Kelly: Hey, Gabe
Gabe: hey kelly
Gabe: what up dog?
Gabe: yo dog what up my main man?
Kelly: Not much top dog!
Kelly: Just hanging out with the window open like it’s summertime.
Kelly: And thinking about last night’s New Girl
Kelly: As always
Gabe: the kiss heard round the tumblr
Kelly: The something heard round the tumblr.
Gabe: it was ruined for me by these irresponsible BLOGGERS
Gabe: and i refuse to suffer ALONE
Kelly: Hahaha
Kelly: You should have known not to go online after a new episode of New Girl was on TV.
Kelly: I’m sorry this happened to you but I’m happy that you’ll learn from it
Kelly: And always watch New Girl night of
Gabe: learn from this
Kelly: From what
Kelly: you’re taking a long time
Kelly: Are you trying to punch through your computer screen
Gabe: ugh
Kelly: Oh so anyway how are you

Gabe: i’m fine thanks, i was better like two minutes ago, but still OK
Gabe: how are you?
Kelly: Had a big mood boost in the last 2 mins
Kelly: So p. good
Kelly: Are you excited for Super Bowl Sunday
Gabe: am i ever!
Kelly: Is your team in it?
Gabe: i like Super Bowl Sunday
Gabe: my team is always in it
Gabe: that’s the best part
Kelly: that’s perfect
Gabe: you just pick a team and yell at the team on TV
Gabe: “Go on!”
Gabe: “Get over there!”
Kelly: Hahahahahaha
Kelly: “GO ON!”
Gabe: “Doing great guys, let’s keep it up!”
Kelly: That’s what I yell
Gabe: careful, kelly
Gabe: glass houses and all
Kelly: :’(
Gabe: rubber and glue stuff
Gabe: right there
Gabe: that’s what i yell

Gabe: i love the red carpet show before the Super Bowl
Gabe: where you get to see all the jersyes
Kelly: hahaha
Kelly: Yes that is always one of my favorite parts
Kelly: Really eases you into the game
Kelly: I love the go daddy commercials
Kelly: And saying, “What even IS GO DADDY?”
Kelly: And having a friend reply angrily
Kelly: Lots of fun memories
Gabe: well, that is true though
Gabe: also those ads have been around
Gabe: forever
Gabe: you could have BING’ed it
Kelly: Oh I know
Gabe: at some point
Kelly: I mean, I KNOW what it is.
Gabe: oh, so you just ask
Gabe: to make your friend mad?
Gabe: that’s fun
Gabe: you’ll be BEST friends soon, just a few more Super Bowls
Kelly: I hope we kiss someday like Nick and Jess did
Kelly: Last night on New Girl

Kelly: Anyway there is going to be a racist VW commercial this year, have you seen it?
Gabe: oh i see
Gabe: for a second i was like, all this sports talk, is Kelly vying for a job on!
Gabe: but now i am like oh, no, she wants to work at
Gabe: i have seen that ad, yes
Kelly: And now I’m like oh looks like Gabe is trying to get the job of President at biggestjerk.givemeabreak.worst
Gabe: jokes on you
Gabe: i already have that job
Gabe: pay is 10000000 a day plust benefits
Kelly: Hahahaha NOOOOOOOOOOO!
Kelly: Well you do a great job.
Gabe: thanks, i know
Gabe: that VW ad is very racist
Gabe: about what?
Gabe: how much money i make?
Kelly: Yes
Kelly: About how much money everyone makes
Gabe: it’s truffle season, kelly
Kelly: ugh
Kelly: Anyway yeah it is racist.

Kelly: It debuted on CNN
Kelly: With the chief marketing director on in an panel discussion
Kelly: To defend it immediately after it aired
Gabe: why do they release super bowl ads before the super bowl anyway?
Gabe: you spent 100 million dollars on it
Kelly: To make sure you know they’re NOT racist.
Gabe: enjoy the moment
Kelly: “If you were just watching this normally you might think ‘definitely racist’ but let me go ahead and explain why it isn’t ahead of time”
Gabe: but if you do feel like you need to get your ad out there early
Gabe: check to see if it’s racist as fuck first
Gabe: the hardest part about watching that ad is imagining
Gabe: the parade of white dudes
Gabe: auditioning their jamaican voices
Gabe: who DIDN’T get the role
Kelly: hahaha :(
Kelly: And how all of those white dudes include “Jamaican” in the accents portion of their resume
Gabe: yes
Gabe: they can all “ride a horse” and “do a PERFECT jamaican accent”
Kelly: Hahaha
Gabe: #acting
Kelly: It is also insane
Kelly: How the VW marketing person points out that they DID test the ad with “actual Jamaicans”
Kelly: hahahaha
Gabe: :( :( :(
Kelly: “THEY didn’t think it was racist!”
Kelly: What a nightmare
Gabe: “I have lots of black focus groups!”
Gabe: the thing i never understand about stuff like this
Gabe: is, like, OK, you have to make a commercial
Gabe: or whatever it is that you’re making: a joke, a blog, a movie, whatever
Gabe: and you have this one idea that you think MIGHT be kind of racist
Gabe: you’re not totally sure, but the thought has crossed your mind
Gabe: what about just doing something else that isn’t?

Kelly: Right. It’s not like “guy is happy about his car so he uses jamaican accent and is relaxed” took more than 3 seconds to come up with anyway
Kelly: “This might be racist, but it is CERTAINLY genius and I don’t want to waste it, sooo…”
Gabe: there is literally an infinite number of ideas
Gabe: pick one of those other ones
Kelly: Mmhm
Gabe: also if your first line of defense against something being racist
Gabe: is to just ask a black person if they think it is racist
Gabe: regardless of what they say
Gabe: it’s almost definitely racist
Gabe: if you have to ask them, then it is
Gabe: and you know that, which is why you asked
Kelly: Right
Kelly: On this CNN segment the marketing guy says, “We obviously did our homework to make sure we weren’t offensive.”
Kelly: Which is very funny
Kelly: Because if it were obvious
Kelly: And if it were not offensive
Kelly: It would not have debuted during a segment devoted to talking about whether or not it is racist
Kelly: And also
Kelly: I can’t imagine
Gabe: what about just making something fun and funny to sell your stupid car where there’s NO HOMEWORK involved
Kelly: What it would have been like if they HADN’T done this homework
Gabe: as if this idea simply MUST be shared with the world

Gabe: god forbid someone said “you know what would be funny? a white guy doing a jamaican accent” and someone else said “yeah, tom, that is funny, now let’s think of some other funny ideas that aren’t racist.”
Kelly: hahahah
Gabe: instead it was just that first guy
Gabe: and then the quiet sound of so many conference room chiars
Gabe: spinning in circles
Gabe: as people RUSHED to get this made
Kelly: hahahahah
Kelly: Rushing to see if someone could gather up some “actual jamaicans” to make sure everything is chill
Kelly: “I know it sounds racist to us, buuut”
Kelly: Ugh
Gabe: it would be one thing if this was
Gabe: a webisode
Gabe: of a poorly thought out Crackle series
Gabe: or whatever
Gabe: but this costs MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
Kelly: Yeah
Gabe: and will be seen by more people than pretty much any of your other ads all year
Gabe: so just as a goof
Gabe: what about making it not be racist
Kelly: Do you think it was at all intentional
Kelly: To make it “controversial”
Gabe: ugh
Gabe: they probably didn’t want it to be controversial
Gabe: but they were probably like
Gabe: “either we get away with it and it’s COOL VIBES for 2013″
Gabe: “or people get mad in which case it’s GREAT PUBLICITY for our Nazi War Machine Car COmpany!”
Kelly: hahahah
Gabe: Hey, Volkswagen, remember how there are people still alive on this Earth who personally remember when you made cars for Hitler?
Gabe: how about not making racist Super Bowl commercials
Gabe: you fucking idiots

Comments (136)
  1. wait… did you really just spoil New Girl? not cool.

