There's an interesting debate going on about racial stereotyping in advertising right now; interesting because it is a reversal of the usual paradigm.
McDonalds have a new mascot in Japan, named Mr James. He's a nerdy tourist who loves Japanese culture, speaks heavily accented and flawed Japanese, and of course loves burgers.
This character has upset many people of Western origin living in Japan, who claim it is a derogatory stereotype of white people in Japan. Blogger Arudo Debito (aka David Aldwinckle) is running a campaign to shame McDonalds into dropping the character.
Here's an example below of Mr James. Not understanding Japanese myself, I didn't find it particularly interesting.
Meanwhile over in the US, the two authors of the Disgrasian blog have described the portrayal as a kind of karma, since Western media have long perpetuated unflattering stereotypes of Asians. Disgrasian's flippant take on it has not been well-received by some, as you can imagine.
So is this a kind of racism against non-Japanese living in Japan? Is Mr James a kind of white minstrel sellout? It seems to me to be an overreaction, but then again, I'm not a foreigner living in Japan, and perhaps I don't get some of the nuances in the ad.
The point has been made that if an equivalent Asian stereotype was portrayed in American media (as it has been and still is), then Asians would bleat about it - so isn't it wrong to stereotype gaijin in Japan?
Consider this: in Western popular culture, it's usually somewhat acceptable to poke fun at white people in a way that would not be acceptable with blacks or Asians. This may not seem fair to white people, but it comes down to power. Since Anglocentric Western culture dominates a country like Australia or the US, it is a fair target for sending up. Making fun of the culture of, say, Aborigines, who are downtrodden and relatively powerless, seems in poor taste by comparison - like kicking someone when they are down.
So, transferred to Japan, where Japanese culture is so dominant, is it still okay to make fun of the 1% of the population who are Westerners, who are denied some of the basic rights available to native Japanese? Hmmm. Dunno if I have an answer for that one.
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