Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stereotypical Foreigners in Japanese Commercials

So Japan is about 98.5% ethnic Japanese or something like that, making it one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world. However, it is very common to feature foreigners (外人gaijin - literal translation: "outside person") in advertisements and commercials. Also, note that "foreigner" almost always means "English-speaking, white, and (usually) blond-haired and blue-eyed." 

Here are some annoyingly stereotypical commercials that have been popping up frequently when I've been watching stuff on YouTube recently. The one below is for a home baking appliance called SuiPanDa by Toshiba ("pan" being Japanese for "bread"). Big fake nose, blond wig, bad accent, and exclaiming loudly in English? Must be one of those crazy gaijin!

The next one is an older commercial. It's for a detergent called Bold by Procter & Gamble. Many commercials in this series, I discovered. The woman has a laughably bad Japanese accent, which is obviously intentional.  Hilarious and cute...right? Right. :-/

I'm not suggesting that you never see commercials like this in the U.S. but usually if you do, there's an uproar and someone's gonna get fired and/or sued. I just read recently that GM pulled a car ad based on the background music having racially stereotypical language. So am I an overly sensitive American for thinking this kind of advertising is tired and lame or is it just all in good fun? Doesn't really matter since I'm not the target audience. I'm the minority here in Japan!

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