  2. I don’t want to rain on our white guilt parade you guys, but I honestly don’t see how this is racist. It makes no assumptions about people based upon their race. It doesn’t make light of really anything about Jamaica, Jamaicans, or any other dark skinned people. Yes, they use an over-the-top Jamaican accent to connote happiness and relaxation, but so what? The Jamaica Tourist Board has spent the last 30 years ensuring that this is exactly what people all over the world associate with Jamaica. And now people are racist for using that as a shorthand? You don’t have my ax on this one.

    • Holy darko to the max!

    • I agree. I guess in my mind racism is inherently negative? And nothing about this feels negative. The ad could definitely be seen as playing into a stereotype, which can at times be insulting. As you said, though, this is a stereotype that Jamaica (or at least the tourism) has played up.

      Also, in my mind this isn’t that over-the-top of a Jamaican accent because if it were they’d need subtitles. At this point I could start talking about English pidgins and language, but I’m just going to shut up (but if anyone wants to talk about it, I find pidgins really fascinating).

      • I guess I already alluded to this, but racism is definitely not inherently negative. I’m Asian, so I am very familiar with the subtle ways we can be marginalized without being explicitly insulted. People assume Asians are smart and hard-working – much better than the opposite, but still pretty racist to make that assumption based on exactly nothing but the color of our skin. “What are you, culturally?” is not a harmful question on its face, but I was still pretty offended when someone asked me that at a bar last week.

        • I have no idea how the asker intended the question to you, but I’ve been asked my background, ethnically, and it has led to some interesting conversations. (I’m pretty obviously Irish by descent, but have been mistaken for German.) Anyway, fellow Irish-descendents tend to assume a certain familiarity with me in some cases, which is fun–and both these fellow Irish and others have never hesitated to bombard me with the stereotypes about drinking, potatoes, lotsa kids, raised Catholic, what have you. I suppose I could use the word marginialized to describe my reaction, because obviously I’m more complicated than this cartoon picture. But the cartoon has always struck me as essentially fun and I’ve left it at that, more or less.

          • But what is the context when you’re asked about your ethnic background? Is it ever out of the blue, immediately after you meet someone? Does it happen several times a year? Does it happen when you’re with other people who don’t get the question? Does anyone ever phrase it, “Where are you from?” and then act like you misunderstood the question when you respond with “Los Angeles”? Has anyone ever asked, once the follow-up questions get them the answer they were looking for, “Well why don’t you go back?”

          • The brilliant comedian Hari Kondabolu has a wonderful act about being stopped with this question and how Queens isn’t an acceptable answer because the real question is “why aren’t you white??” link:

            I think it also depends where you live. A friend of mine who consists of many different ethnicities did a study at Berkeley thing for a semester in the 90s and said that she was asked her mix there more than anywhere ever in her life. I used to tell her to fuck with them and say Norwegian because it’s more fun and a nicer way to say fuck off, it’s none of your business than actually saying it.

            I have been asked what flavor of white I am as well, but it’s more of a “you look like my cousin” thing and definitely doesn’t have the same undertones. If you or I were terrible at math, no one would make jokes about it to our faces. Some might to Steph or my friend because it’s part of the positive stereotype that they carry. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of differences between “are you German?” and “where are you from?” (if that isn’t a question of your regional American accent because I call people from Milwaukee out all the time as it’s super distinct way of speaking and I can peg which part of Milwaukee someone is from based on 3-4 phrases).

            So in summary, this Onion article:,3226/

          • Fair questions, imsteph, so: Yes, it is sometimes someone’s very opening remark. “I know what you are! It’s all over that face!” Almost always this is said by someone who is also of Irish descent, though could be a sassy Latina or whatever but she has a favorable impression. Never said by anyone picking a fight.

            It happens about once a year in LA, maybe less, but it happened all the time when I was in NYC — I mean any party I went to, any job I started, etc. This was true 15 years ago when I lived there, anyway — and no one except the hardcore racists there self-identified as white. Instead, we were Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, etc. Most people were content to describe themselves using the stereotypes of each (e.g., I’m Italian, of course I can cook!; I’m Greek, I think I know how to dance!), and even embraced the negative parts of their stereotype (e.g., drink too much, mob tendencies, super cheap!) with a kind of jokey pride, I think. Partly, this method of self-identifying had to do with just about everyone’s family having arrived circa 1890-1940 and gone through Ellis Island — it was all long before we were born, but it was a touchstone all had in common.

            So no one held it against you that you were Irish instead of Greek, etc., but if you knew someone’s last name was Tagliorino and or Pavlotos or Rosenberg, you would immediately make a set of (fairly nuanced/informed!) assumptions about how they grew up and how they might think — subject to revision, which these constant conversations about ethnicity were part of. So, in NJ/NYC, when asked where I was from, I came to know the correct answer was Ireland, not NJ.

            In LA, though, I answer NJ. People in LA don’t have the same awareness of ethnicity and so usually when they ask where I’m from they don’t mean “Which town is your grandfather from?” (Tullow, in the County Carlow.) People here don’t actually know which town their grandfather is from. At first I found that appalling but now it strikes me as liberating in many ways. The stories you tell about yourself here are about you personally, and why you came to LA; they start in 1999 or 2007 or whenever you moved here, not in 1921 or whenever your ancestor fled the British police or Mussolini.

            No one in LA or NYC has ever asked why don’t I move back but they do ask why don’t I go more often, they insist I try because I’d probably love it and learn more and meet great people etc, and a few people have insisted I take advantage of my heritage to get dual citizenship so that I have a free EU pass for lots more Euro-living. In many people there is an assumption that I will feel an affinity for the old country. (I do, so I’m not offended. I mean I grew up listening to Tommy Makem and seeing Yeats poems in cross-stitch for crying out loud.)

            Anyway, this is a long goddamn answer. And it’s not a simple one? LA is different from NYC, for sure. I have found people here to be a lot more sensitive to race and simultaneously a lot less aware of its nuances. I dunno! I feel like everything I just wrote is subject to revision so take it with a grain o’ salt.

          • Also, I would like to point out that the anti-Irish stereotypes of 100 years ago (though the amazing ones are mid 1800s) or during anti-IRA Thatcher UK times would make that question a lot more loaded and something you may not feel as comfortable answering. It’s not always “let’s have a beer, mate!” in context, especially for the Irish… or Americans descended from the Irish.

          • Good point, badideajeans; the meaning of the question is very determined by lots other stuff. I have been lucky. And my point in the whole epic post was not to suggest to anyone who is being asked similar questions that my experience should be a valid guide to theirs.

            If you can figure out what my point actually was, please let me know.

          • Thanks, stranger, but as I have learned via time-appropriate newspapers of note, your terrifying pro-Irish bias is definitely a direct result of your whiskey intake, which does not contain enough bourbon to even be considered American… but, instead, stands in defiance of freedom and also taste.

            “A man who say Knob Creek is not the best standard is a traitor indeed.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

          • “I’m white but have been mistaken for white.”

        • Fair enough. I can see your point. I also understand that as a white person who grew up in a pretty accepting, liberal area I have no real experience with any of this.

          I think I’m more bothered by the fact that the ad is being singled out when there are plenty of other awful ads out there. As well as ads out there that are completely misogynistic that aren’t called out. If we’re going to call out Volkswagen, then let’s call out everyone.

        • I get this a lot. When I’m in my cups I’ve been known to respond with, “I’m half goat! Whaddayathink I am? Obviously I am your Human Devil!” A discourteous reply, but it shuts my inquisitors down.

          There is no doubt that it’s frustrating to hear the same ignorant questions repeated over and over when the answer is so obvious to me, to the point that I have considered carrying a pitchfork and attaching little paper flames to the ends of my horns, purely out of spite. But I have been trying to see the questions as founded in ignorance rather than true malevolence, and to cultivate within myself the philosophy that understanding begets understanding. It takes more effort in the short term but in the long run it is far less exhausting than holding onto resentment. And, as an added bonus, I get to think of myself as the bigger person. Or Faun, as the case may be.

