American journalist gets death threat for Efteling racism comment

An American journalist has received a death threat after commenting in an article that one of the attractions at the Dutch Efteling amusement park had racist overtones.

Gisela Williams’ review praises the Efteling as a European alternative to a Disney theme park with its fairytale attractions, special effects, lack of queues and affordable food.

However, towards the end of the article Williams refers to one ‘unpleasant part’: ‘the way dark-skinned people were depicted’.

She singles out the Monsieur Cannibale fairground ride, in which people sit in giant cooking pots which spin round a cartoon cannibal figure with a spoon through his nose. The ride, she says, is ‘a racist throwback to the days of the Dutch East India Company’

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The Telegraaf newspaper picked up the story, which was shared over 6,500 times on Facebook.

‘Our park is based on characters from stories, myths and sagas,’ an Efteling spokesman told the paper. ‘We don’t think all stepmothers are evil people like in Snow White or that all people suffering from obesity eat paper, like Holle Bolle Gijs (a larger-than-life waste bin)’.

Commenters on the Elsevier website said Williams is ‘ripe for the psychiatrist’, should keep herself busy making such comments about the USA and should take up cooking instead.

The criticism has since reached Williams herself. ‘I received my first death threat today. Believe it or not it was regarding my recent WSJ article on a fairytale amusement park,’ Williams said on Saturday, using the microblogging service Twitter.

The throw-away reference to the fairground attraction is the latest international news article to mention racism in the Netherlands. At the end of last year, there was widespread attention for the racist overtones in the Zwarte Piet character during the Sinterklaas celebrations and for Dutch entertainer Gordon, who made fun of a Chinese talent show contest.