Is Volkswagen's new Super Bowl ad racist?
A Minnesota office worker spreads joy through his workplace through a sunny attitude he earned by taking a ride in his new Volkswagen Beetle sedan.
That might sound like a perfect -- if boring -- commercial, until you consider the twist.
The worker's sunny attitude is conveyed by a thick accent which seems imported straight from Jamaica.
That's the setup of Volkswagen's new Super Bowl commercial called "Get in. Get happy." showing an office drone lighting up his workspace with Jamaican vocal style and attitude. His boss and coworkers pick up the same patois after a ride in his cherry red Volkswagen (why a German car would make people talk like they were born in Kingston, is beyond me and not explained.)
New York Times columnist Charles Blow called it "like black face with voices," while Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer said the accent just reminded him of sunny times relaxing on the island.
The issue, it seems, is connecting a personal attitude to a way of speaking that's entirely identified with one racial group. Jamaicans already face stereotyping as lazily laid back; is it fair to build a whole commercial around the idea that speaking like them can make uptight white folks relax and ignore problems they maybe should be dealing with at work?
It didn't bother me as much as it did the Times' Blow, but i understand his misgivings.
What do you think? Did Volkswagen cross a line?