          • Although I am also a big Mr. Tumnus fan, I can’t say I support endless tolerance for the racially/culturally insensitive to the expense of the person who has to answer, for the thousand and first time, what piece of planet Earth their parents or grandparents happened to be born on. How do people learn that something is wrong unless they get some kind of negative reinforcement, after all?

            My best friend since childhood is multiracial, and we happened to grow up in a very white part of the country. The worst part of that was that she got bullied as a kindergartener by some racist as hell high school students (Yes, that really fucking happened), but the lesser was having to answer to every new person she met what race/races she was, or endure them trying to guess her race, or (once, memorably) asking her “Are you China?” No, honey, no she is not.

          • This is a good point well-stated and I must apologize if my remarks seemed to make light of racism. It is a problem, and I do believe that even superficially harmless stereotypes are a part of the problem, in that they provide fertile soil for the more harmful breeds of racism. It’s possible that I have chosen the path of non-confrontation not because it is the most likely to lead to societal change, but because it is the most compatible with my own nature. And it is even further possible that everything I believe is mere self-justification for my innate tendencies. I’m afraid I have no argument to refute this. But when I look around, it seems to me that just as seemingly benign stereotypes allow racism to flourish, negative reinforcement can provide an environment in which ignorance proliferates indefinitely. A truly ignorant person is not going to be swayed by yet another smack on the hand. In all likelihood they have a lifetime full of hand-swattings behind them, and mayhaps that is what has made it so desirable for them to live within the self-limiting cage of their preconceptions and to view so much of what lies outside that framework as undesirable. Perhaps the truly ignorant person cannot be reached by any amount of good will but I choose to believe otherwise because that way lies hopelessness. The connection may seem tenuous and hyperbolic, but one cannot help looking at your nation’s recent wars and coming to the conclusion that in the long term things might have turned out better if the situations had been approached as a complex tapestry of micro-problems requiring finesse and understanding to untangle rather than a single macro-problem solvable with bombs. At some point the cycle has to end, for better or worse. I prefer better, and I believe that the solution must begin at the micro level.

            And while I very much appreciate the warm sentiment, my dear friend, you don’t have to state that you’re a fan before disagreeing with me. It’s okay to just disagree with me. I’m a big Faun. Well… a big enough Faun.

          • I think my sentiment was not conveyed very well, as I realized halfway through I could finally flee my place of employment for the night. But what I meant was that for people who have to hear those questions over and over again, it’s not so much simply annoying as something that can really wear a person down as they’re continually “othered” by people who live in the same town, go to the same school, work the same jobs, and so on.
            And I think at that point it becomes a question about whether or not keeping the person who just asked you a jackass of a question in good spirits is really worth your energy, or even if it is in any way your responsibility to do so. Unfortunately, societal mores being what they are, there’s always a lot of pressure to act in a relatively polite fashion in the face of questions like these anyway, so a lot of the people who ask these sorts of questions probably don’t have any inkling that what they’re doing is offensive/rude, and on it goes.

          • I did not mean to put myself across as a paragon of the attitude I advocate. It’s hard and usually seems pointless, and I fail at it far more often than I succeed. But it’s something I strive for and it seems worth striving for because, while it is certainly idealistic, I honestly cannot see any other way to traverse your world without driving myself mad with frustration and rage. I am not suggesting that one should make ignorance more comfortable for the ignorant. One’s time is not infinite and one shouldn’t waste it on those whom one feels are irredeemably lost in the fog, if only because one is less likely to find them if one believes this to be true. Sometimes it’s best to respond to ignorance with laughing indifference, or indulgent nonchalance. While it’s often tempting to reply with a scathing witticism, to prove that one is above the conditions imposed upon the dialogue by one’s fellow interlocutor, sometimes accepting these conditions and working within them leads to the greater good. One term for this standpoint is Appeasement and it didn’t work out for England too well in the nineteen o’thirties, so yes, there are some very convincing arguments to be made to the contrary. But the crux of my argument is this: what other path through history has even the slightest chance of working out for the best?

    • Hm, I fall on the side of “yes, this is racist.” The reason is that the commercial relies on that pretty facile X group = Y trait shorthand. Any time a whole country or a whole people is used to illustrate one unifying trait, it reduces that group to this one trait, and that is extremely othering, even when that trait is not something that is in itself negative. (Take, for example, positive stereotypes about Asians.)

      White men don’t have to deal with that kind of characterization – a commercial featuring a white man acting white would really signify nothing. White hipster, white corporate type, sure, but you couldn’t just have someone come on screen and ACT WHITE and have that mean anything.

      • I agreed. It’s not “offensive” in the sense that it’s not negative, but any time you group a bunch of people together around one trait, you’re on very shaky ground. This ad is misguided for the same reason an ad about a bunch of white guys putting on black face and suddenly being good at basketball would be offensive. A white guy talking like a Jamaican and suddenly getting happier is a stereotype, and good or bad, stereotypes are wrong? I think?

        • I can see that, but I also feel like this is going deep into double standard land. For example, the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man totally plays into the stereotype of Spanish machismo, has it ever been called out as offensive? There are so many ads that play into national (over racial) stereotypes. Even Volkswagen’s “German engineering” is a freaking stereotype.

          I think this is playing into the racial stereotype because Jamaicans are typically viewed as black (although there are white Jamaicans), but honestly this is being blown up far more than I’ve seen for other more offensive ads.

          • I am not a huge fan of European stereotypes either, but race is definitely a factor in determining whether or not something is racist. The racist component of this is that Jamaica’s population is predominantly black, and the commercial makes it pretty clear that this guy doesn’t look Jamaican because he’s white.

            Just for the record, but I like you, neverabadidea. I’ve disagreed with two of your comments in a row so thought I’d make that clear.

          • no worries, imsteph! I don’t mind disagreement at long as it’s civil.

      • Well then I guess there goes my idea for a commercial where a black guy starts driving a VW and is immediately interested in blimp rides and Wes Anderson filnms.

      • I hear what you’re saying, and there are many instances where I’d be right there with you. The positive stereotypes about Asians is a good example. I think there’s a key difference, though, in that positive stereotypes about Asians are things that people really truly believe. That’s what makes them dangerous and insulting. I don’t think this Jamaican stereotype (and I don’t even think it rises to the level of an honest-to-goodness stereotype) is something that people seriously associate with actual Jamaicans so much as it’s a nebulous idea of what Jamaica is kinda-sorta like from a touristy point of view.

        • Also the Asian stereotypes are rooted in historical segregation and immigration caps that only allowed the upper classes and doctor/lawyer/engineer classes to move here. It’s pretty parallel to the “black people are great at sports” positive stereotype… as that is rooted in who was brought over at that time.

        • I’m with you on the offensive or not debate on this commercial, its a pretty stupid commercial, but if this is offensive than really anyone doing an accent is offensive as a way of making “mockery” of another culture. Should we be offended if someone is putting on a British accent in comedy?

          However, as regards Jamaica and its stereotypes, most people I’ve encountered on the subject really and truly think Jamaicans are just happy, relaxed, pot heads living the life. None of them really realize or think about the fact that they may see Jamaicans “lounging” if they stray off their luxury cruise boat and look around a bit, but this is probably more due to the devastatingly bad economy they have to live in.

          Universe, please watch Life + Debt:

      • I think it’s offensive because of x=y and because of what Steph said overall. Racism is the first thought that comes to mind, but then a whole bunch more… either way it ends (for me) at unfunny and a bad commercial overall.

        Also it seems like a weird 80s throwback Come Back To Jamaica ads that definitely worked on my parents at the time and I’m sad to say they totally came back from their vacations there wearing puka shells and being exceptionally tanner than white people in the Midwest should be. Of course, those ads led to Peter O’Toole’s role in Club Paradise and my favorite Peter O’Toole movie quote of all time:

        I adore the West Indies. It is the best place in the world to be poor.


