That Oompa Loompa message on Revue
As I'm moving my newsletter subscribers from Revue to a self-hosted platform I requested an export of my subscribers. The message on screen from Revue I got was this:
We'll set our Oompa Loompas to work on exporting your subscribers and they'll send you an email once they're finished.
I do understand how this can get churned out in a brainstorming session as humorous, harmless copy. After all, the Oompa Loompas in the films are such jovial, odd and funny little beings. But before making it all the way to production I would have hoped for some more due diligence.
As soon as you personify robotic agents by jokingly having them do your labor for you there is a whole world of history to unpack when it comes to labor exploitation.
The reason this message made me wince is because in the original Roald Dahl book, the Oompa Loompas were black slave laborers smuggled into England from Africa. Here is an illustration of the Oompa Loompas from the 1964 edition:
If you weren't aware of this, I'm going to assume that the status message feels less appropriate now.
Cultural references need cultural understanding, and this serves as a good reminder of why it's important to go beyond the quick laughs before you push to publish.
Update June 2
Revue have let me know that this status message has now been changed. It now instead reads:
"We'll start working on exporting your subscribers. We will send you an email once it's finished."
Happy to see companies listening and responding in a quick and efficient manner on these types of issues.
More background on obfuscating the history of the Oompa Loompas through new editions and films:
Irith on July 25, 2022:
Thanks for raising this. And educating us all. I have to say, when I read the 'Oompa Loompa' message what came to my mind was the Hollywood movie, where little people play the orange-skinned characters. I actually thought this in itself was pretty disturbing. Insinuating a team of little people is somehow intrinsically funny was shocking to me.
Per on July 25, 2022: Thank you for sharing Irith. Yes, I’ve always marveled at the many ways throughout history that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has managed to replace one colonial injury with another affront again and again, checking all the boxes for abuse against the disempowered and historically mistreated.
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