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He's no Quaker // Religious Society of Friends gets Quaker Oats to alter Popeye ads

Published Jul. 6, 2006

"I yam what I yam," says Popeye the Sailor Man, but the peace-loving Quakers don't like his brawling ways and object to the use of the cartoon character in ads for Quaker Oats. Not only that, toot toot, but Olive Oyl is too submissive, say members of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, a longtime champion of women's rights.

Popeye began popping up last year in TV commercials and in comics inserted in instant oatmeal packages, dispatching his nemesis Bluto with a swift swing of an oversized forearm.

"I eats me oatmeal and I'm stronger than steel, I'm Popeye the Quaker Man," he sings to an adoring Olive Oyl.

Elizabeth Foley, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the biggest Quaker group in the East, said Monday, "They had Popeye resolving dispute and conflict through violence. This is completely obnoxious and offensive."

"We are an organization of pacifists. We have a peace testimony that is more than 300 years old," she said. "To portray us as a church that beats up on other people is not okay."

Quaker Oats Co. _ which has no connection with the religious group _ apologized and said it deleted the phrase "Popeye the Quaker Man" from commercials, which ran through the "oatmeal season," September through March.

References to "Popeye the Quaker Man" will be taken out in future printings of the comics in oatmeal packages, the Chicago-based company said.

"Obviously, we looked at it as a humorous way in which to promote the product and certainly never intended to create any controversy," said company spokesman Ron Bottrell.

However, he said Quaker Oats hasn't decided whether to drop Popeye as a spokesman.

In Chester County, near Philadelphia, Quaker children at the Willistown Monthly Meeting First Day School suggested an alternative plot.

"They have Popeye and Bluto coming together and saying, "Our fights have never resolved anything. Let's try something new _ let's work together for the betterment of all,'

" Foley said. "And they build a homeless shelter."

Paul Hendricks, who edits the Popeye strip for King Features Syndicate, said the concept of Bluto and Popeye working together isn't too farfetched.

"I think it'd fly. As long as it's not saccharine sweet, it'd be okay," Hendricks said. "Basically, Popeye's a nice guy. He just beats up on bad guys."