        • This being said, it is a comment from a perpetually drunk, depressed British governor of a still UK-run island colony in the middle of a Marxist revolution. Meanwhile, American industrialists are trying to snatch up as much land as possible to create Sandals or whatever. He knows his power and influence is symbolic, he’s long since run out of money, and his family abandoned him for the safety of the UK. But he’d rather get drunk on the beach and have a fake job and enjoy the rest of his life. He’s kind of a wonderful anti-hero in a mediocre movie that definitely parallels a glossed-over history of many Caribbean islands that were in the throes of similar forms of neocolonialism at the time. Personally, I think the movie is crap, but I adore this character.

  3. To be fair, this ad is going to be airing in front of Americans, many of whom are known for racism, so it could be called catering to your audience.

    • (FYI, as Huckabeast’s official spokesman, I’d like to point out that this comment is not offensive to Americans, although I can see how you’d think that grouping Americans as one giant collective bunch of “racists” could be seen as offensive, it definitely isn’t. Thanks! Don’t forget to upvote Huckabeast!

  4. Not to rain TOO hard on this rain parade, but the commercial is not really racist. I mean, there’s caucasian Jamaicans, right? And the accent itself is descended partly from Irish. And the island is synonymous with “laid back,” which is never really meant in or taken in a negative way, and that’s what the commercial is rolling with. So… maybe our definition of “racist” has grown too vast if this falls into it, you guys. As they say in Jamaica: Chillax!

    • I guess the points one could argue against the caucasian Jamaicans defense are twofold: 1) The bit where they ask if Dave is from Minnesota and he says ‘yes’ (which hey, maybe he’s from MN but he grew up in Jamaica, but then why would the other white office guys front on him about where he’s from?) , and 2) the fellow of asian descent taking a ride in the car at the end of the commercial is now speaking in a Jamaican accent, the implication being that these are ‘normals’ who attain stereotypical Jamaican laid-backness (a ‘positive’ stereotype is still a stereotype) when going for a spin in a VW.

      • Because there definitely are caucasian Jamaicans, I’m just saying I don’t think the point of the commercial was ‘look at this caucasian Jamaican man from Jamaica spreading good cheer with his positive vibes and his volkswagons lord have mercy.’

        • I think the implied racist message is that speaking with an accent not typically associated with white people is not acceptable in an office environment? If the guy dressed like our new guru Jeremy London and spoke like he was on tour with the Dead, it would be the same terrible joke but with a different undertone? Or if they had a complimentary one with a guy speaking with a British accent and getting a raise? And then someone speaking with a deep Southern accent getting in trouble? Or a really strong Minnesota accent? Seems more regionally biased than actually racist.

          I honestly am unsure. My real issue is that it’s grating and unfunny.

          • So what you’re saying it’s more akin to stereotyping as an act of geographical bigotry than true-blue racism? I can see that.

          • And tone deaf executives and copywriters.

          • Last week on Hart of Dixie, a guy from the deep South got hit in the head and started speaking with a British accent and his life got infinitely better… so he kept the accent… just like how this guy is relaxed because of the Jamaican accent and probably his car. But the good mayor of Bluebell, Levon Hayes, knew this guy was faking it (but not really because it was a head trauma thing? I am no Dr. Summer Roberts so I cannot weigh in officially) and got him the help he needed… with terrible results. So the guy kept using the now-actually-fake accent because he liked the lifestyle that came with it.

            It is literally the same joke / premise, only inverted and better done. And that concludes this week’s plug for The CW’s epic dramedy, Hart of Dixie.

      • You could argue that there is a stereotype of being from Minnesota and that it is diffident, reserved, taciturn–pretty far from the laid-back happy that is associated with Jamaica. So his coworkers don’t get it–how can he have become so laid back? Oh, the car…

        Arguably, the Jamaican stereotype doesn’t work without the Minnesota stereotype. They work together here. And at some point we have to accept that it’s just supposed to be one minute of fun — this guy grew up in a tundra made of ice and suicide and he’s acting like he’s basking in sun on a beach.

        • Absolutely, hotspur, I think that is the point of the commercial: contrasting two geographical locations and the stark difference in lifestyle between the two to illustrate how preferable the car is because it makes you feel like you’re from the sunnier of the two. There are plenty of ways to illustrate that with wardrobe and props, as stephcha mentioned above.

          Stereotypes are stereotypes. I’m not even saying this commercial is racist. I’m just saying it’s painting with a broad brush (as commercials often do resort to shorthand due to the time crunch), but when you do that it can get dicey and things can get misinterpreted or interpreted really well, bringing issues to the forefront that were never the intention of the advertisers.

          And really, the homophobic Super Bowl ads are where things get super-dicey, so let’s all stay tuned for those, ‘cuz there will be at least five over the course of the broadcast.

          • But if he is dressing island and we’re okay with that, as long as he doesn’t talk island, at some point aren’t we parsing too hard? At some point the solution would then become “Well, let’s not risk any humor that depends on shorthand about people” — and that feels terrible to me. Much worse than whatever went wrong here — and I think badideajeans is right: the worst you can say about this ad is that you don’t think it’s funny. Or what Gabe said, that it’s lazy. But it’s not evil or pernicious which is what we talk about when we talk about racism. Right?

          • I hope this didn’t sound ranty. I think we’re not very far apart on this one.

          • That is not how I talk about racism. That is definitely the worst of the worst of racism— the evil and pernicious kind— but it’s all over the place in a rainbow of assorted colors and flavors, and some of it is not as harmful as others, but when broken down it is still racism.

            And I think that is where there is a slight disconnect culturally, because that’s the language getting bandied about these days. Racism is a catch-all term for anything race-related, and I think that this also lends to some confusion when discussing it. because racism is known to be evil and pernicious, but now people are tackling all sides of it and slapping racism on the positive and the negative, but there is still a huge knee-jerk reaction to the term, because it is not a light term.

            But anyway, ‘This car makes you feel like you’re on a laid-back vacation.’ That is the intention of the commercial. You can depict a vacation in a multitude of ways, and only assholes come back from a place they visited for two weeks but have somehow adopted the accent. So at the very least, this guy’s an asshole.

            And yeah, it’s supposed to be funny! Jokes get a lot of wiggle room, which is why this is getting blowed up in a real-weird way, because it is intended as a joke. I totally am onboard for that. But when it comes to racism we talk about it endlessly because it’s all over the place and people generally would rather ignore it or express dismay that they don’t to change or tackle it head on and chew on it.

            I’m glad we like to chew on these things over here. Like I said before, I don’t think the intention was to be racist, I think it is open to interpretation, it is supposed to be a joke, and it’s biggest crime is being lame.

          • btw, when I said And I think that is where there is a slight disconnect culturally I meant age demographics. The newer language of today’s youth is who I think is doing this (based on no research and much prejudice and envy of their youth).

          • but now people are tackling all sides of it and slapping racism on the positive and the negative
            Yes, well said, Kajus, your whole post is very well said and thanks for reeling me in a bit. Of course there are lots of ways to be “racist”… and I think (and imsteph got at it above) what they all have in common (maybe?) is that they are reductive. I mean, they reduce an individual to the characteristics attributed to a group.

            We do this all the time — hipsters, bosses, etc — but the trouble comes when race is involved. In some cases there’s no harm done — Jamaicans are relaxed! Hawaiians are relaxed! These things feel true and probably not many Jamaicans or Hawaiians could be located who would argue. (They’re so relaxed.) But moving slightly out of positive — e.g., the Japanese are not relaxed! — what happens? It feels different, maybe. And it’s not, technically, is it?

