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Is this Volkswagen ad racist?
January 31, 2013 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Jamaican's seem to have no issue with Volkswagen's new Super Bowl ad, others however are of a different opinion, going so far as to deem the content racist.
posted by Cosine (135 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Is this Volkswagen ad racist?

No.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:52 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Let's ask this child!

Also, no.
posted by raihan_ at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jamaican is not really a race, is it?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


this is exactly why I hate reggae, but this is a very nice ad. I can see why the Jamaican tourism officials are pleased about it.
posted by Bwithh at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2013


Yay Super Bowl ad's!
posted by xedrik at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Grocer's are OK with it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [58 favorites]


OK, well for one, Jamaican isn't a race. This Wendy's ad used common US perceptions about a particular country to comedic effect, and these are negative perceptions - is this 'racist' against Russians? Or do we maybe need to relax a little?
posted by Mister_A at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hat der Subaltern Fahrvergnügen?
posted by R. Schlock at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Never underestimate the ability and willingness of educated Americans to turn crass celebration of consumption (undeserving of anyone's attention) into a meditation on race/religion/politics/etc.
posted by anewnadir at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an issue with that apostrophe.
posted by ocschwar at 12:57 PM on January 31, 2013 [36 favorites]


If the response to "Is this racist?" is "X isn't a race." it's probably a pretty good bet the thing's offensive.
posted by hoyland at 12:57 PM on January 31, 2013 [16 favorites]


Appealing to stereotypes of national characteristics (in this case, the upbeat Jamaican) is different from racism - not that the former is a really great thing, but it's not nearly as destructive, in my opinion.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gotta go with "not racist or offensive" on this one.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The internet's racism judge says yes
posted by shothotbot at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I havent watch'ed i't ye't but I thinke'd it is probably o'k'.
posted by NedKoppel at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Racist? Probably not. Potentially offensive to non-dominant / minority segments of the population? Probably so. Definitely sitting on the edge of poor taste...and all part of the calculus for some vacuous ad agency. "People are gonna be TALKING about this one!" Gross.
posted by jnnla at 1:01 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


The most annoying thing about the "Is it racist?" game is that it almost always devolves into an argument over what the correct definition of racist is, rather than talking about whatever problematic aspects the subject might actually have.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:02 PM on January 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood. Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood. Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood. Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood. Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood....
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:02 PM on January 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's called racist because the term "cultural appropriation" is difficult to type on a mobile device.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:05 PM on January 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


If anything, the ad is racist against Minnesotans, by assuming that We of the Lakes can't be happy and content at all times.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:05 PM on January 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


whatever problematic aspects the subject might actually have.

I was going for this, honest, I am not so good with words. Do you have concerns about said aspects?
posted by Cosine at 1:05 PM on January 31, 2013


Will anybody in this Super Bowl ad's demographic care? Because it seems to me that the issue here isn't that Volkswagon put out an ad in poor taste, it's that they did it with a specific target in mind. And if we assume most white collar workers not to have absolutely banal senses of humor dating back to like when they were the third funniest kid in their 7th grade geography class or having the best one-liners at the annual family meet-up then maybe there's not so much an issue as it is just a gaffe on the advertising agency's fault. But if it's the other thing then maybe the problem lies with the culture and what the hell is anybody going to be able to do about young adult men and women with a newly inflated bank account not being entitled shitheads.
posted by dubusadus at 1:06 PM on January 31, 2013


It's worse than that... it's not even very good.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:08 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not all the way to racist, but it's certainly not a very good ad and make questionable use of stereotypical accents and attitudes. Considering how good VW makes many of its ads this one is certainly way below par.
posted by GuyZero at 1:08 PM on January 31, 2013


Using a "Jamaican Accent" as a shorthand depiction of "Perpetual Happiness" is just lazy. Also, the song, "Come On, Get Happy", is NOT Reggae, it's the freaking theme song to "The Partridge Family"!!!

And this is why we should care about Super Bowl Commercials?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:08 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Will anybody in this Super Bowl ad's demographic care?

Will anybody in this minstrel show's demographic care?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


> going so far as to deem the content racist.

From the linked piece:
Has anyone else noticed that I have yet to actually say “this commercial is racist”? That is because my whole point is that we need to stop using inflammatory language to label any and everything that gets in our way. “Racist” is almost too strong a term for this weak ad. You know what? The mean redneck who called me “girl” and denied me access to my own dressing room when I was headlining a musical tour even after I pointed out my picture and name above the title on the marquee? He was racist. My grandmother (may she rest in peace)? Kinda racist.

