Yesterday we began our “seasonal shopping” — the process of buying Chanukah gifts for our daughter, and Christmas gifts for her cousins. As we left Vancouver’s fabulous Kidsbooks with our two-year-old and her new dreidel book, we wandered to the windows next door. Kidsbooks’ next-door neighbour is Loulou, noted for its generally wonderful window displays. Loulou Luv — the jewelry and accessory store — currently features an incredible assortment of sock-monkey-style monkeys, much to the delight of our daughter.
At the Loulou card and gift store next door, still more little monkeys were featured carrying gifts up into three large zeppelins. Zeppelins labeled “Hindenberg”, whose swastikas had been restyled into plus signs, but were otherwise identical to the classic black-on-white-on-red of your basic Nazi party insignia.
Judging from the reaction of the clerk, I may have been the first person to ask whether invoking Nazi iconography was, um, a tasteful way to market Christmas and — you guessed it — Chanukah cards. I’m hoping Loulou’s owners will show a little more understanding about why their window display might strike their Kits neighbours — dare I suggest particularly their Jewish neighbours — as a poor choice. After all, they clearly had enough sensitivity to de-swastika their swastikas, so I guess they know they’re treading on sensitive ground. What they might not realize is that a plus sign on a white-and-red background, on a replica of a Nazi airship, still says “Nazi” to an awful lot of people.
Monkeys climbing out of a zeppelin with doctored swastikas might strike me as an interesting and provocative exhibit if I ran into it at the Vancouver Art Gallery (though I’m guessing the VAG, like a lot of museums, would give careful thought to the pros and cons before exhibiting a work that played with Nazi iconography).
But Loulou’s window isn’t an art gallery; it’s a commercial diplay, intended to encourage people to visit a store and buy stuff. And while I wouldn’t take my two-year-old to an exhibit invoking Nazi iconography, Loulou’s streetfront location (next door to a children’s store, no less) put me in the unexpected position of showing my daughter a set of monkeys who are playing the role of Nazi henchmen.
Loulou has the right to put whatever they want to in their own windows. But I would hope that the realization that their display is in fact likely to offend many potential customers — even with the swastikas re-styled — will encourage them to remove the display, or at the very least, remove the pseudo-swastikas and Hindenberg references.
That’s a decision that would not only be better for the neighbourhood, but I hope, better for business. I’d like to think that the evocation of a genocidal regime is not, in fact, the most effective way to sell Christmas cards.