Enjoy—I mean, take offense!
And the outrage will commence in three… two… one…
What? You’re not offended? Then you’re either a jive racist mother[bleep]er—or Jamaican:
Some U.S. critics have described the pregame Super Bowl ad from Volkswagen of America as offensive and culturally insensitive, apparently seeing the commercial that hit the web on Monday as an echo of segregation-era depictions of white people posing as happy-go-lucky black folk. Jamaica’s population is predominantly black.
On NBC’s “The Today Show,” Barbara Lippert, editor-at-large at mediapost.com, said she believed the commercial was racist because it was “just saying that black people are happy.” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said during an appearance on CNN that the advertisement was like “blackface with voices.”
But the charged reaction has met with puzzlement in Jamaica, which has very visible white, Asian, Middle Eastern and mixed-race minorities that also often speak with the local accent.
The island’s government has endorsed the commercial, which shows an ebullient white worker from the U.S. state of Minnesota trying to cheer up glum colleagues with a Jamaican patois accent because he is so happy with his Volkswagen. At the start of the commercial, he paraphrases the lyrics to late reggae icon Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” as he tells his co-workers: “No worries, mon. Everyting will be all right.”
The company’s website continues the theme, offering a clip of Jamaica’s Jimmy Cliff singing “C’mon, get happy.”
On Wednesday, opposition lawmaker Edmund Bartlett said the television ad “is a perfect illustration of Jamaican culture’s global reach and our uncharacteristic penchant to be happy even in challenging situations.”
Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill said he believes the Super Bowl commercial has the potential to increase tourist arrivals.
“I think this is a very creative commercial which truly taps into the tremendous appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally,” McNeill said in a late Tuesday statement.
At a Kingston bus stop, office assistant Jennifer Blake said she saw the Volkswagen advertisement online and thought it was amusing to see an American trying to speak patois.
“I’m not sure why people would think it was offensive or anything,” she said Wednesday, adding that many of her friends have shared links to the commercial on social media.
Now, I wouldn’t dream of telling someone not to be offended. The Democrat-Media Complex has me in a state of perpetual offense, so I can relate. It’s just that if you imagined this guy as a stand-up comic, he’d be getting laughs. I know because one of the talk stations I used to listen to switched to an all-comedy format, and I hear stuff edgier than this all the time (this having no edge at all). People roar with laughter (I don’t; most stand-up is howlingly lame)—and no one protests the station for broadcasting “racism” or “blackface with voices”. So, it’s really the context.
Actually, what it really is is business. It’s Charles Blow’s job to be outraged, to find offense where none exists, to decry racism—just as it is the Jamaican Tourism Board’s job to attract people to his island nation. People got to get paid.
So, with no offense intended, I offer this advice to the professionally outraged (Content warning: this video also features an American putting on a Jamaican accent):