Thursday, July 3, 2008

Admiration of a black hat

I've noticed some grumbling that this ad is kind of racist. Can you see why?



Okay, we all know that, for starters, this should not be a minute long. But fine, they shoot ads long at first so they can be chopped into various 30-second installments later; whatever. The meat of the problem, of course, is the cavalcade of Japanese stereotypes, from the horde of cameras to the big yellow font on the TV screen to the slightly fractured English over the New Era logo at the end, which doesn't seem to have been terribly necessary.

Here's what seems to be even more of the problem, to me - does this show how authentic the hat is? The extreme difference of the Japanese culture makes it seem more like they're easily confused; that may not have been the point, but wouldn't it have been a lot more effective to set the ad in Boston and have a group of Red Sox fans in a bar getting confused? It conveys the message a lot better, I think, and has the added advantage of not looking like it's making fun of the Japanese. "Look how stupid the Japanese are - they will mistake literally anyone in a Red Sox cap for David Ortiz! Those silly Asians and their judgment of people based on hats!"

Or here's another way this ad could have been funnier - have David Ortiz and a random guy in a Red Sox hat walking through an airport, and the guy in the hat gets mobbed while Ortiz passes through unnoticed. (You could even potentially repeat the hat-getting-knocked-off gag, with the crowd perhaps having its spell broken and realizing who the real Ortiz is, followed by Ortiz dashing in the other direction to escape the horde.) And then everyone in the crowd could pull out their cameras, take a turn at Dance Dance Revolution, eat some sushi, and finally commit seppuku. Japan! It's so wacky!

7 comments:

Quivering P. Landmass said...

I mean David Ortiz has dark skin, and this fat guy is totally white. Even if you sort of confused all non-asian people with each other, you'd be able to distinguish a white guy from a dark hispanic guy. Wouldn't you? This is a pretty unfair characterization of the Japanese.

On another note, we sure post a lot about David Ortiz ads on this blog.

Windier E. Megatons said...

I mean, assumedly the idea is that the hat is sooooo authentic that they can't tell even though the guy doesn't look like David Ortiz. But then why does he have to be hefty like Ortiz?

T said...

Because fat guys are funny, duh. Also, I won't speak for the rest of the ad, but there's nothing racist or offensive about everyone there having a camera in my mind. If you've been to Japan, you know how totally accurate that is, whether it's pocket cams or cell phone cams or a variety of other gadgets with cameras embedded in them.

Windier E. Megatons said...

No, it's not really racist. It's certainly stereotypical, although it's easily arguable, as you do, that the stereotype is actually quite accurate. I still think an ad with Boston fans would have made for a more effective message and wouldn't have risked the secondary "Aren't Japanese people silly?" message hiding there.

Anonymous said...

Seems a little hypersensitive to be offended by this commercial.

Quivering P. Landmass said...

I don't know, I think stereotypes of Asian people are accepted a little too insouciantly by Americans. I think it's because immigrants from Asian countries tend to fare pretty well comparatively in America that we say "Hey, it's cool that we make fun of them in vaguely racist ways." I'd be willing to bet that in 20 years or so we'd look back on this and cringe a little, like we do now when we look at some of the stuff that people got away with in the 60's or 70's.

But, yes, this is fairly small beans compared to most of the ads we blog about, I'd agree. As I've said before, though, we kind of just post about whatever we've seen recently.

Medium Papi said...

It's definitely stereotyping the Japanese, especially because they all speak heavily-accented English. No one comes up to him and says, "Excuse me, are you the designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox base-ball franchise?" Even though I'm sure a significant chunk of the Japanese population can speak English better than lots of dumb Americans.

Is part of the "joke" that because supposedly all Asian people look alike to us in the US, that all US people look alike to Asians? That could be another generalization/stereotype they're making here. I agree, it would be much funnier if they actually made fun of Red Sox fans, instead of people from a different country. They did nail the "giving the peace sign while posing for a picture" though, as everyone in China does that. Not sure about Japan, though, so maybe they do have their Asian stereotypes confused...