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The Big Mac Attack!

Mr. James Nippon All Stars

I have been sitting back watching this one but it seems like McDonald’s Japan is being served by some in the expatriate community over its new “mascot” Mr. James, the first of the Nippon All Stars reppin’ four new burgers for Micky D’s Japan. This new all-star is killing the image of hard-working foreigners with his goofy look, goofy Japanese and goofy mannerisms. Is he portraying the typical gaijin in Japan?  I wonder if Mr. James will soon have a Mr. Leroy (no fun intended) to keep him company? He may need it because there are some vicious comments directed towards the guy playing Mr. James. Here are just a few of the non-malicious comments from Debito’s blog (with appropriate trackback for you to comment there as well):

From Debito: “Hi Blog.  Please feel free to adapt this letter to your needs and send it to any corporate outlets of McDonald’s you feel are appropriate.  Please continue to express your disgruntlement where it can be heard (there is even the suggestion that people walk in to restaurants with indelible ink pens and wrote “racist” across the face of the “Mr James’” full-size display figure).”  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

A very interesting comment from the Debito blog regarding the power of the media in Japan from AJ:

“I am a simultaneous interpreter. Even after interpreting complex technical meetings backwards and forwards between both languages, I still have (a minority, admittedly) people asking me if I can read Japanese and expressing amazement that I chose to live here on a permanent basis without going “home”. Where do these views come from? Why do people find it difficult to perceive someone non-Japanese as a fully-fledged member of the community? Such views are not formed in a vacuum. They are fostered by stereotypes such as those shown in the commercial. People acquire their views on the basis of what they see and hear. We should not underestimate the cumulative damaging affect negative portrayals in the media can have.

Mr. James and Fans

AJ continues with: “The key problem here is the katakana speak, reinforcing the notion that non-Japanese cannot speak the language and are only passing through. This is highly prejudicial… Once a stereotype is ingrained, it is very hard to breakdown. That is why I have written to McDonalds asking them to stop this campaign, a campaign that will be seen by millions of people if it continues. That is why I hope readers of this board will do likewise. It is so sad to see other non-Japanese people failing to see what the issue is here.”

mrjamesoutdoorssmall

Another Debito poster commented: “When I saw those commercials (he is watching fireworks from a boat and the fireworks magically turn into burgers, if I remember correctly) I didn’t find them any more offensive than the ones featuring a little white girl in a meadow speaking Japanese she obviously doesn’t understand. It took Debito to point it out to me that this is actually a direct caricature of people like myself. It would be unfortunate indeed if characters like this became acceptable joke fodder.

The comments above from the Debito blog are very similar to those by Africans and African-Americans that were up in arms when chimpanzees were used in advertising campaigns with Blacks or as Blacks. Some posters (from another blog) that find the Mr. James advertising campaign insulting could not understand why Black Tokyo “failed” to miss the advertisement’s liberal “parody” and artistic interpretation. Black Tokyo protesters were accused of  being overly sensitive or looking for racism. As I questioned the validity of Gregory Clark‘s assumption that “Japan girai” — dislike of Japan — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Westerners here,” will the expatriate community stand up to other forms of discrimination in Japanese media or the media in general? It seems like the burger flipper flipped the [advertising] script!

I wonder if my American “conditioning” and “mindset” prevents me from enjoying the “artistic” beauty of the McDonald’s Japan advertisement? Am I reading too much into this? Did I and a million other consumers miss the big picture? It may have been easier if McDonald’s Japan used a monkey! Pun intended.

To paraphrase two previous comments of mine: (1)  “Maybe someday in the future race will not matter. Nevertheless, just as those that saw no issue in using a monkey in E-mobile’s CM (I was constantly informed that snow monkeys appeared in other ads) and tried to spin the CM as just a parody of Barack Obama’s CHANGE campaign (and not Obama himself) were battling with cognitive dissonance or just plain ignorance. Ignorance because some bloggers found it funny to correlate monkeys to Blacks while others felt that the Japanese would not understand the “Western” concept of things related to race and racist imagery. Many bloggers believe that my remarks stemmed from cultural baggage, whatever the hell that means.” When in Japan, do as the Japanese do? Not always!

(2)  The most telltale sign that some people were “micturating in atmospheric equations of motion” stemmed from the numerous claims of Blacks “screaming” of racism. I would like to believe that the voice on Black Tokyo has been reasonable, measured, and raised in a consciousness that reflects the spirit of those that do not need others to validate or approve of what is deemed racist in depiction or culturally insensitive.

Can I apply this across the board in looking at the McDonald’s Japan Mr. James Nippon All-Stars campaign? Racism and discrimination in all of its forms has an impact on the populous as a whole. I just wonder if this latest campaign will get people to understand that?! Has the burger flipper tripped and flipped the advertising script?

QUESTION:  Is the McDonald’s Japan “Mr. James, Nippon All-Stars” campaign racist or discriminatory in nature?

Let us know what you think! BTW, Check out Disgrasian‘s and the Nikkei View take on the Mr. James Nippon All-Stars.

10 Comments

  1. Manule Manule

    I don’t think this has nothing to do with racism, the guy could be caucasian or african american, the point is the exclusionism, because he is a foreigner he can barely speak katakoto japanese and the only things he can say correctly is how great is Japan and Sugoi, appare, etc. It’s cheap characterization of foreign people, actually the government promotes it too, watch NHK cool Japan where newly arrived nj are characterized as ignorants and marveled by j technology and cool.

  2. True it’s not offensive to the same degree as a blatantly racist CM from certain other sources, but still it’s projecting a stereotype we’d rather not have re-enforced anymore in the media! As someone said, there are indeed many Japanese people who think a bit differently from the image presented in the Mr James ad, but even they must take some truth from the fact that in a nationally publicised campaign, there is definitely scope for offense! The comedic aspect is something that is aimed at a singular, idealised foreigner who just happens to love Mac and speaks like a particularly thick child. Ie: The laughs on him, and when someone sees a foreigner walking down the street, the image of Mr James will pop into their head instantly!

    True, there are some foreigners like this in Japan, I’ve met them! But they are the minority, and should not be publicised as the majority by a company that really should know better. My opinion, a campaign best put to rest sooner rather than later. Enough of the brain battering katakanago!

  3. jpntax jpntax

    What’s the problem?
    It makes no sense to me whatsoever.
    McDonald’s’ve got no grudge against gaijin.
    we japanese give favorable consideration to Mr. James.

    what is clear is that these anti japan activists
    complain about everything of japan.

    An onsen manager who allegedly had earlier been driven to near bankruptcy by badly behaved Russian sailors
    had decided to bar all foreigners from his new enterprise.
    these activist then filed a suit for mental distress.
    wwwgregoryclarknet/jt/page54/page54.html
    When the police questioned activists,
    they cried racial discrimination.
    wwwyoutubecom/watch?v=IZNfZMZ8fg8

    this time targets became McDonald’s Japan?
    What a nonsense.
    gaijin = clown in japan.
    it is right.
    Even Hollywood star become gaijin clown in japan.
    wwwyoutubecom/watch?v=8UiP8Tkr_A4
    wwwyoutubecom/watch?v=dl0HOqjSzqw
    you gaijins may think that you can push japanese around like other asian country,
    but you can’t.
    you gaijins must learn that there are times when things won’t go the way you wants.
    this is japan.
    welcome to japan.

    we Japanese often hold bad feelings towards gaijins who complain about Japan.
    You’ll cut your throat if you yell at japanese.
    If you don’t like japan, please just leave.

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