Ads #19: Troubling Pancake Advert

I apologize if this is offensive to anyone - it certainly was to me. However, this ad from a 1942 Women's Day magazine is so shocking I simply had to share. I'm not even referring to the Jemima character - I'm talking about the speech bubble near the bottom:

"That's the way to handle those Japs! Just give 'em a quick stir and pop 'em on the griddle!"

WTF? Can you imagine this sort of thing being published today? I'm not even sure what he means - I'm guessing he's not talking about cannibalism. Perhaps "pop 'em on the griddle" means "shoot them in face"? I'm confused.

BTW: I am a bit curious who illustrated this advertisement- the style seems very familiar. Chick Young maybe?


  1. Propaganda during wartime is always offensive after the fact. I remember watching "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs" and the most offensive thing was the Hit man's sign:
    Rub-outs: Two Bits
    Midgets: Half Price
    Japs: FREE

    Of course it was made during WW2.

  2. Did you ever see the Bisquick commercial on TV? I think it was back in the late '90s. The jingle was "You know something good is coming up, when you get the Bisquick down." Now that's disturbing!

  3. I find I am not offended at all by this ad and yes if such an advertisement appeared today it would be unacceptable. I do not expect it to appear however as Japan and the US are close allies now. I lived on an air base in Japan for 3 years. Modern Japanese people are wonderful, but the Imperial Japan that terrorized Asia and began a war with the US is the same Japan as today.

    I do not find the ad an offensive issue since this ad appeared in 1942 and the bombing of Pearl harbor was only in December of 1941. These were now people that were enmeies and were basically targeted to be killed unless they surrendered unconditionally. It does not follow that you should speak kindly of someone you are about to shoot and who will certainly shoot you if you linger over the deep ethics of it all in your fox hole too long.

    I have seen propoganda posters from Japan and Germany from the same period and I can assure you that they were not portraying the allies (an Jews as in the case of Nazi propoganda posters)as equal and wonderful human beings.

    All these matters with Japan during the war now have racist overtones and yet the allies equally used propoganda against Germany. An interesting issue, one you enver hear of really, is about the internment of German and Italian Americans during the war. Most of these camps were in Louisiana and Texas. It is a fact but no heartbreaking movies are made about it while the internment of the Japanese (certainly an issue the Rightists there exploit still)is something that does not seem to go away.

    Anyway, sorry, this is all out of my field of expertise but I think living in Asia fro the last five years has changed my perspective. I saw graves of American soliiers here in China who died in some forgotten jungle battle. The Chinese are still not hesitant to slur and insult the Japanese for what ahppened during the war. I ahve a coule japanese friends in China and worry about them actually. China has a tendency to erupt into mob violence and a couple years ago the Japanese were targets for a couple days. I forget whar sparked it even. I am sure no one would critize the British for using every vile insult they could muster against the Nazis because of the bombings they endured. Japan wuld certainly have inflicted such bombings on the west coast of the US but they just did not have the industrial capacity.

    The ad does not seem as bad as the dead troops ambushed at Pearl Harbor. So there, thats my red white and blue rant.

  4. I think the harsh attitude toward the "japs" that was evident in this ad was because everyone was still a bit upset that they attacked us while we slept on Dec. 7. I can see how hard feelings might have arisen and showed in our Pop Culture at the time...
    Although the whole Aunt Jemima thing was totally offensive and inexcusable.

  5. When I was typing the above comment, Bill hadn't yet posted his comment... I've always had bad timing..

  6. As soon as I read this ad was from 1942, it didn't surprise me, although it most certainly wouldn't be published today. I recently came across a collection of WW2 posters online (I posted some on my blog a few weeks ago) and some of them depict the Germans and Japanese in very unflattering ways, much the same way Nazi propaganda depicted Jewish people. War is never nice to anyone involved.

  7. I guess maybe I should clarify. I can certainly understand a hostile attitude toward a nation you are at war with. No question.

    It just seems rather strange in a pancake ad. Plus, the way it was phrased - "pop 'em on the griddle" - it was a tad unsettling.

    Don't worry. I'm not one of those that hates westerns because the Native Americans were portrayed negatively or hates blaxploitation films for their portrayal of african americans. I think we are all overly sensitive, and the country could use a little levity right now.

    Nonetheless, this quote from the pancake ad kind of startled me when I was going through this old magazine. It was amusing/interesting enough, that I thought I'd share.

  8. We knew what you meant, Gil! You're the best!

  9. I'm guessing not just Chic Young but some of the style screams Al Capp of Lil' Abner fame

  10. Odd because the term "Jap" came about as a short hand for newspaper headlines. That it became such a pop culture reference so soon is curious as ads take a long time from conception to magazine posts.

    At first I thought it was just a misprint for "jacks." However the other references seem to cancel that.

    The artwork looks like "Gasoline Alley"

  11. Thanks, Joe. :-)

    jbfunky- There was strip called "Bringing Up Daddy" or "Bringing Up Father" many may remember - it looked very similar. BTW, did you know Frank Frazetta drew a lot of the Lil Abner strips?

    Interesting, Wendel. "Jacks" makes sense too, as in flapjacks. Alas,as you said, it doesn't seem to be the case.

