The New York Daily News reported on the controversy surrounding a new Volkswagen commercial featuring non-Jamaican people speaking with Jamaican accents. New York Times columnist Charles Blow declared it was “like blackface with voices.” The German carmaker defended itself by revealing it had consulted 100 Jamaicans during production and hired a speech coach to ensure authenticity. Perhaps the most peculiar critique came from culturally clueless Curator of Popular Culture Barbara Lippert, who appeared on the TODAY Show and hollered, “This is so racist. … It’s just saying, ‘Black people are happy.’” Huh? Guess all of Lippert’s years in the advertising industry didn’t expose her to any happy Blacks. Oddly enough, in a 2007 Adweek column, Lippert took no offense to the revival of Uncle Ben.
Volkswagen Super Bowl ad provokes intense criticism: ‘blackface with voices’
The ire comes from the use of a heavy Jamaican accent by a white office worker, who tells his disgruntled colleagues, ‘No worries, man, everything will be alright.’
By Adam Edelman / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A Volkswagen ad slated to air during the Super Bowl this Sunday is getting criticized for being racist.
The controversial ad features a jovial white office worker speaking to disgruntled colleagues with a thick Jamaican accent.
The spot has already elicited intense criticism with one prominent essayist calling the ad, “blackface with voices.”
In the one-minute advertisement, which is thought to have cost the carmaker $8 million for the airtime, a group of unhappy employees are shown standing in an elevator complaining about it being Monday.
Behind them, a young, spirited, white employee turns to them and says, “no worries, man, everything will be alright,” in a heavy Jamaican accent.
In another scene, an annoyed worker is seen pounding at a vending machine.
The man tells him, “Don’t fret, my brother, sticky bun come soon,” again in the Jamaican accent.
At one point a confused colleague confirms that the employee is, in fact, from Minnesota. “Yessa, the land of 10,000 lakes. The Gopher State,” he responds in the accent.
At the end of the spot, the man is seen driving away from the office in his Volkswagen car with two of his colleagues, who upon arriving at their destination, spout similarly optimistic phrases in the same Jamaican accent.
The ad prompted a barrage of critics to accuse Volkswagen of being racist.
“This is so racist,” Barbara Lippert, editor-at-large of Mediapost.com, said on TODAY. “It’s just saying, ‘Black people are happy.’”
And during a segment on CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, columnist Charles Blow said the ad was “like blackface with voices. I don’t like that.”
For its part Volkswagen representatives told CNN that the company consulted with 100 Jamaicans and a speech coach to make sure they weren’t being offensive.