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Ronald McDonald is so-o-o last year. The new McDonalds mascot in Japan is "Mr. James", a nerdy white guy from Ohio who speaks broken Japanese in the new ads for their "Nippon All Stars" sandwiches. Here's his blog (copyright McDonalds), translated by Google. FRANCA (Foreign Residents And Nationalized Citizens Association) want MickeyD's to dump him. Those Wacky Japanese!
posted by wendell (61 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Plus the Hamburglar's many acts of unapologetic hamburglary promote the stereotype that white people are violent thieves.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:59 PM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


What word does Google keep translating as "Death"?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:01 PM on August 18, 2009




Oh. 'デス'. I get it.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:01 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Semi-prescience from The Onion: The Hammurderer.
posted by martens at 3:03 PM on August 18, 2009


He should be fatter. Much, much fatter.
posted by ColdChef at 3:05 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nothing can kill the Grimace.
posted by lilnemo at 3:07 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


So regarding that google translation: it will be even more nonsense than usual, because the Japanese it's being fed is a nonstandard pidgin. For those who know: is this what the written Japanese young children learn is like? I know that there are katakana story books... Is it meant to seem childish?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:07 PM on August 18, 2009


Anyways, yeah, FRANCA makes a good point about this campaign. Their letter pretty much hits the nail on the head.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:09 PM on August 18, 2009


For those who know: is this what the written Japanese young children learn is like? I know that there are katakana story books... Is it meant to seem childish?

Japanese has two syllabaries: hiragana and katakana. They're functionally equivalent, only katakana is specifically for foreign words.
posted by signalnine at 3:11 PM on August 18, 2009


Is anyone really offended that a tiny island nation of people who pay 50 dollars for a gift wrapped cantaloupe and sleep with pillows shaped like sexy schoolgirls is making fun of westerners?
posted by fleetmouse at 3:16 PM on August 18, 2009


The new McDonalds mascot in Japan is "Mr. James"

"Glorious sunset of my heart was fading. Soon the super karate monkey death car would park in my space. But Jimmy has fancy plans... and pants to match."
posted by Skot at 3:18 PM on August 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


They're functionally equivalent, only katakana is specifically for foreign words.

And children's books, right? I know I've seen "my first reader" type books in katakana.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:19 PM on August 18, 2009


Tell FRANCA not to worry, the "Double Mac" comes with 2 patties, cheese, a fried egg and bacon. Anyone who eats one of these will die before they get out of the parking lot. Once the target market is dead they'll have come up with a new ad campaign.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:23 PM on August 18, 2009


So this is the American to Japanese equivalent of Borat from Kazakh to American? As an American, I'm actually rather relieved that we might be portrayed abroad as sycophantic nerds, as opposed to militaristic oppressors, particularly in a country that we actually nuked twice.
posted by Schmucko at 3:28 PM on August 18, 2009 [30 favorites]


One of my earliest memories is of a time I went to McDonald's as a young tyke (the smell of McD fries brings me back to this moment). I was probably no older than 4 or 5, and while we were waiting in line, out popped this GIANT FUCKIN PURPLE MONSTER from behind the counter! And I took off. I ran around the corner and pressed my body against the wall, hunkered down with fear and adrenaline shooting through me.

Then the monster came outside! I dashed off again, but thankfully, he went in the other direction. My mom came outside looking for me, so I ran towards her and started balling my eyes out.

I will never understand how the McD corporate heads figured a bulbous, purple monster with a creepy smile would attract kids. Or an Alfred E. Neuman reject with a cape.

At least now I get a rush every time I smell fries.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 3:33 PM on August 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is anyone really offended that a tiny island nation of people who... sleep with pillows shaped like sexy schoolgirls is making fun of westerners?

I suspect* that the number of actual schoolgirl-shaped pillow sales is exceeded by sales of, for example, 'Fleshlights' in the USA.

So do be careful where you swing that brush when you're painting a whole nation based on a couple of LOLCRAZIES you read about online.

*I don't really want to do the research to check, though.
posted by rokusan at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Or an Alfred E. Neuman reject with a cape.