But a commercial can’t hurt my feelings, and it is certainly no targeted assault on the Caribbean community. It is far too stupid for that. This commercial commits the most egregious of sins. It is not funny.
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on January 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


I like the part where he said "ten t'ousand lakes".
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:12 PM on January 31, 2013 [16 favorites]


In related news: Arab-American groups say Coke Super Bowl ad is racist.
posted by ericb at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2013


What damage is being done here, other than perhaps to good taste? I don't see anything destructive or hateful. They're not being mean, they're being silly. They're not being silly very well, but that's not racism, that's just failed humor. And it's not completely failed, there are a few good lines.
posted by Malor at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those who benefit from structural racism are probably having great guffaws at the current supposedly anti-racist preoccupation with language and imagery. Not saying that such concerns are insignificant, but meanwhile, 38% of African-American children live in poverty.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was going for this, honest, I am not so good with words.

To be clear I wasn't criticizing your particular framing, just the way these discussions usually go where it's a discussion about labels rather than a discussion about the subject.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2013


Is this stereotyping a race? No. It's racist to assume the Jamaican accent is targeting a specific race.

Is it stereotyping a culture/country? Yes. Therefore, offensive? To some inherent extent, but it's not an obnoxious one. It's playful and non-restrictive. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging cultural patterns.

Is it interesting that there were all white men and one Asian guy? Yeh, but that seems pretty accurate on America's actual demographic. If anything, people should be concerned about the lack of women portrayed in the office environment, though that is also a pretty accurate representation.
posted by thetoken at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2013


I must assume that when the boss in the ad says "Chill, Winston!" he is explicitly referencing this line from "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," so there is a dooby subtext to this ad; presumably they have all gone out for a drive and a sweet bowl of the sticky icky. But while the suggestion that Jamaicans might be especially partial to doobajuana might be problematic, the suggestion that a white man from Minnesota who has affected a Jamaican accent might also smoke weed is ... well, pretty likely, actually. And, then, it is hard to prove racism from intertextual subtext, although I stand by my interpretation that they have come back from that ride as high as a kite.

As to the accent itself -- well, here is gets complicated. Keep in mind that Jamaican patois has been affected all throughout London, dubbed "Jafaican" but perhaps more properly known as Multicultural London English. And the hand-wringing there is not that it might insult Jamaicans, but that it is somehow sullying English. Although, in fairness, the Jamaican accent is heavily influenced by the Irish accent (there was a massive Irish community in the West Indies) (and they are sometime easily mistaken). Not that this is here or there, but it's interesting how different places respond to the same accent.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:16 PM on January 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Jamaicans" = the Minister of Tourism? I'm just going to go out on a limb and say he doesn't speak for the entire country when he's happy to be stereotyped.

The white US has a weird thing for a cartoonish stereotyped version of Jamaican culture, and this is a symptom of that. But really the weirdest line in the ad is the one that attributes all this newfound Jamaicanness to "the power of German engineering." So they're actually claiming the car is built to be a magical raceshiftingmobile?
posted by RogerB at 1:17 PM on January 31, 2013


There are white people with Caribbean accents - I've met working class folks from Trini who moved to New England. It's really weird, as you think he's doing a funny accent, and then you meet his family, and they all talk like that. A quick search of the internet shows that there are white Jamaicans with Jamaican accents, and they have some trouble fitting in abroad because of it.

So, no, not racist.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


The worst thing about this ad is that, come Monday, a million bros are going to be walking around the office going "No worries, mon!" just like they did with "Whazzzzzzzzzzup?!" a few years ago.

Kill me now.
posted by bondcliff at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2013 [25 favorites]


The "Not racist" derail is just an artifact of a particular way of defining "race". I don't think anyone would disagree that Jamaicans are a distinct ethnicity. Calling a particular anti-ethnic prejudice "racism" is a pretty common shorthand.
posted by bonehead at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


ericb: "In related news: Arab-American groups say Coke Super Bowl ad is racist."

> "Coke asks viewers to vote online on which characters should win the race. The online site does not allow a vote for the Arab character. "
posted by boo_radley at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Racist? No. Thoroughly weird? Yes. I don't understand the angle at all.
posted by Decani at 1:28 PM on January 31, 2013


And just what the hell is race, anyway? Are white Jamaicans still considered to be Jamaican? How about Jamaicans from Lebanon or India? And what if the Indo-Jamaicans are originally from southern India? Or if the Lebanese-Jamaicans are Druse? What about so-called "mixed race" Jamaicans?

The people who think this is racist have probably not really considered very hard what the term "race" means, and how that term actively encourages racism.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:29 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know what's worse than knee-jerk cries of "that's racist"? The way the entire internet collectively rolls its eyes out of its sockets and whines and moans every time anybody anywhere says something is "slightly racist."
posted by koeselitz at 1:31 PM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh my god don't even get me started on Lucky Charms commercials.
posted by chococat at 1:31 PM on January 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


Jeez, it's not like Jamaican stereotypes are built on either mocking or appropriating a culture developed by one part of the African diaspora who were cruelly subjugated for hundreds of years and had to engage in a long history of violent struggles to gain their freedom or anything.

this is exactly why I hate reggae

Reggae the musical form which was used as a way to create a national identity and as a way to protest against European imperalism? The impression of reggae as uniformly "skankin' it easy, mon" is based on the fact that Americans don't really propogate the more political stuff.