            But it doesn’t even have to be racial directly. If I say “hipster,” we picture someone with unnecessary sideburns and we all think he’s a doofus probably and so on, but if I say “rapper”… now, that is no less a category to be pictured but suddenly things are ultra awkward. What the white guy is picturing? What’s the black guy picturing? How does each feel about it? No one knows! Is the first face anyone thought of Eminem’s?? And if so or if not, what the hell does THAT mean? And we’re all aware of not knowing! It all gets away from us fast. We end up trying to work out what other people are thinking, and what we’re thinking and why, and this comes with guilt and worry and fear and resentment. It can lead to a huge disconnect between people and also within ourselves, as we sort of short-circuit on the way to having a complete thought that may or may not be an okay thought.

            Only connect, assholes.

    • Maybe he’s just so laid back and happy that he feels like he can just go around speaking in whatever damn accent he feels like and people shouldn’t be do damn uptight about everything all the time, ya know?

    • See below. (Also: “the accent is descended partly from Irish” is one of the most back-breaking attempts to accomodate racism that I have heard in awhile. Come on, hotspur!)

      • Ah, okay! Allow me to clarify: I was not suggesting that the Jamaican accent is white and so white guys everywhere should jump into it. What I meant, and did not say well, is that what is considered strictly the property of one group of people usually isn’t, when looked at more closely. And I think that is partly what I mean with my giant post to imsteph above (no one should waste time reading it) — just that

      • GODDAMIT. Didn’t mean to hit submit midsentence.

        My overall point is just that race and ethnicity and culture and geography (different topics, with lots of overlap) can be fluid and hard to nail down. This was partly what I meant in my other disastrous post above, about getting asked if I’m Irish: obviously, all the ethnicities I mention there (Italian, Greek, etc.) are versions of white. They haven’t ALWAYS been, but they are now; they haven’t always gotten along, but they do now. Stereotypes against me (and them) formed in 1712 or 1912 hold a lot less power in 2012 — but they’re still around. I just find that these shorthands are more familiar than infuriating, even when they’re negative; and even when they are negative I find myself perversely and too often making an effort to reinforce them — stubborn, whiskey-fueled contrarian that I am (that’s a stereotype, btw).

        I mention all this because I don’t know what to make of it exactly, but I am sure that “racism” is not the most useful word to apply to this commercial.

        • Or maybe it’s more that we as a nation need to stop having such a kneejerk response to the word “racism” as if it’s accusing someone of being individually awful and hateful towards non-white people, rather than a symptom of a national inequity based on hundreds of years of oppression. The vast majority of discussions on racism these days circle around how awful it is to say someone is racist or has done or said something racist, rather than around actual racism. They’re centered on proving something is racist as if in a court of law, and considering all interpretations, and avoiding deeming something racist as much as possible.

          “Racist” isn’t always a personal evaluation. In fact, I’d say it’s MOSTLY not a personal evaluation. It’s both a product and a by-product of an inherently imbalanced system that works in incredibly subtle and insidious ways to maintain centuries-old power structures. If you do not “see racism” in something, the vast majority of the time it’s because you do not HAVE to see racism in it, because you are the default race, you unknowingly benefit from the maintenance of those power structures, and you’ve never been in a position where you have to notice them. Someone pointing that out to you is not an insult or a horrible accusation, it is the truth. And forcing someone to prove their lack of privilege to you because you’ve never had to notice it before is a huge part of your privilege.

          • Hi feministnoise, I just read your comment just now, and it is a great comment. Very well said. ESPECIALLY the part at the start about the ‘kneejerk response’ and about it being a symptom of a much larger thing, and not just scolding people and labeling them as monsters with no further discussion necessary. I’ve been trying to word that properly for forever and you just did it for me! Kudos.

            That is mainly the reason why I will back off on calling something racist. Because I have a hard time using the word in what I feel is a proper context, and become easily exasperated when people react to that in the way you described, like it’s an accusation of being hateful and maliciously prejudiced.

          • Feministnoise, well said, and mainly I agree. I think we need a better word than “racist” to describe the situation, though, because that word unavoidably carries a ton of accusation in it. Personally, I also don’t enjoy discussions or essays in which terms like “the maintenance of power structures” and “privilege” are used; to me, they feel too much like cant or jargon — they are very academic terms, and despite their attempt at sounding overly technical I think a little accusation persists in them (e.g., “maintaining” doesn’t just happen, someone’s got to be performing it, and so exactly what are you trying to say about the way I act, etc etc).

            So, when I find myself talking about race (always inadvisably) I try to limit myself to sharing personal experience and not drawing too many conclusions. My hope is that other people will in return share their experiences. This is how I, personally, Learn & Grow(TM); the academic terminology is a huge turn-off to me for many reasons — it sounds Orwellian or Kafka-esque to an extent that just about gives me hives — and is very removed from the kind of thing I do respond to (like personal accounts). I hope that makes sense, and helps make sense of all the rest of my highly dubious remarks in this thread.

          • Thanks, KajusX, and yes, I hesitate sometimes too because it’s like an instant “HALT” button on polite discourse and instead turns into endless “you don’t know me, how dare you call me racist” circle jerking. It’s maddening.

            And hotspur, “racist” only carries a ton of accusation with it because white people generally do not like and react with defensiveness and hostility to the suggestion that they’ve benefited from anything other than their own hard work. Personal experience doesn’t mean much in discussions of things that are racist because racism ISN’T personal. Prejudice is personal. Racism is institutionalized inequity. We are all subject to that, and act it out in individual ways, but that does not make it an individual action. And yes, when our individual actions shore up the system of institutionalized inequity, those actions are racist.

            I understand why you have trouble with it and with what you feel is jargon, but those terms mean something, and when the conversation becomes more about making people comfortable with the discussion of racism rather than about the racism itself, that’s both a problem and also an effect of that institutionalized system of inequity, that you get to mold the conversation to suit you, and if it’s not, the conversation isn’t had.

  5. I just hope Tim Tebow wins this year!

  6. GUYS, GUYS! What if, open your minds real wide now, WHAT IF it was an office full of Jamaican people of African descent driving Volkswagons saying all the same things? What if it was that? WHAT IF IT WAS THAT? I SERIOUSLY DON’T KNOW.

    • I’d actually have the same reaction. Any time you’re gonna use a whole country or a whole people as shorthand, I think you’re in hot water. I mean yea, use a puka shell necklace as shorthand. Use a $6000 suit as shorthand. Try to treat race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. with a liiiittle more nuance.

  7. There will never be a better time to coin a witticism at the expense of the Calormenes, but I am too timid to do so.

  8. “Now THAT’S comedy!” -George Lucas

    • “Now THAT’S a mythological sci-fi tale of epic proportions based on the classics of world literature and the work of Joseph Campbell!” -George Lucas

  9. Discussion question: does this make all of the Malibu rum commercials racist as well?

    • What about Red Stripe Beer?!

    • Or the reggae fest trick on Peggy’s fiance during last night’s Happy Endings? Because that joke was very funny, not because lifelong Chicago residents and white people Jane and Penny were speaking with terrible Jamaican accents but because hijinks got the fiance to a wedding expo with HILARIOUS RESULTS.

      Seriously, that might be one of my favorite Happy Endings in awhile and that show is already great.

  10. He says that they tested the ad on 100 Jamaicans, but how can he be sure these people weren’t just talking in a Jamaican accent?

  11. This commercial has a picture of Jamaica in its wallet. (NAILED IT)

  12. Also: the reporter who had to have the connection to selling cars explained to him…his nickname around the studio must be “the professor.”

  13. I don’t know guys. Sometimes it really is hard to know when something is racist or not. Someone needs to make an app or something where you feed in ideas or jokes and it pops up warning you whether or not it’s racist or offensive in some way.

