Where’s my zodiac pig?

25 January 2010

Of many things that Japan exports, cartoon characters are becoming ever more popular. If you walk down a high street in Europe, there will be a Hello Kitty or two staring at you, somewhere. I never understood the attraction of that empty look on the face. In Asia, other Japanese cartoon characters are also widely recognized and very popular. Chief among them is Doraemon, a cat-shaped robot, sent by future descendents to aid their hapless ancestor who lived in the 20th century. He has many futuristic items in his four-dimensional pouch. His ears had been nibbled away by mice, so Doraemon is scared of mice. Some people say that I have an uncanny resemblence to the robotic cat, and I don’t think it’s a compliment. But I digress.

McDonald’s in Singapore was offering Doraemon figurines in the shapes of 12 Chinese zodiac animals. I cannot quite see how they managed to transform a robotic cat to a snake, but that’s not very important for the story. Since Singapore is a melting pot of peoples and religions, the company decided to replace the pig / boar with Cupid, so as not to offend the Muslims. Now this has led to many complaints, mainly from the ethnic Chinese population, and especially from those who were born in the year of pig / boar. With the Chinese New Year approaching, which incidentally falls on the St Valentine’s Day this year, more complaints were being registered, and the burger joint has aplogized to the customers. Doraemon pigs will become available.

What intrigues me is the question over the identity of the decision maker, or in other words, who made the decision to replace the pig with Cupid? Was it taken by the Singporean McDonald’s or from the parent company? It seems a bit odd. In a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, most people respect others’ cultures and traditions, as long as they do not cause harm or annoyance. Zodiac signs are an important part of Chinese and other cultures, that in an attempt not to offend one section, a company decides to ignore another’s traditions on which this merchandise was based.