Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

I Love You, Sun-Maid Raisin Girl

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Much like Betty Crocker and the Brawny Man recently “updated” their product’s icon, the Sun-Maid company wrongly thinks that the 21st Century requires a 21st Century Sun-Maid girl.  When I heard about this change, I was extremely upset.  As a lover of raisins, I’m fond of the old icon — the kind-hearted, but lusty farm girl, always with a smile on her face, the perfect hostess who never fails to offer me some of her fresh-picked, juicy California grapes.  What full-blooded American teen male hasn’t spent countless hours staring at his box of raisins, fantasizing about this beautiful raisin girl with the tight peasant blouse and mysterious red bonnet, her long, dark hair flowing down?

The Sun-Maid girl has an actual history:

“Unlike the Pillsbury Doughboy or even Betty Crocker, the Sun Maid image is based on a real person – Lorraine Collett Petersen, a California girl who volunteered to hand out boxes of raisins at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.”

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“Petersen was asked to pose with a tray of grapes for a painting that became the company’s logo in 1916.”

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“The image was updated in 1970, when the Sun Maid’s decidedly ethnic features were smoothed out and her torso was slenderized.”

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Thirty-six years later, and it’s time for some more Botox — especially if you’re going to be on television.  So, since it’s time for some Sun-Maid commercials, it’s time for the raisin girl to get a makeover.

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“But now, for the first time in her very long life, the beauty on the box has been granted a Pilates body, an aerobics instructor’s voice, and a 30-second television spot to launch her new career as a company spokescharacter.

Introduced last week, the 21st-century version of the raisin queen is a true digital dollface, tanned and toned and unmistakably going for the big-eyed Barbie, Shrek-girl, Disney-princess look. Think Sandra Bullock made of pixels, and you get the picture.”

You can see the final commercial here.

TV has always been obsessed with good looks, but never as much so as today.  Could a Walter Cronkite exist today?  While watching reruns of “Match Game” this weekend, Sophia and I wondered if a dorky guy like Gene Rayburn could ever host a game show nowadays?  Even on “reality” shows, everyone is unrealistically good-looking.   I’m not going to even get into the weight issues that television promotes.  Which Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, etc. — the show should be called “Desperately Anorexic Housewives.”

Call me a traditionalist, but I like the old raisin girl better.  But I guess I understand the company’s need to “sex her up.”  In fact, as a top blogger, I was able to get access to the secret plans for Raisin Girl 2007 [codename Angela the Stripper] , as the company raises the “edgy” level in order to increase the demographic of younger men age 18-25, who have been opting out of raisins for “hipper” snacks like Doritos.

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43 Comments

  1. I find the new Sunmaid girl very Lohan-esque, but in a very plastic, creepy way. Which means either advertisers are falling into the Lohan publicity trap or I pay too much attention to gossip magazines.

  2. what am i missing about the smoothing out her ethnicity in 1970? her surname is peterson? she looks caucasian-european ish if you ask me.

  3. Well, I suppose tastes do change with time, but I too prefered the one I grew up with (the 1970 one). Of course, I never buy raisins. It’s good that a more ethnic look is in now, as opposed to a less ethnic look before.

  4. “Sun*Maid Raisins(TM): Nothing but Grapes and Sunshine…AND NEIL.”

    You gonna rework that classic “I Love Lucy” scene and do a little grape-stomping with the Sun*Maid Raisins(TM) girl, too?

  5. Wait, the SunMaid girl I saw was literally digital, like she was in some sort of video game. And it was creepy — her kerchief thingy looked positively antagonistic. I can’t believe they have live action raisin divas too!

  6. dude, is nothing sacred? is the ST. Pauli’s girl next?! man, save the Sun-Maid raisin girl!!! (are we protesting? do i need to break out my signs?)

  7. Color me crazy, but does the Sunmaid Girl (as we know her now; the first image above) remind anyone else of Anne Hathaway?

  8. The new Sunmaid girl reminded me of Barbie in those videos that they now push. I have always thought that the video Barbie was kind of creepy.

    And they made her less ethnic in the 70s? The main difference I can see between that image and the earlier one is that she is thinner. Does plump mean ethnic? Sheesh.