Those who benefit from structural racism are probably having great guffaws at the current supposedly anti-racist preoccupation with language and imagery. Not saying that such concerns are insignificant, but meanwhile, 38% of African-American children live in poverty.

It seems kind of hard to argue that anyone is 'preoccupied' with this particular piece of white culture. Where are the non-profits? Where are the Super PACS? Where are the boycotts? Where are the marches?
posted by muddgirl at 1:33 PM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not saying the Coke ad isn't racist, but the quote: "Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers?" is a weird way to complain about a Arab person being depicted as none of those things.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:33 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ok I know it's not a good ad and likely in poor taste but I admit at the end when he said "respeck bossman" *fistbump* I smiled a little
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:33 PM on January 31, 2013


The people who think this is racist have probably not really considered very hard what the term "race" means, and how that term actively encourages racism.

Or, they've thought about this issue much, much more than you think and know that "race" is socially constructed and there's no point in discussing what "race means," and we should instead discuss a constellation of things which are generally similar to "racism," including ethnic stereotyping.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:34 PM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is just another example, KokuRyu, of how we confuse culture with skin color. It's more visible with Jamaicans than it usually is, but the same inherent problems are true anytime you confuse the two.
posted by Malor at 1:35 PM on January 31, 2013


Needs more ganja, mon.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:35 PM on January 31, 2013


I can't remember, is this racist or merely clueless, gauche and unhip?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:36 PM on January 31, 2013


Racist? No. Thoroughly weird? Yes. I don't understand the angle at all.

Are you a white male who thinks all Jamaicans are upbeat all the time (despite having a lot of reason not to be, which are covered in detail in those reggae songs you and your frat bros sing all the time without ever giving the lyrics any thought), and also, are you too young to know that this is the theme song from the crappy old Partridge Family?

If so, Volkswagen is for you!
posted by Sys Rq at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Over 91% of Jamaicans are classified as "black" and another 6% are classified as "mixed race," if that helps anyone form an discussion about culture vs. skin color.

I can't remember, is this racist or merely clueless, gauche and unhip?

It's reverse-racist against white people, no?
posted by muddgirl at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2013


This is just another example, KokuRyu, of how we confuse culture with skin color. It's more visible with Jamaicans than it usually is, but the same inherent problems are true anytime you confuse the two.

I would tend to agree. Like I said upthread, "cultural appropriation" has more syllables and sounds like a word from a 300-level seminar, so nobody likes talking about it.

I think it's a more powerful way to discuss the issue, because culture is maleable, changing, and (ideally) inclusive. But I'm sounding like a pretentious TA, so I will sign off with "racist".
posted by KokuRyu at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Just to be clear, I was being ironic in my comment about reverse racism.)
posted by muddgirl at 1:39 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Over 91% of Jamaicans are classified as "black" and another 6% are classified as "mixed race,"

Yeah, but who created the classifications?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:40 PM on January 31, 2013


To even suggest that this somehow promotes racial hatred (why else would you use the term "racist") indicates a level of sanctimonious cluelessness which is breathtaking.

Yet another reason why I am glad I live in Europe.
posted by epo at 1:41 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the 6% "mixed race" Jamaicans here, stopping by to say that the really offensive thing about the commercial is the horrible Jamaican accents. They sound like somewhat tipsy Belizeans.
posted by strawdog at 1:41 PM on January 31, 2013 [22 favorites]


Much pearl clutching over nothing.
posted by Kokopuff at 1:43 PM on January 31, 2013


Keep Cool Babylon.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:44 PM on January 31, 2013


Jamaican is not really a race, is it?

No, but it's pretty common knowledge that Jamaica is a predominately black country.

There are white people with Caribbean accents

I get that there is a small minority of white Jamaicans, but if you are seriously going to tell me that you imagine a white person when I tell you to picture a Jamaican person in your head, I'm going to call bullshit.

I don't know if this commercial is 100% racist, but it is definitely using racial humor and I don't think it's fair to completely shut down or blow off or ignore all discussions around race in this spot. I mean would the "joke" even work if the guy in the commercial were black? Probably not.
posted by windbox at 1:47 PM on January 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


Nah, it's not racist exactly. But it's relying on cliché and cultural stereotype so it's lazy and a little bit embarrassing. That Wendy's ad, however, is fucking horrible.
posted by steganographia at 1:51 PM on January 31, 2013


OK, for us lazy readers .. which link has the video? I tried USA Today, but when I clicked on the video it took me to the front door of USA Travel. Fuck off, USA Today.

YOUTUBE LINK TO VIDEO.

I'm not sure if I even know how to define "racist," but sure, of course that's racist. Like windbox says, if the main character is a black man, it does not work.

To even suggest that this somehow promotes racial hatred

Does racism always promote "racial hatred?" I wouldn't include that in a definition. I suppose there has to be a facet of one race being inferior or superior. The main character does act quite subserviently (e.g. "Mr. Jim") and use pidgin English ("ride with I" etc.), so I think that notion of inferiority is there, imo.