I always took him for a muppet Zorro, myself.
posted by rokusan at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2009


This is from a country where it is perfectly acceptable to have a 'no foreigners allowed' policy at your bar/restaurant/whatever.

So, there's a long way to go.
posted by blenderfish at 3:40 PM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, for fancy plans with pants to match. Thanks for the memory, Skot.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:44 PM on August 18, 2009


Neil Hamburger is fucking pissed.
posted by orme at 3:51 PM on August 18, 2009


You know what, it seems silly, but I know where FRANCA is coming from. I've lived in Japan and both my husband and I speak Japanese fluently, he's even been a city hall worker in a small town. There is just a lot of baggage that comes with being a foreigner in Japan and some days it's a lot to deal with. On the one hand, people are always taking a special interest in you and trying to bend your ear, on the other hand, you represent a complication and it pisses some people off before you even have a chance to open your mouth.

Don't get me wrong, for the most part I love Japan. Still, it remains the only place where I've ever been refused service from a restaurant because the proprietor thought that me and my friends would be too loud. Plus, it's hard to forget the look of sheer terror on the face the occasional countryside waiter as he freaks out about us not being able to read the menu. I've never had to reassure so many people that "It's okay. I can read."

I think most foreigners go through a phase where they try to be extra good to show everyone that foreigners are not so bad. I remember riding the train to Utsunomiya with two sloppy European backpackers who were taking up extra seats with their luggage. I sat extra straight and silent just to be a counter example, the 'considerate foreigner', which was nuts. But things like that make you a little crazy after a while, just thinking that you're being judged by so many strangers.

Still, as far a media portrayals, black men get the worst of it. There have been many, many stereotypical, insulting portrayals on TV shows, manga and anime, to the point where I'm surprised that it hasn't leaked over into this country and gotten a lot of people talking. Black women, on the other hand, are almost completely non-existent.
posted by Alison at 3:59 PM on August 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


Oh wow. I just ran into a friend of this guy in SL. Apparently, the guy lives in Japan and is somewhat weirded out by seeing his face on all the burger wrappers etc. I can't even imagine how strange that would be.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:01 PM on August 18, 2009


Is anyone really offended that a tiny island nation of people who pay 50 dollars for a gift wrapped cantaloupe and sleep with pillows shaped like sexy schoolgirls is making fun of westerners?

You know, negative stereotypical generalizations like this made about pretty much any other culture (particularly an almost entirely non-white culture, as in this case) wouldn't fly here, so why is Japan an exception? And this is hardly the first example of this kind of thing I've seen on Metafilter. It seems like it's often considered quite acceptable in even progressive circles to paint the Japanese, as a whole, as sexually deviant weirdos who all agree with their Nanking-denying wingnuts. It's lazy, prejudiced thinking that's wrong in both the moral and factual sense, IMO, and I'm baffled by the degree of acceptance it always seems to receive here.

(Seriously, the "sleeping with schoolgirl pillows" thing is something from the fringes of Japanese geek culture. One tends to find some fucked-up things on the fringes of geek culture anywhere, and applying that to Japanese culture as a whole, as is often done, is equivalent to someone from Japan hearing stuff about the more hardcore fringes of furry fandom, and then assuming that American culture as a whole has an erotic fixation on anthropomorphic animals.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 4:02 PM on August 18, 2009 [15 favorites]


I'm one of those people who never eat at McDonald's*, no matter who their fricken mascot is. But like everyone else in Tokyo, I am relentlessly assaulted by their advertising, and this new hamburger guy campaign is one that I've noticed lately on McDonald's ads on the trains. Matter of fact, we have some Australian friends currently passing through, house guests here at chez Flapjax, and they mentioned this ad campaign last night. The wife and I had to confess ignorance on the details, but trust MeFi to come through with the information! Thanks, wendell.

