The Black Lives Matter movement has caused many brands to rethink their logos, names, and mascots. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s announced this week that they will be rebranding, and now Mrs. Butterworth’s has said they will also be reviewing their packaging.
Conagra, the company that makes Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, said in a press release that it would be reexamining their brand. “The Mrs. Butterworth’s brand, including its syrup packaging, is intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” the release says. “We stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown communities and we can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values.”
Conagra also said that the company “will be part of the solution” in fighting racism and racial injustice.
But…who is Mrs. Butterworth? And is she based on a real person? Here’s what you need to know.
Mrs. Butterworth was supposedly based on an actress from Gone with the Wind.
Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup first hit shelves in 1961, according to the company’s website. The syrup’s bottle was allegedly modeled after Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen, who played Scarlett O’Hara’s maid in Gone with the Wind, according to Cleveland.com.
However, in television commercials featuring Mrs. Butterworth, the character was voiced by a white actress, leading to some debate over the mascot’s race.
Still, critics have long pointed out that the Mrs. Butterworth bottle is reminiscent of a “Mammy” figure, which reinforces racial stereotypes about Black women, according to the New York Times.
Okay, so who was Butterfly McQueen?
Butterfly made a name for herself as Prissy, the maid who is given a serious talking to by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind when they need to deliver a baby. (Prissy’s famous line: “Lawdy, Miss Scarlett, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!”) But Butterfly was a successful Broadway dancer before she landed that role, according to IMDB. She went on to play a series of maids in movies in the 1940s.
Butterfly wasn’t in love with her Gone with the Wind character.
“Oh, I hated it,” she told People in 1986, of being asked what it was like to be in Gone with the Wind. “The part of Prissy was so backward. I was always whining and complaining. But now I’m very glad I made the film because I make a living off it.”
What happened to Butterfly McQueen?
Butterfly eventually announced that she would no longer play roles that reinforced racial stereotypes. “I didn’t mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business,” she told People. “But after I did the same thing over and over I resented it. I didn’t mind being funny but I didn’t like being stupid.”
Afterward, Butterfly didn’t work as an actress for years. So, she ended up working as a taxi dispatcher, a real-life maid, a companion to an elderly woman, a seamstress, and a department store salesperson, IMDB says.
She died at the age of 84 after a fire broke out in her cottage.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.
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