On the spectrum, it's very mild racism. But it's racism.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bacon | Beer can
posted by Kabanos at 1:54 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


The worst thing about this ad is that, come Monday, a million bros are going to be walking around the office going "No worries, mon!" just like they did with "Whazzzzzzzzzzup?!" a few years ago.

THIS IS THE REAL ISSUE HERE PEOPLE

declare this thing racist and see that it never airs and this will never come to pass
posted by furiousthought at 1:55 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know what is offensive? Like properly offensive? Assuming that every single Caribbean accent is Jamaican. Using the words Caribbean and Jamaican as if they were frigging synonyms.

There's other countries in the West Indies. You should keep that in mind.
posted by zoo at 1:56 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yet another reason why I am glad I live in Europe.

And why is that? It's always weird to me seeing this sentiment from Europeans online.

They seem to think that because race isn't so openly discussed in Europe there isn't a racism problem there. Then later they cluck at, say, the Paris slums teeming with the immigrants and non-white French and wonder what's to be done about the encroaching Muslim menace. How nice it must be to live in a racism-free utopia!
posted by Sangermaine at 1:57 PM on January 31, 2013 [27 favorites]


I mean would the "joke" even work if the guy in the commercial were black? Probably not.

Ok, I can accept that the commercial is playing to the audience expectation that nearly all persons with a Jamaican accent are black so the fact that Jamaican is not a race is not an an iron-clad defense.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:58 PM on January 31, 2013


One of the 6% "mixed race" Jamaicans here, stopping by to say that the really offensive thing about the commercial is the horrible Jamaican accents. They sound like somewhat tipsy Belizeans.

Similar to how Scots feel when they hear a Scottish character in TV, movies or commercials, most of whom seem to be played by non-Scots (James Doohan may have been the worst offender), and usually portraying alcoholism, cheapness, or both.
posted by rocket88 at 1:58 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like how the car is red. Think about it.
posted by chavenet at 1:59 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's other countries in the West Indies. You should keep that in mind.

Please also keep in mind that there are distinct differences between the Turkses and the Caicoses.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:00 PM on January 31, 2013


Red like the fibers in the ganja?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:01 PM on January 31, 2013



One of the 6% "mixed race" Jamaicans here, stopping by to say that the really offensive thing about the commercial is the horrible Jamaican accents. They sound like somewhat tipsy Belizeans.

Similar to how Scots feel when they hear a Scottish character in TV, movies or commercials, most of whom seem to be played by non-Scots (James Doohan may have been the worst offender), and usually portraying alcoholism, cheapness, or both.
posted by rocket88 at 1:58 PM on January 31


Don't even get me started on taco commercials.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:09 PM on January 31, 2013


I don't know if this commercial is 100% racist, but it is definitely using racial humor and I don't think it's fair to completely shut down or blow off or ignore all discussions around race in this spot. I mean would the "joke" even work if the guy in the commercial were black? Probably not.

The joke would work with a black character if we could establish that before he bought his VW his accent was completely different; that would be a bit harder to do, though, in a 30 second spot. The joke is easier to set up, of course, with the white Minnesotan character because the accent is more inherently improbable for him (there's quite a lot of appropriation of Caribbean accents by black African Americans, after all). The point of the joke is simply incongruity. You could imagine an ad for, say, some retro-chic version of the MGB (along the lines of the Beetle or the Fiat Bambino) that would have the character talking in Austin Powersisms to convey the idea that the car is a fun, cool, retro experience. Here, of course, the incongruity is double-sided: it's odd to have the square looking white guy talk in that accent, it's odd to have that particular kind of laid-back cool associated with VW.

I don't know that it really works to say that the commercial must be "racist" because is "using racial humor" or because it would work differently if the characters were of a different race. By those criteria pretty nearly every Dave Chappelle skit becomes "racist."
posted by yoink at 2:10 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Caribbeanplating
posted by newmoistness at 2:11 PM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Please also keep in mind that there are distinct differences between the Turkses and the Caicoses.
Is this sarcasm? Do Turkses get upset after being constantly referred to as Caicoses?
posted by zoo at 2:13 PM on January 31, 2013


I can't tell if the commercial is racist or not because I'm too distracted by how stupid it is.
posted by phunniemee at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I worked with a guy like that, I'd find it annoying, and I would be surprised if we didn't have some sort of sensitivity training at the end of a week of him speaking with (what I assume is) a Jamaican accent about how imitating the speech patterns of different peoples should probably be avoided.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


>Please also keep in mind that there are distinct differences between the Turkses and the Caicoses.
Is this sarcasm? Do Turkses get upset after being constantly referred to as Caicoses?