  9. I am also freaked out by the new raisin diva, and the freaky video Barbie. But I also miss Ms. Pacman.

  10. Is that woman eating plastic grapes?

  11. thank you neil! what is up with there being no big girls on AI? facists!

    you totally get extra points today my friend. 🙂

  12. Wow. I didn’t know they grew grapes in the Uncanny Valley.

  13. …i have never seen Desperate
    Housewives however i understand
    that the writer’s original intention
    of the script was as a satire…
    and hollywood (booooooo) spun it
    into a soap opera…

    and yes to the original packaging…
    and no to slenderizing torsos unless
    it’s through yoga, not pilateeeeeees…

  14. I like the old Raisin Girl. Then again, I have this thing about Romanian peasant women. HOT-CHA-CHA!

  15. When my daughters were young, they thought it was a picture of ME…and they were delighted that I’d packaged raisins that way for them! Thanks for the memory — and we’re all horrified at the new plastic-woman

  16. I stand firm that grapes should remain grapes.

  17. I think she looks like an expendable extra from the Team America movie.

  18. Looks like something out of the movie Shrek.

  19. So right after I commented on the post, I turned on the TV. What was on? The new Sunmaid commercial. ARGHHHH! I kid you not.

  20. I like the old sun maid raisin girl. As if this is going to help them sell more raisins. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

    3T

  21. As a huge consumer household for raisins, I really have no interest in seeing the newly digitized and better-than-real-life raisin girl. How depressing.

    But I must share a quick story! When I was about 4 and my brother was 6, he told me that raisins, when given enough sunshine, turn into grapes. Imagine my mother’s surprise when she came home to raisins lined up on every windowsill in the house!

  22. Definitely creepy. And way too tan. Haven’t the commercial producers heard of skin cancer?

  23. If anything, they should have updated her hat. That was the only thing that needed fixing.

  24. What, no blonde streaks yet? Argh. I admit I never paid that much attention to her- I even had a box of raisins just last week. They better not mess with the red box though.

  25. The shirt isn’t nearly low-cut enough. When I think raisins, I think luscious breasts. And I’m just not getting that vibe here.

  26. The digital people really depress me.

  27. Do you have the name of her trainer?

  28. I LOVE matchgame!

    I saw that digital Raisin girl, too. She was scary! Your stripper girl seems more realistic!

  29. is nothing sacred?

    next they’re gonna wanna change the slogan: “silly rabbit, trix are for kids!”

  30. I think the old Raisin girl got an injection of modern day Botox.

    I like the old version SO much better. When will the marketing folks learn somethings are best left alone.

  31. i actually like the original one best, she has some character to her. i don’t understand why raisins, that i thought were geared towards little kids, need to be sexed up anyways?

  32. Love Raisins, Annoyed by Raisin Girl… Next they are going to introduce her saucy red-headed sidekick, Craisin Girl. I hope she looks like Ginny Weasely and not Marcia Cross…

  33. so interesting since i recently was craving raisins! also, just a side-note, my previous firm handled the brawny man makeover. it was insane and my co-worker and i were working late one night on the media outreach and were finally driven to the edge shouting..it’s a f*cking paper towel!!!

  34. I’m totally with you. The new Sun-Maid chick seriously needs some pizza!

  35. I’m with you. The old one is better. 🙂

  36. Sunmaid girl looks like she’s been to Fairytopia recently for sure.

    Do notice with her new anorexic figure she can no longer hold a whole tray of grapes — right after the pic was snapped she collapsed under the weight of that 2 1/2 pound bunch she’s holding.

    Oy.

  37. I think it’s all part of the mentality that we need to constantly be upgrading. Stand strong, Neil!

  38. The first one had ethnic features?

  39. I am so totally going to be the Doritos girl. Cool Ranch, baby. Cool Ranch.
    ~L.

  40. That is just plain ol’ freaky.

    She looks like a character from “shrek”

    On the, whole looks and who would make it today. I was actually talking about this with co-workers. Today it’s all about image. Singers of the 50’s-early 80’s would never be a success today. They weren’t pretty (many of them) Clothes, not designer.
    Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Beatles, pick any band from the 70’s…probably never would have heard of them. Not so pretty. However, they did actually have talent. Today, not so much.

    ..but back to the Sun Maid raisin girl. That’s just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Freaky wrong.

  41. Maybe they think little girls will want to eat raisins if that Barbie-looking harpy is peddling them. Next thing you know, they won’t call them raisins anymore. They’ll be called “All Natural Fruit Snacks.”

  42. Reagarding marketers, let me paraphrase Bob Marley (who’s next to be “updated”) and say:
    Give them an inch they’ll take a yard
    Give then a yard they’ll take a mile
    Give them a brand with a bit of soul
    and know for certain it’ll be gone in a while

  43. i like the new sun-maid raisin girl. the other 1 was plain, & i think its time 4 a fresh face. I’m not obsessed with her breasts, but i think she looks more…happy!! and i love her tan skin!! *JEALOUS!!*
    😀

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