* and no, I'm not looking for an award or saying I'm better than you if you do happen to enjoy Mcdonald's, OK? OK!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:13 PM on August 18, 2009


Speaking of strange Caucasian mannequins, was OH! MIkey! ever popular in Japan?
posted by benzenedream at 4:22 PM on August 18, 2009


a louis wain cat: Joe Camel had a dick for a nose. Just sayin'.
posted by absalom at 4:56 PM on August 18, 2009


particularly in a country that we actually nuked twice.

At Narita airport, they have a cutout of a nerdy gaijin with a warning about smuggling nukes in. MOF, they have two of them.
posted by jsavimbi at 5:15 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


In a similar vein, I cannot believe that this advert is still being aired on US television. I can understand the Japanese campaign a million times more (it's not like McDonalds is a Japanese company, and this nerd stereotype is rampant in 90s US TV) than just randomly dumping some costumed stereotypes in the middle of an otherwise normal commercial.
posted by saturnine at 5:30 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


So this is the American to Japanese equivalent of Borat from Kazakh to American?

Arudou Debito compared it to Stepin Fetchit, since there's also a racial component to it. It doesn't offend me as a white American (since as such, I, unfairly or not, have the luxury of not really being affected by racism), I actually think it's just kind of goofy and hackneyed, but then think if say, they ran a campaign in the Arab world with "Shlomo the Wacky Jew" complete with "comically" oversized fake nose and Orthodox clothing and hair/beard, which would basically be equivalent just with the roles switched, yeah, I can see how it's offensive.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:32 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


And then there's the Japanese "Obama is a monkey" commercial for eMobile.

I don't like them using the "I'm a PC" (but dumber) guy for the McDonald's commercial, but the Obama thing is really much worse.

I would be interesting in knowing which advertising agency made the McD's commercial, and whether it was McDonalds USA or McDonalds Japan that authorized and paid for the commercial.
posted by Houstonian at 5:37 PM on August 18, 2009


is this what the written Japanese young children learn is like? I know that there are katakana story books... Is it meant to seem childish?

No. Actual children and low-level Japanese speakers write mostly in hiragana. This type of katakana usage is meant to imply that he has a very heavy, almost unintelligible, accent. It's kind of like putting a vowel on the end-a of ev-e-ry word-a to depict a stereotypical Italian, or "election/erection" jokes about Japanese EFL speakers. On TV, when a foreigner speaks imperfect Japanese, or a Japanese comedian is playing a foreign stereotype, it will often be highlighted in katakana onscreen.

Anglophones tend to have trouble with the Japanese pitch accent, some consonant sounds ('su' and 'tsu,' 'r'), putting dipthongs where they don't belong, failing to distinguish between long and short vowels, pronouncing consonant + y wrong, and forgetting to drop certain vowel sounds. The la-DAH-di-DEE-da-DAH sound of speaking Japanese with a stress accent instead of a pitch accent is the low-hanging fruit that Japanese-speakers go for when imitating an Anglophone accent.

In the blog linked above, the 'desu' and 'masu' are written in katakana because the audience is meant to imagine Mr. Gaijin Stereotype stressing the wrong syllables and not dropping or de-emphasizing the 'u' at the end (they actually sound more like 'des' and 'mas' when spoken). Also, all the words that would normally be written in kanji are written in katakana to indicate that he's both kanji-illiterate and has a funny accent. That's in addition to the unnecessary 'desu' added to sentences, misused colloquialisms, bungled honorific language, etc...
posted by Drop Daedalus at 5:46 PM on August 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


BTW, as a White Male American who has known since I was a child that I am a member of the most privileged racial sub-group on Earth, I got a giggle from the character, especially when he identified himself being from Ohio, not only my birthplace, but the US state that sounds most like a place in Japan. I know there's a lot of racist crap going on in Japan toward 'gaijin', but I also know that some of the gaijin are leaders in spreading the "Japan Is Nuts" meme. And it'll take them a lot more than Mr. James to balance out the U.S.'s stupid racist advertising imagery against Asians (especially those that can't tell Japanese from Chinese).