    Here’s an example of something that happened to me recently:
    I was at our company Christmas party. My friend brought his wife who happened to be the only black person at the party. I’ve known her for a while since I’m close friends with my coworker, but I don’t know her extremely well. So, I’m hanging out by the wall with them making awkward Christmas party small talk. I notice that another coworker has left a slice of pizza unattended, so I make a comment about how we should eat it quick before he gets back, because he would never know what happened. She says, “Yeah. Because you can get away with anything if you eat the evidence.” So, I quickly responded, “Yeah. Just ask O.J.Simpson.” Then her jaw drops to the floor and she says, “I can’t believe you just said that! That’s so racist!” I tried to explain that the joke had nothing to do with the fact that O.J. was black and was really just based on the implication that he got away with murder because he ate all of the evidence. But she still acted genuinely offended. I apologized and left the conversation sortly afterwards.

    I’ve played it back in my head ever since, and I still can’t see it. I guess maybe I thought of O.J. as an example because I was talking to a black person. Maybe. I guess I could have gone with D.B.Cooper, but that joke would have been too obscure and sortof nonsensical, and I could have gone with something more recent and said Casey Anthony, but that would have made the joke way too sick for a Christmas party. So, I’m really at a loss. Was this it really racist? I know I probably was just not being extremely sensitive to the fact that she was probably keenly aware that she was the only black person at the party, this made her uncomfortable and defensive, but I don’t want to be gun shy about every thing I say around her from now on.

    • Unless you’re telling this story in a way that’s so extremely favorable to yourself as to warp the incident entirely, I don’t see how this was racist. O.J. must be the most famous acquitted murderer of all time.

    • You should try to get back on her good side, because anyone who makes the joke, “Because you can get away with anything if you eat the evidence,” sounds like a pretty awesome person.

      • Yeah, she’s pretty cool. I went to their wedding late last year, and she is my Facebook friend. So, I don’t know her fairly well, but I knew she had a sense of humor. One of my optional explanations is that she was just making a joke herself when she accused me of being racist. Like a sort of prank she thought would be fun. But later she was acting genuinely offended, so I’m not certain.

        On a side note. For reference: I’m an Alaskan boy, and the ratio of whites to blacks here is embarrassingly high. But recently I flew to Washington DC, and while exploring the city, I wandered into a part of town that was predominantly black. And it was refreshingly uncomfortable to be the only white person in a crowd. Like, it gave me a reference point to help me understand a lot of the race discussions, which had previously just been academic. While there I happened into a Chipotles, which we don’t have in Alaska. So, I didn’t know how they worked. I was seriously caught off guard in the crowded lunch rush when I made my way to the counter to order and the first question the beautiful black lady behind the counter asked me was “White or Brown?” It took a little awkward back and forth before I figured out she was talking about rice. I ordered brown, by the way, even though I probably would have preferred white. But, I was worried about offending someone. I just don’t know anymore!

    • I went to a school that was just chock full of white folk. We had one black guy in our class, and he was mentally challenged. It was the last year that the state would let him attend high school, and everybody knew that, so when he graduated everybody stood up and cheered for him, moreso than any other person. This made sense to all involved. However, for anybody not from the school who just came to see a graduation, it appeared that everybody was clapping and cheering because a black guy managed to graduate. Racism is all around us, friends!

  14. So anytime anyone uses an accent that is not typically associated with someone of his or her own race they are being racist? I think the line is drawn when you are mimicking the accented English of Non-native speakers.

  15. I’m starting to think that if I can picture Michael Scott laughing at something, than yeah, it’s probably racist.

  16. Normally I am ALL ABOUT Minnesota stuff, but I’m not touching this one.

    We’re not all racist though!! I promise! (I mean there are a lot of racist Minnesotans but the Venn Diagram is not a full circle, is what I’m saying)

  17. There are a lot of different things being said in this thread, but for now I’m just going to talk about one that stood out: someone said that no one criticizes the Dos Equis “most interesting man” ads for playing off of stereotypes about Spanish people, and also that Volkswagen’s own slogan, “German engineering” is also a stereotype. Well, OK, but the dude in the Dos Equis commercial is white, and Germany is a country. Regardless of whether you think “cool vibes” is a fun stereotype or not, the difference is that when white people stick their stereotype flag in another group of people it is with an arrogance, entitlement, and colonialist power dynamic that is by its very nature racist and harmful. You can say whatever you want about white people and it will never, EVER come with centuries of global baggage that includes horrendous crimes against humanity. So that’s part one.

    As for a stereotype being positive, again, it doesn’t really matter, especially when it’s a white person using it. The argument, for example, that an “Asian people are smart and good at math” stereotype is not negative and therefore can’t be racist is completely ignoring that this comes from a Western viewpoint of culture, politics, and society, and that group classifications like this are by their very nature open to misinterpretation and or malicious intent. (For example: during the 1980s, Japan became an increasingly powerful “economic threat” to the United States before their economy cratered. The same thing is now happening with China. If you think it’s impossible for a white person to say “Asian people are smart and good at math, and that is why we need to be scared of Asian people because they’re going to use their brains to take over OUR world” then you haven’t known white people very long.)

    Sure, guys listening to chill music and feeling positive about life isn’t itself a bad thing. But white people doing a traditionally black patois as a reductive caricature that you guys yourselves are admitting is a construct of the Jamaican tourist board (TO GET WHITE PEOPLE TO FEEL SAFE ENOUGH TO VISIT) is absolutely 100% a product of racism. Is it the most hurtful strain of racism? No. But if this exists on the spectrum, which I say it absolutely does, then you can’t just dismiss the entire spectrum because it’s closer to, say, a racist Steamboat Willie cartoon than people being sprayed with fire hoses. Spectrums are spectrums for a reason.

    • (Did everyone listen to Gabe’s five episodes of the ‘Yo, Is This Racist?’ podcast yet? Because they’re awesome, and they sound a lot like this comment reads, which is perfect)

      • yes and yes. That’s a pretty great podcast and especially good when smart/interesting/funny guests are on it (which to be fair I think is most of them).

    • Thank you, Gabe.

      • He left out the part about how we only let in upper classes of Asian decent for most of our nation’s history, which is a huge reason this stereotype exists on broad levels, but yes.

    • Since I kind of started the ‘Yo, This Isn’t Racist’ party, I just want to respond to what Gabe said here by drawing a distinction I made above but am pretty sure got lost in the shuffle because I made it a little bit late. I’ll repost it here:

      I hear what you’re saying, and there are many instances where I’d be right there with you. The positive stereotypes about Asians is a good example. I think there’s a key difference, though, in that positive stereotypes about Asians are things that people really truly believe. That’s what makes them dangerous and insulting. I don’t think this Jamaican stereotype (and I don’t even think it rises to the level of an honest-to-goodness stereotype) is something that people seriously associate with actual Jamaicans so much as it’s a nebulous idea of what Jamaica is kinda-sorta like from a touristy point of view.

      I guess what I’m saying is that when it’s something that nobody actually believes to be true about a racial or ethnic group (and perhaps I’m wrong about that, but I honestly don’t think this is a real-life belief about Jamaicans), that’s when it stops actually being racism. If it were about all Jamaicans being fast? Racism. Lazy? Racism. Laid back? That’s a thing nobody really thinks, therefore not racism.

      • Honestly, no one thinks of Jamaica at all until they’re planning their honeymoons.

      • From what position are you arguing that nobody really thinks that? There are a million and one jokes about Rastas and Jamaica in our culture, and the noise those things make drowns out the voices of actual Jamaicans. To say that most people carry around a parody-esque idea of Jamaicans but also discern that this stereotype isn’t actually close to reality, especially concerning a group of people that many Americans have limited or no direct contact with, is a very tricky argument to make and not one I personally can believe.

        • Actually I should probably have said that there are a few jokes re: Jamaica that are extremely pervasive — if you asked a very large amount of people what they knew about Jamaica, the list would probably go something like: 1) Weed 2) Bob Marley 3) ?.

