Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Japanese Monkey Commercial and Race


Yesterday afternoon at the career center, I happened to be watching CNN (yes my career center has a TV) and filling our job applications and this interesting story came out of no where. imageApparently, the Japanese cell phone company EMOBILE has new commercial featuring a monkey that is supposed to be Barack Obama at a campaign rally. There are a bunch of Japanese people in the background with signs saying "change."

Expectedly enough, there is now outrage over the ad calling it racist and there is attempt to link it to Japan's past ad commercials. No outrage over the fact that a group of Indians are trying to present a statue Indian monkey god Hanuman to Barack Obama.

Watch the video and see what you think:

I can see how this touches some old feelings. Historically, monkeys have been the standard icon for mocking African-Americans. Does that necessarily apply to Barack Obama as well? I think at face value it does but I thought one of the most appealing things about Obama was that he's post-racial (or lighter or less angry about black history). He doesn't necessarily come us as the historical dark black man who will scare everyone away. Are people a bit oversensitive or are Japanese people a bit racist or inconsiderate?

This another clip from Japan featuring a group of impersonators singing "We are the World."


Is this blackface or just impressions? Some would argue blackface but is it no different then Eddie Murphy playing a white guy in that amazingly funny SNL skit from the 1980s?

Watch it here then come back

Or Tracy Ullman playing a black woman (very well). Is it still comedy or impersonation?


Where do we draw the line between funny ads or offensive work?

I think this Japanese ad where a family says "niggar" 100x times is definitely on the offensive side of things especially if it they looked up the history and the context of who uses it and what it means.

Check it out:

But then again Dave Chappelle uses the word in a skit about a white family with the last name Niggar. Is that any better? It might be funnier but is it really helping solve the problem? Especially with Nas' efforts to have his upcoming album titled "Nigger," or the spectacle by the NAACP to bury the word.

Watch the Dave Chappelle Skit:

Is any better than Ms. Swan? Featuring Alex Borstein as something of Chinese/Japanese maybe Eastern European/Icelandic concoction. I always thought she was supposed to be Chinese. But who knows? Maybe it is what I wished it to be or what it reminded me the most of?

Check it out:

What do you think about this monkey scandal? In light of all these recent examples where its hard to tell if something is comedy or serious and the implications of accepting these portrayals. I don't know.

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