Racism is a sadly universal factor in every culture. But nobody does it better/worse than us White Guys.
posted by wendell at 5:52 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's acceptable to make fun of the Japanese because they're our equals - for the same reason it's OK to make fun of Americans, Canadians, the French, Germans, etc.etc. - really, any of the first world nations are fair game.

I don't think they give any more of a shit about me making fun of them than I do about them making fun of "me" in a McD ad campaign. That was kind of my point - my point was not that all Japanese are pillow fuckers. Just some of them.

Jesus, the weenie is strong in this thread tonight.

"Shlomo the Wacky Jew"

That's racist!
posted by fleetmouse at 5:56 PM on August 18, 2009


He doesn't look wacky.
posted by Neofelis at 7:23 PM on August 18, 2009


I guess Tommy Lee Jones is still tied up for Boss coffee.

Japanese McDonald's Campaign Makes Fun Of White People, Foreigners

Say it ain't so!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:24 PM on August 18, 2009


(yeah, I know it's old, but Jesus)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:27 PM on August 18, 2009


I was just about to say exactly what Drop Daedalus said. So, uh... yeah.

mr_roboto, the "my first reader" books you saw may have been from before the war, e.g. the "Hana hato book" and "Sakura reader" (both named after their opening words).

Back in those days, katakana were more commonly and widely used (especially by the military), and kids learned them first. See this great post for more info.
posted by No-sword at 8:30 PM on August 18, 2009


Also, it's more like the German art critics on SNL than Stepin Fetchit, in terms of cultural positioning.
posted by No-sword at 8:39 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the fuss.
I think some gaijin just like getting all butt-hurt about stuff because it gets them attention.
There are far, far, far more important things to be making a fuss about regarding the treatment of foreigners in this country. Harmless nerds in tv commercials are near the end of the list as far as I am concerned.
posted by nightchrome at 10:24 PM on August 18, 2009


Christ, what an asshole shit, man,I was halfway down 9 blocks to a McDonalds to buy some fries because of your comment...
posted by porpoise at 10:38 PM on August 18, 2009


Yes, I finished the trip and got a large fries. Even though they're not the same,
posted by porpoise at 10:38 PM on August 18, 2009


This is from a country where it is perfectly acceptable to have a 'no foreigners allowed' policy at your bar/restaurant/whatever.

It's not illegal to have such a sign, and, technically speaking, it is acceptable to have such a policy, but how often are foreigners banned from bars, restaurants, etc? In reality, not much. The kinds of places that ban foreigners tend to be shitholes, anyway. It's no big deal, and not much of a reflection on the average Japanese person (like my wife or my best friend or the guys on my handball team).

The Japanese attitude towards foreigners (especially in the media), is, however, quite annoying. But, as the writer Alan Booth remarked, you need a pretty thick skin as a foreigner to live in Japan for any length of time. And when it gets right down to it, the Japanese people (aside from petty bureaucrats, some teachers and some of the police) are really lovely people.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:51 PM on August 18, 2009


how often are foreigners banned from bars, restaurants, etc? In reality, not much.

Enough that my friends who visited Japan complained that they were banned from going into some places. Anecdotal, but it's something I've heard about pretty often from various sources.
posted by blenderfish at 12:15 AM on August 19, 2009


At Narita airport, they have a cutout of a nerdy gaijin with a warning about smuggling nukes in. MOF, they have two of them.

That's just too classic.

The la-DAH-di-DEE-da-DAH sound of speaking Japanese with a stress accent instead of a pitch accent is the low-hanging fruit that Japanese-speakers go for when imitating an Anglophone accent.

Thank you! I've been wondering about this for years.

Just before I finished spectacularly failing my one and only Japanese class (for lacking enough visual memory to learn hiragana), I asked my (native-speaker) teacher whether the humming I heard behind her speech was part of the accent I should be emulating. She had no idea what I was talking about.

The pitch accent was precisely it. The "hum" I was hearing was the baseline pitch against which the accent was placed.
posted by Netzapper at 12:33 AM on August 19, 2009


I guess Tommy Lee Jones is still tied up for Boss coffee.

