we would see them being sold at Kmart… Or any major retailer really. Have you ever seen a kid carrying one around? It’s all minecraft or transformers stuff and plastic dinosaurs these days.

Nobody’s telling you to burn your toys, but don’t drag the “majority” into this.

Ruth
Ruth
4 years ago

Good on you, Ricky, for speaking up about the ridiculous political correctness which has pervaded almost every aspect of our lives. I’m fed up with it!! I love making childrens’ toys, and as well as giving them to friends’ and relatives’ children, I provide some to a local craft shop. By far, the best sellers are golliwogs! They are also the ones I enjoy making the most, mainly as a part of my stand against PC. It looks to me that by purchasing them, others may be making their stand as well. The silent majority has its’ ways of making their thoughts known.

Kal
Kal
4 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

You enjoy making racist stereotypes as part of a heroic stand against some invisible but somehow all-encompassing enemy you’ve never once met in person? That’s pretty brave! Almost as brave as your Nixon quote at the end there.

Ruth
Ruth
4 years ago
Reply to  Kal

Oh Kal, I make these toys because children love them! They are brightly coloured, and they have smiley faces, which is probably more than can be said about you. The last golliwog I made was given to a little Tanzanian boy, with the amused blessing of his parents, and the child hasn’t let Golly out of his sight since. It really is time that the strident activists took a good look at themselves, and stop dragging racism into every aspect of our lives; you are causing a backlash which can only hurt those you think you are helping. And by the way, not everything Nixon said was crap.

Kal
Kal
4 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

I’m not really sure I could call myself an activist. I tried attending a rally once and only once. Was somewhat put off by the bible thumpers recording everyone’s faces, presumably so they could hassle attendees later.

You say you make golliwogs because children love them, but before that you said you made them mainly to stand up against PC… for whatever that is worth. From a random stranger on the internet’s perspective, it sounds like you’re just making golliwogs to spite people. The fact that some people like them was a happy accident.

Now at the risk of repeating myself, I don’t really think of myself as an activist. At uni my project buddy was a very much militant atheist. I don’t particularly care about religion, but I began to defend it because his attitude was imbalanced. Currently the comments section (with the exception of a history lesson) is basically a circle jerk of anti PC. Everywhere I go it’s always anti PC. Every now and then someone pipes up and suggests that maybe it’s inappropriate to oggle at women (or similar comments) and nearly immediately they’re shouted down by people screeching about how terrible PC culture is. It’s imbalanced.

Not everything Nixon said was crap, but let’s invoke Godwin’s law for a second while I mention that Hitler’s Germany was one of the first countries in the world to recognise that smoking is bad for you. I still wouldn’t quote Hitler even if he had some valid ideas about smoking.

Finally, I know I came off as abrasive and snarky with my first reply. I can’t really apologise for it because I fully intended to be abrasive and snarky, but I’m hoping you can see now that I don’t take issue with the golliwogs per se. For me, they go into the same category as those old fashioned wind up monkeys. Retro toys. That said, I do think though that people are going to frankly ridiculous extremes to protect a plaything from the 1800’s because of some perceived slight.

Chuck mentioned blackface minstrel. I googled that, and this is what I saw. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/58/Minstrel_PosterBillyVanWare_edit.jpg

I can’t really peek into the minds of anyone genuinely offended by golliwogs, but I imagine they’re not fond of the history attached to the toy. Perhaps they see everyone’s defense of golliwogs as a kind of admission that people won’t.

Scott D
Scott D
4 years ago

The golliwogs I knew in childhood were 1) a character in Enid Blyton books and 2) my mother’s black “teddy bear” that she had since childhood which was made from her grandmother’s old coat (although most of the velvet had worn off by the time I knew it). I was well in to my thirties before I discovered that either of these could have been racist. My own childhood teddy bear was blue and more bear- than human-shaped, as was my younger brother’s.