Volkswagen’s new Super Bowl ad doesn’t star any black actors but it does feature a happy-go-lucky white man speaking with a Caribbean accent. The ad has received criticism for stereotyping the island’s people and mocking their dialect.
“I don’t like it all. It’s like blackface with voices. I don’t like that,” CNN correspondent and New York Times columnist Charles Blow told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday.
Christopher John Farley, a Jamaican-born journalist, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the accents reminded him of the ‘Star Wars’ character Jar Jar Binks, who used a Caribbean accent and broken English for comedic effect.
“The Jamaican aesthetic-shaped by such Jamaican-born notables as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and the revolutionary Nanny of the Maroons-is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness.”
(The U.N. World Happiness Report ranks Jamaica as number 40 out of 156 nations studied.)
Still dozens of publications have reported Jamaican’s embraced the ad because the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment sent out a press release celebrating the ad.
“I think this is a very creative commercial which truly taps into the tremendous mass appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally,” said Dr. Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism and Entertainment.
The Jamaica Gleaner went out and asked the Caribbean island’s citizens how they felt about the ad and found some didn’t agree with the minister of tourism.
“If they want use a Jamaican dialect then they should definitely get a Jamaican then,” said one man interviewed by the Gleaner.
Tim Mahoney, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Volkswagen of America, said on CNN that the company consulted with 100 Jamaicans and used a speech coach on-set to ensure that the accents were accurate.
‘We obviously did our homework to make sure that we weren’t offensive,’ he said.
Volkswagen will run a second ad that features a real Jamaican. Both ads will cost an estimated $7.6 million to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl, according to CNN.
For the record:
The commercial does include a black actor for a few seconds but you never see her face. (Pictured at right.)
Erik Nicolaisen, the 33-year-old actor who stars in the film says his Jamaican brother-in-law approves of the commercial. “He loves it,” he told USA Today.
Nicolaisen appeared as the cop in “Real Housewives of Civil Rights.”