Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jamaican Bobsled Team's Watermelon Helmets

Jamaican bobsled team helmet -(Photo - NBC Universal/Reddit)
It's not my intention to rain on the Jamaican bobsled team's Olympic parade, but what is going on with that watermelon motif painted on their helmets?

It's obvious to viewers that people of color are few and far between at the Winter Olympics, the costume designer for the Jamaican team tops off the two-man bobsled team of Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon with watermelons on their heads? Really?

According to the Encyclopedia of Nations, Jamaica's major agricultural exports are sugar, bananas, coffee and rum - so why not put one of those on the helmet? Pineapples, watermelons and papayas are grown in Jamaica, but they're not major exports being promoted, so why put it on the helmet? 

I'm not going there.

One of the nicer stories from the Sochi Olympics is the uplifting impact the Jamaican bobsled team has had on the Winter Games and the people that make up the Olympic community; who treat them like celebrities.

They were a legit global phenomenon during the Calgary Olympics back in 1988 when they defied expectations, lack of experience and a meager budget to make the Winter Olympics for the first time.

The film "Cool Runnings", a genuinely funny inspirational movie with a heart, was a sleeper hit for Disney in 1993 and in my opinion, comedian/character actor John Candy's best on-screen acting performance since 1987's "Planes, Trains & Automobiles".

Even though this year's Jamaican bobsled team aren't a threat to win a medal, their presence at the games is still inspirational considering the small tropical island nation they come from and they're a huge hit with Russian locals and other Olympic teams.

It would have been nice if someone had just taken the time to be a little more imaginative about the helmet design.


daniel j. taylor said...

It's crazy to 1) expect international athletes to respect our stereotypes, 2) accuse the athletes of racial insensitivity just because you [and, granted, other people--but specifically you in this case] associate people of African descent and a particular fruit with racism, 3)ignore the fact that the helmets are both the shape and size of watermelons [and not their other agricultural exports], 4) expect benign actions to be treated as malignant(what?, a dark-skinned person can never be near a watermelon without it being racist?), and 5) say "I'm not going there" when you're there already.

culturegeist said...

Point taken. I suggested the helmet design was insensitive, not malignant, or intentional. Anyway, call me when you see a slice of pizza on the helmets of the Italian bobsled team, a bagel on the helmets of the Israeli bobsled team, or a tortilla on the helmets of the Mexican bobsled team.