        • Like I said in my comment, I could be wrong in my assumption that nobody really thinks that. If I’m wrong about that, then I’m wrong across the board on this post. I happen to find it hard to believe that people genuinely hold that belief about Jamaicans. The reason I find it hard to believe is that to hold such a belief is patently ridiculous on the order of assuming that everyone in Italy is a pizza maker or that all Polish inventions are ill-conceived.

          I recognize that my position assumes that people are not generally idiots and that this may be the fly in the ointment, but there it is.

          • Yes, I think this is part of my problem — I tend to assume people are not fucking idiots. Like if some guy meets a girl and immediately asks where she’s from, my assumption would be that he is awkward at conversation but his closest childhood friend was Korean and his favorite college girlfriend was Japanese so if she answers either of those he will feel like he has some fun stories to share and maybe they will hit it off. HOWEVER, the fact is, he might be a fucking idiot who thinks if you don’t look European, you’re not from the USA. I like to believe these people are rare. I am probably super wrong.

          • The history of Polish jokes is actually very fascinating. It’s usually credited as Nazi propaganda, but definitely exists as propaganda from hundreds of years before… usually spread by invading countries to dissuade other invading countries from wanting to enter because the people are stupid, etc. However, I’ve read in places I cannot find online but definitely existed in books that the sentiment is actually deeply rooted in the country/culture not converting to Catholicism as fast as the rest of Europe. In fact, the first listed Polish Prince (930s A.D.) is a guy who married a noble Catholic woman from Bavaria… and that’s when the country finally switched as a whole and gained traditional European forms of feudalism.

            However, it’s been big in the U.S. since the second wave of European immigration as a way to marginalize the Other. Germans and Swedes got a similar treatment, but the Polish stuff stuck more because it was reinforced during WWII.

          • Well, three things about this position:

            1. Somebody thinks everything. There’s someone who thinks that only women with one arm are attractive, there’s someone who thinks the moon is a hoax, and there’s DEFINITELY someone who thinks that Jamaicans are all chilled out dudes who just love kicking back with Red Stripe (the fact that reggae is largely comprised of protest songs rarely enters into people’s conception of it as the most chill music).

            2. The fact that YOU aren’t racist doesn’t really have anything to do with whether or not something IS racist, but I think this is an issue that sometimes gets confused. Whether or not you live your life based on engaged and didactic interactions with the world around you and are constantly questioning your assumptions or letting people prove themselves on their own merits does not mean that is how the world works (definitely not historically, but not even currently for almost 100% of the time). So because you might see something that is racist through non-racist eyes does not in and of itself negate that thing’s inherent racism.

            3. What exactly is the POINT of your position? Honest question! Like, your argument says that this advertisement (which we can all agree regardless of which position we are taking in this debate, is definitely lame and stupid) is not racist as long as these very specious propositions about the world hold true. Right? Like, your argument is that as long as this very specific personal interpretation of the world, which assumes A LOT about how BILLIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE are thinking and feeling and interpreting things, and which has not necessarily been tested on a wide sample (1 out of all the people is not a huge statistical pool), so lots of unknowns here, but if and when those unknowns hold true then this ad “probably” isn’t racist. But, is all of that worth it? Is all of the work you are doing worth it?

            Let me point out that none of us here has any power over anything that we are talking about. Right? It would be one thing if I could wave my magic blog wand and have this ad pulled from the Super Bowl. Or have everyone at Draper Sterling Pryce and Joan fired. If that was the case then we would have to tread a little bit lighter. When people’s actual livelihoods are at stake then deciding how to reward/punish them for what they do must be taken not only seriously, but also quite strictly. “Is conceiving this ad a fire-able offense?” THAT is a tougher question to answer. Since we DON’T have any of that power, our task is much simpler: it is just to suggest that the world be a slightly more careful place as it makes its brash and bold and incessant decisions.

            But you guys are bending over backwards and twisting your minds into knots to simply try and say in the comments section of a blog that this advertisement “probably” isn’t racist. Why? I’m curious! I obviously am enjoying this discussion, so I appreciate your differing opinions. I am not saying you should just fall in line NOR am I saying that you should shy away from standing up for your opinion when race is concerned. The opposite. I want to applaud you for it. With one hand. The other hand is making like a “huh?” shrug. Because while I can actually see the value in constructing an argument for how and why something in popular culture IS racist, I’m actually not as clear on the value of arguing that it “might not” be. Show your work!

          • I have already stated my very simple and I fear simplistic opinions on this topic up above, so alas, there is nothing left for me to contribute here, but I must say I do enjoy Mr. Delahaye’s recent willingness to mix it up with the monsters in the comment section. And I have found this entire conversation quite useful, in that it has challenged me and helped to clarify my position on the subject in the solitude of my own mind. Everyone in this micro-thread has been given an upward thumb by me.

          • Oh boy-o is this a late reply, but here it goes.

            I’ll start off by saying I’m plenty eager to point out that lots of things are racist. I’ve done it before around here, and I’ve made more than one family gathering a little awkward by pointing out how someone’s belief is racist even though they would swear they’re not racists. I’m not a racism apologist.

            But I don’t feel like I’m twisting my mind into knots to say that I don’t think this is an example of racism. I understand your earlier argument about it being on the spectrum, and that argument gave me pause, but I’m not even sure I feel like it’s on the low end of the spectrum. The central premise of the ad is lazy, and the use of the accent is based on a broad notion about Jamaican-ness, but I don’t feel as though it implies very much of anything about Jamaicans. That’s really it. That’s the distinction for me, and I feel like that distinction matters.

            Why am I bothering to defend it? I’m honestly not sure. I have no dog in this fight. It’s probably that I think this is an interesting topic and we seem to have found an example where people I’d agree with 99% of the time on a similar issue (Gabe, imsteph, etc.) just aren’t seeing eye to eye, and that fact alone makes it somehow worth continuing to discuss.

          • Well, but if it didn’t point out at least SOMETHING about Jamaican-ness to SOMEONE’S eyes, it wouldn’t have been made. Some people wouldn’t think it’s funny and defend it. And considering that it trades explicitly on a picture of Jamaica and Jamaicans that was fostered deliberately to make it so white Americans weren’t afraid to go there and spend their money, it’s certainly indicating something about non-Jamaicans.

            This is presenting being Jamaican as a) something simplistic and inaccurate, b) a way to chill out and be happy, as if there are no issues or problems with being Jamaican in America, and having a distinct accent and being publicly perceived as something of a caricature, which is primarily restricted to black Jamaicans, no matter how much we want to hand-wave about “not all Jamaicans are black!” and c) as a costume or performance routine. And it’s one thing for Jamaica and Jamaicans to do that, but it’s quite another for a bunch of in-all-likelihood white, well-off executives to do it so they can sell their cars to people.

            There are about a thousand ways to indicate that the car can make someone relaxed and happy and fresh from vacation without trading on anyone else’s ethnic or racial identity, and it’s the fact that THIS was used instead of any of those other things that makes it racist. If you call someone a racial slur in the heat of the moment, even though you don’t typically display any racist sentiment otherwise, a) that doesn’t make the slur any less racist, and b) it’s worth shining a light on just why that was your instinct, with the wealth of non-racial or ethnic epithets available to you in this fine, expressive language of ours.

      • Actually that stereotype totally exists about Jamaicans, depending on where you are. I’ve seen it mostly from people from other Caribbean islands, but it’s a reflection of the country’s rebellion from England post-WWII, a mining industry gone wrong, ties to socialism in the 70s and 80s, the U.S.-led drug war and subsequent, related poverty of the lower classes.* But as it remained part of the Commonwealth, many richer white people stayed or moved to the island to exploit the minerals and workers. A similar neocolonialism pattern emerged later when all-inclusive resorts were created and marketed to Europe and North America.