I don't know about that (although they divided by the wide and deep Caicos passage), but it's turtles all the way down.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:17 PM on January 31, 2013




To even suggest that this somehow promotes racial hatred

The word "racist" doesn't necessarily connote racial hatred anymore (see numerous comments above). Someone linked to an essay (here on Metafilter, I think) about how some instances of racism can more properly been seen as violations of an elaborate system of etiquette. Being "racist" is a taboo in itself, entirely divorced from whether harm is intended by its perpetrators or experienced as such by its putative targets. Unfortunately, there isn't a linguistic distinction. (Please read carefully and note that I am not defending racism or racist hate speech, which is real and vile and dangerous.)
posted by Wordwoman at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2013


I see it comes with bonus man-telling-woman-to-smile.
posted by odinsdream at 2:19 PM on January 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


The worst thing about this ad is that, come Monday, a million bros are going to be walking around the office going "No worries, mon!" just like they did with "Whazzzzzzzzzzup?!" a few years ago.

This is the proper response. Sadly, it never caught on...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:22 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Is this sarcasm? Do Turkses get upset after being constantly referred to as Caicoses?"

I can't speak to that but I found out that Puerto Ricans apparently don't like being referred to as Dominicans...
posted by MikeMc at 2:22 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether it's racist or not, the big winner in this brouhaha will be the advertiser and the NFL.

Originally, yea back when, Superbowl commercials were opportunities to visit the bathroom or fridge. Nobody watched 'em, nobody. But now, after much clever PR work on the part of the NFL, they're the main point of the game.

Does this sound like hyperbole? It's not. The ads in the Superbowl have a higher percentage of viewership than the game itself, and this doesn't even count before-or-after viewing of ads that have gone viral on YouTube. Essentially, the game and the ads have switched places. People now watch the Superbowl to see the ads, which are, despite their high production value, no different from a bilboard or "Crazy Eddie" commercial.

NFL wizardry made it so.
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:32 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but who created the classifications?

White colonial landowners.
posted by rtha at 2:32 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my experience (I've lived in five parts of Japan, and laterwas a regional manager for a government agency responsible for communicating with 9 difference rural regions in British Columbia), all politics are local. There is no one monolithic group of Japanese or British Columbians. It all boils down to communities (cities, towns, localities), not nation-states.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:32 PM on January 31, 2013


My sense is that it's intentionally pushing the 'oooh is this racist?!?' button because the ad agency knew that this would get the ad talked about AND get it viciously defended. We might be seeing a new trend with things that toe the line, having the assurance that they will both provoke criticism and be defended from those kinds of criticisms. Smart in a way.
posted by litleozy at 2:39 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


But really the weirdest line in the ad is the one that attributes all this newfound Jamaicanness to "the power of German engineering."

Yeah, I cringed a lot hearing that. I'm guessing the ad folks didn't really think about the implications of referencing changing race/ethnicity in connection with "German engineering."
posted by The World Famous at 2:40 PM on January 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whadda you know from funny, ya bastard.
posted by gwint at 2:40 PM on January 31, 2013


I think the ad has been effective.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:01 PM on January 31, 2013


oooOOh. Is this where we talk about Swarte Piet?
posted by humboldt32 at 3:01 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm amazed that it took ten comments before someone mentioned that apostrophe
posted by memebake at 3:29 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: “I think the ad has been effective.”

It's pretty basic media manipulation, really: create an ad that 95% of NFL's audience won't think is actually racist, and then plant a suggestion in a magazine that it is actually "slightly racist" in order to provoke a positive backlash in favor of the commercial. It was kind of obvious to do the plant in Forbes, I guess, but then none of this exactly smacks of subtlety.
posted by koeselitz at 3:45 PM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


You are giving ad agencies way too much credit.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:50 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's like this ad wants to be this season of American Horror Story. Only except for anus-faced aliens contra the Nazi doctor, it's German technology contra white men. What a weird, lame thing.
posted by angrycat at 3:51 PM on January 31, 2013


Stuff like this always reminds me of when I was touring the "Blues Clues" production offices a million years ago and they explained that they originally had an anthropomorphic character with a French accent and one with an Italian accent and that they decided that the Italian one was stereotypical and offensive and dropped it. But kept the French one.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:55 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised people haven't attacked it for being a tacit endorsement of pot as a mood enhancer via cultural clues. And then laugh heartily at the following Budweiser ad.
posted by sourwookie at 4:05 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's pretty racist that the Asian guy, who appears first in the commercial, is being lumped in with the white people. This whole anti-racist campaign, like so many others, demonstrates its own casual racism by treating Asian Americans as invisible and interchangeable, yet again.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:24 PM on January 31, 2013


What's racist about speaking Jamaican patois (or a parody of it)? If anything, I think it's good.
posted by readyfreddy at 4:36 PM on January 31, 2013


I'm amazed that it took ten comments before someone mentioned that apostrophe

Six, actually.
posted by straight at 4:39 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hooray beer!
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:59 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this sound like hyperbole? It's not. The ads in the Superbowl have a higher percentage of viewership than the game itself, and this doesn't even count before-or-after viewing of ads that have gone viral on YouTube. Essentially, the game and the ads have switched places. People now watch the Superbowl to see the ads, which are, despite their high production value, no different from a bilboard or "Crazy Eddie" commercial.