Yeah, but he looks to be getting a little worn out from that...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:56 AM on August 19, 2009


McDonald's selling burgers in Japan using a stereotype of white Americans? Isn't that kind of like Russell Peters selling DVDs using stereotypes of Indian and Chinese immigrants?

Both bug me, but both have the right to exist as far as I'm concerned.
posted by mariokrat at 7:26 AM on August 19, 2009


Isn't that kind of like Russell Peters selling DVDs using stereotypes of Indian and Chinese immigrants?

No. Have you seen Russell Peters' audience? Guess what, IT'S FULL OF ASIANS. Russell Peters is the most successful comedian ever (really), mostly because he is immensely popular...in Asia.

Now, that said, as a white man (and a Canadian at that), I LOVE being made fun of. It's, you know, fun?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2009


So, uh, I've never been to Japan, except on a Pan Am flight which had a refueling stopover, so ...

Is this a widespread stereotype of white Americans in Japan?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:58 AM on August 19, 2009


Makudonarudo!
posted by rlk at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2009


Have you seen Russell Peters' audience? Guess what, IT'S FULL OF ASIANS.

Yeah, it makes Russell Peters seem more authentic, but I'm really sad that people laugh at his quasi-racist schtick. Then again, his audience is full of Asians, etc., because this is a group not normally discussed in popular culture. So it must make them feel proud.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:27 AM on August 19, 2009


How often are foreigners banned from bars, restaurants, etc? In reality, not much.

Enough that my friends who visited Japan complained that they were banned from going into some places.


Can't your friends get blowjobs at home?
posted by rokusan at 1:03 PM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can't your friends get blowjobs at home?

Yeah, as I've understood it, the "no gaijin allowed" policy is primarily at sex clubs. On the one hand, yes, that's racist and discriminatory. On the other hand, can't say I'm able to muster up enough outrage to care that not everybody in Japan can buy women.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:58 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't believe I ever saw a posted "no gaijin" policy in a regular business, but I certainly felt them. Usually not often enough to actually be refused service (as opposed to being grudgingly endured) but in one sushi shop, told they were closed (people were eating -- fair enough -- and then they seated some more...).

It happens, but either you treat racism in Japan like water off a duck's back -- no joking -- or you let it drive you insane.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:11 PM on August 19, 2009


Yeah, as I've understood it, the "no gaijin allowed" policy is primarily at sex clubs.

O...kay... I can pretty much assure you they weren't going to a sex club.
posted by blenderfish at 6:36 PM on August 19, 2009


That's what they want you to think.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:03 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]




I did say primarily ...
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:47 PM on August 19, 2009


"Enough that my friends who visited Japan complained that they were banned from going into some places. Anecdotal, but it's something I've heard about pretty often from various sources."

Since we're talking anecdotes, I've never been banned from going anywhere in the 14 years I've lived here, and I've only seen one "no foreigners allowed" sign, at the entrance to a sex club. My understanding is that the "no foreigners allowed" stuff is more prevalent in the countryside in Hokkaido, so it may be that your friends who visited were up in the Northern sticks...which is kinda like basing the average level of racism in America on Vidor, Texas.

My overall impression of racism in Japan is that it's somewhat less than the amount of racism in the US, but it's less officially prohibited. So you're less likely to be screwed by racism, but more likely to be unable to get redress in the event that it does occur.
posted by Bugbread at 8:40 PM on August 22, 2009


My understanding is that the "no foreigners allowed" stuff is more prevalent in the countryside in Hokkaido, so it may be that your friends who visited were up in the Northern sticks...which is kinda like basing the average level of racism in America on Vidor, Texas.

Is there a Japanese equivalent to "redneck"? What's the word, and what's the etymology?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:10 AM on August 23, 2009


Is there a Japanese equivalent to "redneck"?

No, not really. The closest would probably be "inakamon" (inaka = countryside, mon = abbreviation of mono = thing). Usually, inakamon carries the feeling of "country bumpkin". The particularly American "redneck" is, well, particularly American, I guess. I think they might also use the term redneck in Australia, but I'm not sure.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:30 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


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