I can hear him now, the Swedish Chef, making sounds that are supposedly Swedish.
I have never been able to imitate this muppet's speech, but that is perhaps because I am Swedish and this character is certifiably NOT Swedish.
And the way he carries on, knife in one hand, chicken in the other, the connection between knife and head chopped off all too clear. This is not to say that I, as a Swedish American, don't like to eat chicken or think that chickens peacefully and magically appear, aesthetically converted on my plate. But is this really the kind of role model we need to put before our children's eyes?
Besides, the Swedish Chef moves his hands in a way that is deliberately spastic—as if he is making fun of persons who might have medical issues. Yes, the Swedish Chef is definitively, absolutely, NOT certifiably Swedish. And were these Viking times, we could proclaim loudly, "The Swedish Chef Must Die!" Then we'd have to clean our sword, or at least take an honest whack at the chicken—none of that trembling, jerking, will-he-kill-the-chicken-or-not pose, with incomprehensible mumbling that is definitely NOT Swedish.
Now that we have recovered from a gruesome fright-fest in the spirit of Halloween and decapitating that annoying "Swedish" muppet, let us make a list of more candidates who do not represent Sweden in a favorable light ... and so, no Valhalla for them!
Clearly the father of Emil (i Lönneberga) must be taken to court and serve some time in a cushy Swedish prison. After all, locking your child in a shed and being an early purveyor of child labor—having Emil produce piece-meal wooden figure after wooden figure—will not do at all.
While we take our walk through the annals of fictive characters brought to life in various artistic media, the wonderful portrayal by Krister Henriksson of the Swedish detective Kurt Wallander must no longer find its substitute in Kenneth Branagh's portrayal of the same character. Branagh is so UN-SWEDISH in the way he looks into the camera, posing to give us a look that signals like a traffic light, "I am crazy, Swedish, depressed." Not to say that non-Swedes could not play a Swedish character, but Branagh's Kurt Wallander is definitely NOT certifiably Swedish. But I know this will not keep my wife from preferring the Branagh impersonation.
And the Swedish Bikini Team? A sex-in-your-face marketing idea with an artifice about these ladies does not qualify them to be certifiably Swedish. The sense of humor appears to have been forgotten with this "team," or it is not a Swedish sense of humor.
I have held back on Pippi (does she really need a last name at this point anymore?), wondering how willing I am to take cover. Pippi is self-reliant, metes out her own justice, certainly does not allow herself to be held captive by any Swedish child protective services or their notions, and what is she doing clothing a monkey? No, Pippi is not rule- or law-abiding enough to be certifiably Swedish. She is not quite on the same non-conformist level as the violent berserker Vikings, but how would she fit into Swedish society in 2013? Perhaps that is why we like her so much? It really pains me to have to disqualify Pippi from the Certified Swedish bunch.
Could you imagine Olof Palme riding atop Gubben with Pippi? I am sure Palme could imagine himself doing so. But Olof Palme was a real person—there is no denying that, though some would probably not grant him that much. However, the fictive construct of Olof Palme is certainly very non-Swedish. To take a whole people and subjugate them, transform them into something in his mind's image is certifiably very non-Swedish and unbecoming. Certainly not "live and let live." The title of a James Bond film comes more to mind.
I hope that some of the following Swedish fictive characterizations will also die. To set the record straight:
All Swedes are not exhibitionists who like to walk around naked any chance they get. Swedish women do not all sunbathe without a top on.
All Swedes are not atheists or worshippers of Thor and company. Many Swedes believe in God, even if they do not attend church.
All Swedes are not sambo types (no, I am not talking about the children's book). Swedes actually do get married and do not always live together in a sambo situation.
All Swedes are not alcoholics who get drunk every Friday or Saturday night to the point of crawling on all fours and blacking out. Many Swedes enjoy wine and drink it in moderation, even during the week. They do not all save up for a giant vodka bender on the weekend, for example.
All Swedes are not depressed. There are a remarkable number of Swedes who are quite content, dare we say it, happy, and also cheerful. Get to know a cheerful Swede today!
All Swedes are not blond. No, I won't get into how you determine that.
All Swedes are not socialists. Really. There is a whole spectrum of political beliefs.
All Swedish boys do not play ice hockey at the age of 3. Or 4, 5, 6 and so on. Swedes are great hockey players, but not everyone is cut out to be a football- or baseball player. Some Swedish boys take up other pursuits that will leave them with a whole set of teeth. By the way, it is also a false stereotype that Swedish ice hockey players, or hockey players of any nationality, don't have a real set of teeth.
The list of uncertifiably Swedish traits or characterizations is long as the day and light can be short in Sweden. While writing this column I was visited, even haunted by another set of contradictions—that it is not certifiably Swedish to create a list of exclusions. To allay my Swedish guilt I thought for a moment of including a few constructs that are certifiably Swedish. But then I felt a sense of Swedish honesty tug at my wrist and decided, fellow Swedes and citizens of the world, I owe it to you as a Swede to be honest and finish on this topic alone, however uncomfortable and Swedish doing so might make me feel.