Definitely not hyperbole. Not that it's a high bar, but on the way home from work NPR was talking about the lineup for the next few days, and specifically mentioned the time they'd be devoting to covering the ads. As news.
posted by odinsdream at 5:11 PM on January 31, 2013


Needs more Red Stripe.
posted by adamvasco at 5:25 PM on January 31, 2013


> I mean would the "joke" even work if the guy in the commercial were black? Probably not.

If he were still from Minnesota it would.
posted by stp123 at 5:26 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think we can agree that recasting the lead guy as Prince would make this 100% better.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:29 PM on January 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, I am from Minnesota, and I don't think it's racist.

What? What?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:00 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm, actually watching the ad, it actually seemed like a fairly obvious allusion to pot smoking. Everyone is "uptight" until they "take a ride" with Dave, does anyone not think they just hot-boxed that thing? It's pretty easy to imagine smoke billowing out of the windows when they drove up, it wouldn't change the tone of the ad much at all.

And let's keep it real, lots of stoners like to listen to reggae and pretend to be "Rastafarian" - if anything, the ad is making fun of pot smokers, but what's interesting is that being a stoner is portrayed as being compatible with being a "respectable" upper middle class office worker, and the ad is laughing "with" stoners rather then "at" them.

That said, I don't really think the ad is racist.
The "Not racist" derail is just an artifact of a particular way of defining "race". I don't think anyone would disagree that Jamaicans are a distinct ethnicity. Calling a particular anti-ethnic prejudice "racism" is a pretty common shorthand.
Except that's problematic because people of different ethnic groups live in Jamaica, and they all talk that way. It's assuming that Jamaica is ethnically homogeneous. Looking at Wikipedia, about 3.2% of the population is white, along with 3.4% south Asian and 1% Chinese.
Those who benefit from structural racism are probably having great guffaws at the current supposedly anti-racist preoccupation with language and imagery. Not saying that such concerns are insignificant, but meanwhile, 38% of African-American children live in poverty.
Yeah, stuff like this annoys me. It plays into the whole "PC police" characterization that the right wing likes to promote in order to that real racism doesn't exist, that it's all just vapid hysteria, etc.
Someone linked to an essay (here on Metafilter, I think) about how some instances of racism can more properly been seen as violations of an elaborate system of etiquette.
Which is something I think is a problem. If "racism" means is just "violating an elaborate system of etiquette" then Real racism that actually hurts minorities can be written off as simply being gauche, lacking in etiquette, and so on. Believe it or not, etiquette isn't really very important in American culture. Of course, negative stereotypes can be bad even if they don't promote "hatred", just assuming that someone is lazy/stupid/dishonest/whatever on the basis of race is bad.

You could argue that the weed allusion I mentioned earlier makes it a negative stereotype about Jamaicans, but I don't really think it's that clear cut. The steriotype is really about stoners liking Jamaican culture, more so then Jamaicans liking to smoke weed. Without the stoner angle, the other interpretation is just that Jamaicans culture is easy going.
I get that there is a small minority of white Jamaicans, but if you are seriously going to tell me that you imagine a white person when I tell you to picture a Jamaican person in your head, I'm going to call bullshit.
No one is saying that. The claim is that it's not "racist" to show a white person speaking that accent, because it is not exclusive to black Jamaicans.
Nah, it's not racist exactly. But it's relying on cliché and cultural stereotype so it's lazy and a little bit embarrassing. That Wendy's ad, however, is fucking horrible.
So it's like every superbowl ad ever? Seriously, I have no idea why people fawn over these things, they are almost entirely moronic. The only funny line in the add was "Land o ten-tousand lakes" I found the "Turn the frown upside down" and "Sticky bun come soon" lines annoying. Like, you don't know why she's frowning man, maybe her dog died. And it's entirely possible that the sticky bun won't actually make it out of the vending machine.
posted by delmoi at 6:48 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nope.

But the game of tossing around entirely bogus accusations of racism (sexism, classism, "ageism," and every other conceivable -ism) never, ever, ever gets old...

I guess one might reasonably (?) ask, though, whether it might hurt people's feelings... Though I can't imagine why it would. I freaking love Jamaican accents. I could happily listen to 'em all day, and that's part of why this works. And it's funny, the juxtaposition, the Minnesota, all that.

I guess that if someone were really interested, they could do a poll of Jamaicans and ask whether it does hurt their feelings... But I'm going to guess that they answer will be 'no.'

Even if Jamaicans love the thing, though, there's a certain type of person who's going to try to gerrymander po-mo rationalizations of why it's bad until the cows come home.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:49 PM on January 31, 2013


I found the "Turn the frown upside down" and "Sticky bun come soon" lines annoying. Like, you don't know why she's frowning man, maybe her dog died. And it's entirely possible that the sticky bun won't actually make it out of the vending machine.

