With four days left until the Super Bowl, one controversial ad to be aired during the game already has people butting heads.
Depicting an office worker from Minnesota who speaks with a Jamaican accent, the one-minute spot has been deemed racist by some and harmless by others.
Surely everyone can agree on this: Even bad publicity is good publicity. Since it was posted to YouTube on Sunday, the commercial has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
Interestingly, in the comments section below the video, people claiming to be from Jamaica are defending Volkswagen, insisting that they find the ad funny and that everyone who feels otherwise is too uptight.
But as the Atlantic Wire points out in its aggregation of feedback from media types, the negative response is widespread. Apparently, Charles Blow from The New York Times’s deemed the accent ’"like blackface with voices."’ According to the post, VW’s chief marketing officer has told CNN, ‘”We did our homework to make sure we weren’t offensive so we did some research to make sure we didn’t go in a direction we didn’t want to go."’ The question remains whether the commercial will still air on Sunday or be pulled.
Certainly, this is not the first time that people have called foul over a Super Bowl ad. Seizing on the VW buzz, Hollywood.com has put together its list of previous squirm-inducing spots.
What is it about the Super Bowl that brings out such offensive attempts at humour? Maybe it’s a lowest common denominator approach – that the ad people incorrectly believe that cleverness and chicken wings don’t mix. Or perhaps if the commercials represent one big advertising popularity contest, then good judgment becomes immaterial? Another possibility, the creatives salivate over the possibility that their ads might provoke – for better or worse.
The white character uttering “Don’t fret me brotha” and “Who wanna come with I” in the VW ad hits at one stereotype, but not, as a YouTube commenter pointed out, at others that could be perceived as more pernicious like dreadlocks or marijuana smoking. “All they are implying is that Jamaican people are happy,” he writes.
Could VW have conveyed its “Get in. Get happy” slogan any possible number of other ways? Certainly. Are people being too touchy? Perhaps. Will all this be forgotten by Monday? Yeah, mon.