  12. Wow. I just spent about 3-4 hours surfing your blog. Love. It. This blog is definitely a keeper.

  13. Therés no way they would get away with it now, no way at all, however it is a truly alarming learning from it ad.

  14. If one will read about the "Rape of Nanking" in any detail perhaps one may be able to understand the disgust at the Japanese at this time.

    Bizarely, hand wringing over the civilized worlds reaction to such primal brutality has become more fashionable than being concerned with the fact that man could ever be as brutal as the Japenese have been documented to have been at that period of history.

    As for the art style yes it does resemble Chic Young but it also brings to mind Herge (the artist and creator of Tintin).

    I do not believe it was either one of those who did the actual drawing but someone mimicing a popular style.

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  17. I don't think the fact that a war is happening should ever serve as a blanket justification for racial stereotyping and the giddy celebration of killing.

    This, IMHO, would apply whether it was in the WW2 period, the current Iraq/Afghanistan campaigns, or in the Saxon Wars of 772-804 A.D.

    This ad is an example of ignorant, jingoistic war propaganda, regardless of the circumstances and the time period.

    Keep in mind, this racially inspired fervor produced internment camps for Japanese Americans at the outbreak of the war.

    Fortunately, American leaders of
    that time were wise, and they understood that there wasn't anything wrong with "japs," and that Japan could be rebuilt and become a great nation. How right they were.

    And, fortunately again, I suppose one silver lining about the Iraq debacle and the Afghanistan war is that we don't see this kind of hateful stereotyping in the mainstream American media today about Muslims and folks of Middle Eastern descent.

    But it's still out there on the fringes. And it still exists worldwide in those countries where racial and religious conflicts continue to perpetuate generational strains of virulent rascism that will likely last for centuries more.

    That's my two cents. :)

  18. PMMF,

    Wrong on so many counts.
    (well not wrong really, but not exactly right either)

    1. It is not racial stereotyping when the Sullivan brothers are still at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. A small blanket, I grant you, but a justification in many eyes. I think Korea would agree with me on that, as would mainland China, Bataan, Singapore, etc. etc.

    2. Despite our craving desire to hate ourselves today, there WERE Americans of Japanese decent who aided enemies of the United States. Not a reason to round up Americans citizens, I grant you, but it was not just the evil Roosevelt against the angelic Yamamoto.

    3. No sure what "ignorant" you are talking about. The call to duty was heard across the land. "Hit Tojo where he lives," "Mop up Mussolini," and the numerous digs at Hitler were all logical rally 'round the flag. It is NOT "regardless," it is vital to understanding not only the drive to win, but the establishment of a home front and its importance to American victory.

    4. "Fortunately, American leaders of that time were wise" I might give this one to you, however, it was the view of the future and a conflict with Communist Russia that had the U.S. establish Japan as forward base. The Marshal plan, and its Pacific counterpart, were a response to communism as much as a remembrance of the failures of post WWI.

    5. The "mainstream American media" hated George Bush so much that it gladly laid down before Radical Islamic aggression, and begged forgiveness for forcing them to commit 9-11. They ran scared rather than face the reality that there are evil people in the world. The only American TV show to address the fact that people wanted to kill Americans for being Americans was, believe it or not, South Park. "7th Heaven" ran to the unjust treatment of Islamic Americans. "Friends" ignored the conflict entirely, even though it was set in New York. (compare that with episodes of "Fibber McGee and Molly" and "Jack Benny" during WW2.

    Hollywood has only produced films justifying Islamic aggression and placing America, in almost every instance, as the great evil. Tom Cruse, who gladly cashes American paychecks, ran to England to hide, saying that it was "to dangerous" to live in the U.S. (What did Marlene Detrich and Jimmy Stewart do in WW2 again?) Then, of course, England was attacked, by . . . who again? Or have you forgotten?

    The ad was a product of its time. When the country was under attack, and the everyday products we used became more important. Johnson Wax, Jello, Grapenuts flakes, and yes, Aunt Jemima's Ready-Mix for pancakes, waved the flag and supported the boys on the front lines. Supported them against the tyrannical leaders who just a soon see them blown off the face of the earth.

  19. My two dimes and a nickle

  20. Wow. Great debate- excellent points being made. My two cents:

    I think it's a tad hypocritical to declare war against a country, but refrain from any negative speech toward them - i.e. I want to kill you, but I am too "civilized" to talk bad about you.

    To me, the argument lies in the necessity of war and man's inhumanity to man, not in the necessity of "keeping up appearances" in times of war. If I am expected to kill my enemy, I should not also be expected to pretend he is my friend.

    That being said, it is still a shock to the system (given today's climate) to see a simple pancake ad make hateful statements so unashamedly.

  21. AnonymousJuly 21, 2009

    I'm the yo yo that deleted those two comments up there. Computers... not my thing, but it's probably for the best. My comment was too long anyway. duh

    In a nutshell, I'm an asian american and am not offended. This was a long time ago and things have changed, so let's just celebrate our diversity with some delicious pancakes, Aunt Jemima style.

  22. I admire your attitude Anonymous. I'm Italian, so why don't we celebrate our diversity with some pasta fazool instead? :-)

  23. That's 3-4 hours well spent, Sam.