I know her, and her dog is alive and well. And the sticky bun did, in fact, make it out of the vending machine after only a few seconds.
posted by The World Famous at 7:01 PM on January 31, 2013


No one is saying that. The claim is that it's not "racist" to show a white person speaking that accent, because it is not exclusive to black Jamaicans.

It's a lousy claim, though. Not everyone who speaks AAVE in the US is African-American, either. Swap out the dialects and we're not going to assume the main character is this ad is a white person who speaks AAVE. It's not a perfectly analogy because context matters, but 'it can't be racist because there are white people who speak that dialect' is, frankly, a stupid argument.
posted by hoyland at 7:32 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose I should perhaps elaborate. This logic would also mean it is impossible for anything at all relying on national stereotypes to be racist because most (all?) countries have at least one person from something other than the majority ethnic or racial group.
posted by hoyland at 7:34 PM on January 31, 2013


White people with Jamaican accents make think of John Dies At The End.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:48 PM on January 31, 2013


This logic would also mean it is impossible for anything at all relying on national stereotypes to be racist because most (all?) countries have at least one person from something other than the majority ethnic or racial group.

Yep, just about. You need another term (some suggested above), racism is not it.
posted by amorphatist at 7:58 PM on January 31, 2013


I wonder how the commercial would be perceived if the main character was actually Jamaican?

Regardless, VW have been making some odd commercials. One quite clearly states that Volkswagen owners are complete assholes. It depicts an owner, having parked his car close to the front of grocery store rather than in a designated parking spot, defending his car from stray carts. I gather they figured it was supposed to illustrate how much the owner cares for the car but it also says the owner is an asshole for parking where they shouldn't. Furthermore, it illustrates the lack of basic intelligence of said owner who, if they supposedly love the car so much, can't understand that one of the best methods of preventing the car from being damaged by a shopping cart is to not park in front of the shopping cart area.

I gather it is supposed to be amusing as well. Perhaps VW doesn't do amusing well.
posted by juiceCake at 8:44 PM on January 31, 2013


Yep, just about. You need another term (some suggested above), racism is not it.

I actually feel way more strongly about this issue than I feel the ad is offensive (I'm kind of in the 'it's so dumb I can't think critically about it' camp). If we say that things can only be racist if they target a neatly delineated racial group, nothing is racist. Why? Race is a construct. These neatly delineated racial groups don't exist. We generally agree one drop rule and its implementations were racist, but it didn't stop people from passing as white--it wasn't able to target the neatly defined group of people it wanted to target.

North Africans and Arabs and their descendants are defined as white on the US census. This doesn't mean they magically can't experience racism in the United States, where we talk about white privilege all the time. They'll experience white privilege, but not as much or as frequently as the people who ticked the 'white' box on the census who are descended from Europeans. So perhaps such a strict understanding of race isn't good enough to identify racism. Maybe we should allow ethnic groups instead. Of course, our friends at the Census Bureau allow Hispanic and Latino people to be of any race and since we're insisting on neatly defined groups, I guess we're kind of stuck with that. But we'd probably agree racism targeting Hispanics is, well, racism. Nor do I see how it ceases to be racism if it's targeting Hispanic people of Mexican origin, say. Despite your claim to the contrary, I don't actually see anyone having proposed an alternative term for this scenario. (Of course, an awful lot of the overtly racist shit you hear directed at 'Mexicans' isn't actually directed at people from Mexico, but people from Central and South America more generally. Is it not racism because they think everyone's from Mexico?)
posted by hoyland at 9:02 PM on January 31, 2013


Considering how good VW makes many of its ads this one is certainly way below par.

It's a pretty big drop in quality from ads like "Bubble" (with "Mr. Blue Sky"), "The Force", or "The Dog Strikes Back".
posted by kirkaracha at 9:08 PM on January 31, 2013


Fists O'Fury: “the game of tossing around entirely bogus accusations of racism (sexism, classism, "ageism," and every other conceivable -ism) never, ever, ever gets old...”

Do you really and truly believe this is a significant problem?
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many years ago I tuned into this news show and it had a white guy talking with a very strong Jamaican accent. I was thinking the same thing as some posters here: "That guy's just racist. How does he think he can get away with talking like that?" It turned out that he was the Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Not racist, though certainly a stereotype of anyone with a Caribbean accent. Here's a counter-example advertisement. (be sure to hear the stereotyped non-Caribbean accents a the end).
posted by eye of newt at 10:22 PM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't find it racist at all. I LOLed. But then I drive a VW Bug.

(thanks, TheWhiteSkull, for linking to me good bredda Ras Michael's video)
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:27 PM on January 31, 2013


VW have been making some odd commercials.

