This year's Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial leaked early and has touched off a lot of controversy for allegedly being racist. In the ad, a white man from Minnesota channels his happy place and uses a Jamaican accent. The ad is funny and a little corn,y but it’s nowhere near offensive. People who believe the ad is racist likely believe only black people live in Jamaica and speak in patois. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact here’s a video of a white native Jamaican who clearly has a thick accent.
I'm happy that Americans are becoming more culturally aware, but push-back toward this ad is over the top. Besides, who isn't happier when they're in Jamaica or thinking about being in Jamaica?
Now that we’ve cleared up that mess let’s get into some ads that are actually either racist or offensive.
In 2012 Michigan Senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra decided it would be a good idea to attack his opponent then incumbent Debbie Stabenow with a highly inflammatory commercial. The spot features an Asian woman speaking in broken English and refers to them “taking our jobs.” There is way too much wrong with this ad. Political insiders credit this ad as a big part of why Hoekstra got beat soundly in that 2012 election. The ad only aired in Michigan, but in today’s instant access era you could find the commercial world wide instantly.
Sales Genie’s 2007 Super Bowl ads were insanely racist and culturally insensitive. There was one where an Indian man needed their services because he had so many kids to feed. But this one was even crazier. Horrible Asian accents, stereotypical names like “Ling Ling” and Asian people as pandas are the racism trifecta.
Carlos Mencia and Bud Light in 2007 hit at least eight stereotypes in 30 seconds. Mencia was able to make fun of Hispanics, southerners, New Yorkers and immigrants. Instructing people to pretend that they couldn't speak English, when asked for Bud Light, took this one into insensitive overdrive. I probably wouldn’t have been as offended by this one if it were actually funny.
Timothy Hutton and Groupon fed right into the oblivious American stereotypes with their 2011 Super Bowl ad. The Chinese occupation of Tibet is a serious issue and a major threat to their culture. Yet, it seems all Hutton cared about was getting half off on his fish curry. Ads like this are exactly why people in other nations view us Americans as selfish people.
Holiday Inn’s 1997 Super Bowl ad was offensive and confusing. It also shows how times have changed because there is no way an ad making fun of transsexuals would make it on air today. The premise of the ad was a high school reunion where one of the classmates has become a transgendered woman since graduation. I’m not even sure what the hotel chain was trying to do, but it doesn't make me want to stay there.