        The whole “Come Back To Jamaica” (later “Come To Jamaica”) campaign that this ad is probably referencing to an extent was created to counteract the perception that Jamaica was a shit hole and to spark up tourism, especially in the U.S. And it’s totally related to the all-inclusive resorts that give you the beach experience and the white-washed Caribbean experience without really showing you anything outside the gated walls of the resort. Even the reggae music that was initially created as songs of protest and rebellion were co-opted by tourism campaigns and misguided visitors or well-intentioned volunteers/hippies/whatever to perpetuate a stereotype that is misguided and generally untrue. Plus the perception of poorer countries as lazier mimics the Paul Ryan / GOP “bootstraps” lies and nonsense we have here… even if it’s mostly used by richer countries that got that way by allowing their European colonies to use them for off-shore banking.

        And that is why melding the reggae stereotype with resort neocolonialist propaganda makes the archetypical Jamaican stereotype misguided, untrue and racist. And, on top of this, most white people who grew up in Jamaica tend to have more British-sounding accents because they are heavily tied to the UK or Europe, either because of schooling or family.

        ALL of this being said, I think the commercial is too dumb to be intentionally racist (but yeah, it is) and was probably done by people who don’t know (or care to know) about the history of colonialism and neocolonialism in the Caribbean and Central America and thought the stereotypes from Cool Runnings were hilarious when they were blocked in a meeting.

        It’s a terrible commercial and everyone involved should be fired. Every. One.

        • *I had a really long historically-filled bit of crazy factual information that I have collected over the years and verified to be true so I wasn’t spreading hearsay saved for this asterisks, but figured I’m not in college anymore and still need to edit some stuff for my real life. But the history of colonialism in the West Indies, the impact of the Spanish-American War on and how the area was treated after WWI and WWII and then during the island rebellions (starting with Jamaica, though Haiti was independent in the very early 1800s) and how it reflects on perceptions of each island and its economic system is really fascinating… and depressing.

          To learn more, consult your local library.

    • boy do I love it when Gabe makes me feel like an asshole.

      [and with that, I politely bow out of this conversation]

  18. The idea that racism has to be evil and negative to really be racism is probably the biggest obstacle to overcoming it.

  19. Guys, lets all ease up, put on some music and remember that “race” in humans is nothing but an arbitrary concept. Like my favorite reggae band once said:
    If you want more beats for you buck there’s no luck
    Then there’s no luck
    Then again if you came for drama then I can’t understand a
    Music critics
    Not afraid of a guy who’ll tell you he’s never been in a mix
    Been in a mix
    We’re from the grassroots so big up to our friends
    Every crew, every click, and every posse
    Big up to all the heads not of hypocrisy

    You’re a transistor
    Lightning resistor
    Conducting to the mother star
    That’s what you are

    Renegade sound system 311

  20. Maybe they could’ve avoided all this heat if they adopted a Gungan attitude.

    Or maybe not…

  21. Dumb but real question, would the commercial be considered racist by the people who it is considered racist if the people were black or multicultural?

    I’m not saying it is or it’s not racist –or at least that it’s no more racist than a ton of other similar commercials. I remember a similar one a few years ago with people in a tropical island talking with yuppieisms while going about their day– but I guess if I were to say it was, it would be because I like run on sentences and because it, maybe, just maybe, act like the offices where this take place are in the US and monoethnically white? Like, in order for the ad to make sense, the premise would have to be that having a Jamaican accent and being laid back would be unusual in a modern office setting.

    Idk, 30 rock does a lot of race humor and I’m never offended by it, except for the time they had Jenna in blackface dressed Lynn Swann just to make a reference to a football player that retired 30 years ago. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think the people behind this were trying to be insensitive but I can see how people would be offended by it.

    Also, I am using the Interrobang from now on. Are you guys okay with this‽

  22. I hate football in general so the fact that this is tied to racism makes sense.

  23. Just so we’re clear, the guy lecturing about race is the same misogynist who spouted this garbage:

    “Personally, I’m not a huge Anne Hathaway fan. Sorry! She just seems very pinched and cold to the point of being emotionally unavailable and possibly cruel. The words “vagina dentata” come to mind. If her genitals do have teeth, it is simply for the purpose of grinding up male genitalia and turning them into EXCITING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES! “

    • Dude, really? First, there’s no logic in your statement. A misogynist could sure as heck be really clearly against racism. Second, Gabe has repeatedly, again and again, come out strongly as a feministy. Sure, he has made mistakes in regards to that, but guess what, dude is human, and he has been called out for his mistakes and usually conceded. I’m one of the people who has been unsatisified with things he has said in terms of women, but look, now I’m defending him, because he is clearly no misogynist.

  24. If I had to pick my favorite thing about this whole thread it would be the white people saying why it’s not racist: it doesn’t really matter if you don’t know that people believe the sterotype to be negative. Actual human Jamaicans have for years made a good case about how this stereotype is harmful, can easily lead to other stereotypes (laid back can quickly translate to lazy and invocations of the dreaded term “CPT” when it comes to hiring a person with a Jamaican accent for a job other than resort worker, par example), and many Jamaican activists have expressed that the government pushing this stereotype and it’s perpetuation to attract tourist dollars that are not reinvested in infrastructure and other economic growth areas is a huge problem within the country’s current state. This is all stuff you can find with like ten minutes of googling, by the way; it is not difficult to find real Jamaican people who don’t like this explaining to you why it is bad on the internet.

    In other (whiter) terms: if the a decent sampling of Nordic people said it was hurtful to them or their economy to continue the stereotype that they are “cold” and “distant”, enough that you had an unfamiliar inkling that it might be a problem so you took your potentially millions of dollars ad to six Nordic people you specifically chose to ask if that was true instead of just not doing it, you would be being a total jag.

  25. I’m going to guess that the thin-skinned members of my family from Minnesota would be offended by this commercial (they were offended by Fargo without having seen it). The Jamaicans I know would probably be amused by the spot. Does this spot have fun with cultural stereotypes? Definitely. Is it hurtful? Doubtful (unless you are a thin-skinned Minnesotan). The fact is this commercial wasn’t racist until Charles Blow declared it was in the NY friggin’ Times and that’s when the Internet jumped on the finger-pointing bandwagon.

  26. I’m late to this party (I’m late to every party!), but I’ve been watching this conversation unfold at the same time as a facebook conversation among a group of friends of Jamaican, Trinidadian, and Guyanese origin. The Caribbean folks I know are NOT happy about this ad — not in a catastrophic way, but in a head-shaking, “Man, can you believe this crap, but are we really surprised?” kind of way. Where the two conversations seem to converge is around the point that some of the comments here have made very, very, eloquently: that cultural stereotypes, even if they’re not saying inherently negative things about the group being stereotyped, are nevertheless hurtful in that they do some pretty effective cultural work to strip people of their individual traits, to retrench deeply held expectations, and to then measure individual members of that group against those expectations. I think it might be less a case here of “racism” in the sense of OMG FUNNY BLACK PEOPLE LOL and more a case of “cultural stereotyping,” which can do some pretty insistent and insidious cultural work. For that reason I think it helps to recognize it, point it out, and think it through when we see it appear — and I think Gabe and the commenters have done a nice job here.

    TL;DR: This is one of the smartest and most respectfully conducted conversations I’ve seen about this on the internet. :)

  27. I don’t think I’ve logged onto VG in about a million years (maybe like 7 months), but I just logged on to thumbs up this and say that this comment, right here, really made me re-think my initial reaction which was “Uh, this isn’t racist.” I still don’t think it’s necessarily racist, and I definitely don’t think this is the kind of thing we should use up our outrage over (does anyone remember the incredibly sexist Fiat and Teleflora ads from last year? I do, because they were so incredibly sexist) but this comment really, really made me think and so I appreciate your contribution.

  28. Das Auto? More like Das Racist!

  29. Gabe, I just discovered your existence after googling “Garden State Terrible.” I just rented it, and didn’t get past the dog humping scene. I look forward to reading all of your jeremiads.

    The VW ad made me uncomfortable and sad in much the same way as the Asian character in “Fargo” with the cartoonish Minnesootah accent.

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