Volkswagen ads are weird? Does anyone remember this Ford Ka ad? Warning, animal cruelty graphically depicted.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:29 PM on January 31, 2013


It kills me that neither of the last two links (which both agree that the video was in poor taste) never actually say the video is racist. In fact, they both point out that it doesn't reach that standard, yet here we are talking about it as though they did. I agree with KokuRyu, it's cultural appropriation. I also find it unfunny and so reductive when it comes to Jamaican culture as to be insulting. That's plenty bad enough without the round and round 'it's not racist!' discussions keeping anyone from actually thinking any deeper about the images presented.
posted by nuala at 10:44 PM on January 31, 2013


What's horrible about this ad is the assumption that BUYING THE RIGHT BRAND OF CAR WILL MAKE THAT HORRIBLE JOB THAT YOU HATE FUN, JUST LIKE THE BEACH
posted by Tom-B at 3:43 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


VW got a fake patois.
posted by nutate at 6:55 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you really and truly believe this is a significant problem?

Um, I think you'd basically have to not be paying attention to think that it isn't.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:07 AM on February 1, 2013


Fists O'Fury: “Um, I think you'd basically have to not be paying attention to think that it isn't.”

In this case, a single article in Forbes that offhandedly said a commercial was "slightly racist" – yes, let's remember that only one single article made this actual claim – provoked an internet-wide outpouring of rage and disbelief and sighing and moaning from the internet about how awful political correctness is. Are you sure it isn't the other way around?
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sigh.
I'd just like to quote Robert Crumb here. Once when an interviewer asked if his worked had been called racist by anyone he said "Yes but only by white liberals".
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:14 AM on February 1, 2013


I'm pretty sure that's how it's supposed to work. It's pretty racist to expect black people, for example, to bear the burden of policing the oppression against them.
posted by muddgirl at 9:37 AM on February 1, 2013



I'm pretty sure that's how it's supposed to work. It's pretty racist to expect black people, for example, to bear the burden of policing the oppression against them.


Well since it's up to me as a white "liberal" to decide what's racist, I say this ad is not. And lighten up.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny that you bring up Robert Crumb, actually; Crumb himself was (I think) a bit presumptuous when it came to race. For instance, when he wrote that "Take Over America" thing (warning, extreme "satirical" racism: page 1, page 2, page 3) it was totally clear in his mind that black people would see this as satire and totally get it and not feel creeped out by it. I think that's a pretty bold presumption, to say the least.
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2013


I didn't get the pot allusions at all. Less than 5% of Jamaicans are Rastafarian. It's not a nation of pot smokers.
posted by rocket88 at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2013


Well since it's up to me as a white "liberal" to decide what's racist, I say this ad is not. And lighten up.

I didn't say it's up to white liberals to decide what's racist - I think that's an impossible thing to do, as we can clearly see by this discussion. I don't agree with the idea that white people should use black or other minority opinions as some sort of bell weather for our culture like, "A black people hasn't objected yet? I must not be racist!" It's pretty self-centered.

Or really the whole ironic point behind Yo, Is This Racist?
posted by muddgirl at 1:44 PM on February 1, 2013


I actually feel way more strongly about this issue than I feel the ad is offensive (I'm kind of in the 'it's so dumb I can't think critically about it' camp). If we say that things can only be racist if they target a neatly delineated racial group, nothing is racist. Why? Race is a construct.
If someone were refusing to hire Jamaicans, that would be racist. If someone said Jamaicans were all stupid, that would be racist as well.

But simply having a white guy talk in a Jamaican accent? How is that any more racist then having an ad with a Australian accent, British accent, etc? Jamaica is an English speaking country that happens to have a distinctive accent. Why should that country's accent be off limits because it's majority black, as opposed to UK/Australian accents?

The Indian accent is an interesting issue, though. Most people do think of it as somewhat offensive to use it for humorous effect, probably because there is a history of using it that way, I guess?
I didn't get the pot allusions at all. Less than 5% of Jamaicans are Rastafarian. It's not a nation of pot smokers.
Okay, but what percentage of the white people from Minnesota who happen to like to speak in a Jamaican accent all the time do you think smoke pot?

I think it's trying to be somewhat of a "dog whistle", if you're familiar with stoners and stoner culture the joke seems kind of obvious. They're going for subtly and a wink-wink-nudge-nudge thing.
Do you really and truly believe this is a significant problem?
I do think so. It makes it easier for people to dismiss real instances of racism as being similar to the nonsense claims
posted by delmoi at 7:21 PM on February 1, 2013


Sandals Resort in Jamaica responds.
posted by saucysault at 12:55 AM on February 2, 2013


Red Stripe beer goes to the replay.
posted by GuyZero at 5:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Volkswagen ads are weird? Does anyone remember this Ford Ka ad yt ? Warning, animal cruelty graphically depicted.

My statement that VW's have been making odd commercials was in no way intended to be all encompassing about auto industry adverts as a whole, nor was it held up in comparison to other ads in the industry, it was simply an observation in reference to the content of said ads themselves. I'm sure there are other adverts from other automotive companies, and indeed, from other companies in general that are "weird".
posted by juiceCake at 7:14 AM on February 4, 2013


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