Saturday, February 09, 2008


This past weekend was the super bowl (American football, for my South African readers), and while the very exciting win by the New York Giants made for pretty good viewing anyway, NYChoirgirl explained that she usually only watches this for the ads. Seems the super bowl is the big night for ad agencies here. I only saw the second half of the game, and must admit that I found the game (which I only partially understand) more entertaining than the ads. I was, however, fascinated to read in today's New York Times that one ad featuring pandas talking in Asian accents and broken English, was withdrawn.

I remembered seeing this ad, and not paying much attention to it at the time. It is long, and rather boring. The flood of objections on the New York Times site, however, are much more interesting. Notice, in particular,
no. 8 "Once one puts an "ethnic" accent on an animated character, one raises the spectre of stereotyping and beyond. Ever watched "Finding Nemo"? I got the same queasy feeling - why does this fish talk like, in my opinion, an inner city "African American"?"
no. 13 "I was offended by the ad using Cavemen. I have many Cavemen friends myself, and I find them very intelligent, well-spoken people. Hey, they invented the wheel. Sure they can be a little bit on the hairy side, and they don't take advantage of the dental plan offered at work, but media's constant protrayal of these men as perpetual abusive grunters goes way over the line. I'm surprised Neanderthal-Americans have not spoken up on this issue."
no. 14 "I thought sales genie made a nod to acknowledging the real world when they made a fellow named Chakrabarty the successful salesman in the ad. He did have a south Asian accent, but a real one rather than a caricature."
no. 15 "Had they given the Pandas accents that were non-stereotypical, say British, or California Valley Girl dialects, the commercial would have been more memorable, funnier, and offended far fewer people."

So it's good to represent diversity in ads, so long as everyone sounds alike? British or California Valley Girl accents are less offensive than Chinese or African American? Nemo sounds African American?

I admit I can see how these things could be offensive. The broken English is not good. But sometimes I miss South African senses of humour.

on the other hand, SA banned this priceless gem


Billtron said...

I love hearing non-Americans talk about football. Your entire post reminds me of this clip, for many reasons:

It never ceases to amaze me how little tolerance people in the United States have for complaints about representations of Asians and Asian-Americans in the media. This sort of conversation seems to happen often. Remember when Ellie Hisama wrote about John Zorn and John Mellencamp and people got really mad at her for "introducing" politics into an aesthetic project?

T said...

Hmmm...the panda ad is truly bizarre--to me, it doesn't read as American humor--not sure what it *does* read as, though!

Thanks for posting the other ads--the last one didn't seem funny to me, exactly? Is it seen as funny in SA? Very curious....