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  • McDonalds Japan’s new creepy “Mr James” burger campaign, featuring katakana-speaking gaijin

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on August 14th, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  Here’s a campaign by one of the world’s largest multinational corporations, McDonald’s, promoting stereotypes in a way quite untoward in this day and age (and no doubt would raise hackles with anti-defamation leagues if McD’s tried it in, say, its country of origin).

    The new NIPPON ALL STARS campaign (which seems to have kicked off a few days ago, on August 10, with its Tamago Double Mac), features a bespectacled, somewhat nerdy, gaijin speaking in broken katakana (i.e. accented) Japanese.  “Mr James” is his name (following the convention of forcing all Western foreigners to be called by their first names, as opposed to last name plus -san, proper etiquette).  And boy is he happy with Japan, with life, with the taste of Japanese-variety burgers at McDonalds.  Hell, they’re so good that even this nerdy-looking gaijin (full-body cardboard cutouts available at every McD’s) approves of them through his poor accented broken Japanese.

    You even get a “James Tamaran Desu (“it’s so good I can’t stand it!”) Card” and a chance to win from a million dollar pool if you succumb to his sales pitch.  It’s more than a little creepy.

    Here are some scans, taken of materials photographed and collected at McDonald’s Yodobashi Camera Sapporo August 13, 2009 (click on image to expand in browser):

    From the food tray inserts:

    mcdonaldsmrjames001

    From stickers on every table:

    mcdonaldsmrjames002

    At every restaurant, a full-size cutout of “Mr James”:

    090813mrjamesfull

    Close up of the cutout:

    090813mrjamescloseup

    Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009)

    mrjamesoutdoorssmall

    As Submitter AP put it:

    ================================

    Subject: mcdonalds ads feature gaijin “MR. JAMES”

     

    Hey, Debito, I often read your blog and bought your handguide as well. I really think living in Japan can be trying as a foreigner, and your efforts toward bringing overlooked issues to light and making things easier for all of us don’t go unnoticed!

    I wanted to send you a picture I took…
    I got hungry while wandering in BicCamera’s Osaka store, fell victim to a craving, and ended up eating at the McDonald’s there. On my tray I found this gem:

    http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.flickr.com/photos/forkies/3813267914/

    They were able to find some sucker to gaijin himself up (who ends up to, of course, be American), and the captions show so well how Japanese people often see foreigners.

    First, his Japanese is all katakana, as if he’s not speaking properly. His sentences are all short and simply-constructed. and last, he is practically in love with Japan. Convenient they found such a fellow!

    Not sure if you’ve seen this anywhere, as I first noticed it yesterday because I’ve been abroad on holiday until last Friday. On the subway ride home, I saw another small window sticker with the same MR. JAMES caricature. I’m just shocked how the ad group at a giant corporation such as McDonald’s thinks this is okay! What do you make this campaign?

    Thanks for your time, and thanks again for the time you put into these kinds of issues, AP

    =============================

    I think a strongly-worded letter from registered NPO FRANCA to McDonald’s USA HQ regarding the issues of stereotyping here would be warranted.  Hell, you think McD USA would start putting up a full-body “ching-chong-chinaman” with funny glasses and protruding teeth, saying “Me likee McFlied Lice”.  You think that would fly over there?  If not, it shouldn’t be allowed over here.  And I think you should make your displeasure known if you are so inclined at every McDonald’s you patronize (or not).

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo, wishing this was happening in September so he could enjoy the summer.

    104 Responses to “McDonalds Japan’s new creepy “Mr James” burger campaign, featuring katakana-speaking gaijin”

    1. jim Says:

      i find this to be very distasteful and offensive, so in the future i will take all my business to the wendys hamburger joint instead. but this doesnt surprise me at all because this is how it is on a daily basis over here in osaka..

    2. sebarashii Says:

      Yes, it is highly offensive and ultimately streotypical and insulting, but the main question is what the hell made whoever this Mr James character is actually play the part in the first place? Maybe he thought he was being “ironic” or maybe the money made his pride issues melt away like an Mac ice cream on a very sticky day…

      If I was him I’d have been rather cautious of this so-called promotional campaign. Ie: Promoting what exactly, Macdonalds or already well trodden stereotypes? Me thinks me knows which one will shine out the most to most Japanese people…

      – Oh, there are plenty of people out there who will play the Monkey in the Zoo if they’re getting paid, especially if they’re paid will enough. Stepin Fetchit was the highest-paid African-American Hollywood star 80 years ago and he played Black stereotypes to the hilt. And maybe “Mr James” didn’t even know fully how he would be portrayed textually or contextually. The responsibility, of course, lies with McDonald’s.

    3. Johnny Says:

      Disgusting. Although their food is unhealthy crap, in general, I still do go there from time to time.

      From now on though, I think I’ll spend my money elsewhere.

    4. Gary Townsend Says:

      McDonalds Japan asks for comments on its business practices. Feel like commenting? Go here and write (in Japanese if possible):

      http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/cservice/information/q_a/form/attention.html

    5. mameha Says:

      This is one of those things where the level of outrage among the public depends completely on the race involved.

      For example, in the UK I think if you did this with an African then you would behanged by the gonads within a week. But if you did it with a scandanavian or a hispanic it would probably be accepted. McDs probably thought they could get away with it using a caucasian.

      Perhaps the next campaign theme will be `Africa` and we will have a semi naked 2m black guy in the doorway speaking mumbo-jumbo – somehow I doubt it because they know it would be `a step too far` while caucasians are safe target.

    6. DM Says:

      Have not seen the campaign, would appreciate if people who have could please summarize it, in particular what you find offensive?

      – Er, we have primary sources and summary commentary on this very blog. Please read above.

    7. Ariel Says:

      There are also TV commercials, at least in the Tokyo area. The one I saw featured Mr James in a yukata on one of those old-style boats in Tokyo Bay watching a fireworks display. I don’t recall the exact dialogue, but his spoken Japanese is katakoto and his general demeanor is the typical American buffoon stereotype.

    8. snowman Says:

      jeez, how stupid does it get? Just one more reason never to go into a macdonalds.

    9. Jay Says:

      I passed by McDonald’s yesterday and found out about this campaign. I thought maybe it was just a local thing until I saw the TV commercial and ran across Mr. James’ blog on the internet. http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/ More broken Japanese written in katakana and “Nihon daisuki desu!” “Nihon saikou desu!” type of phrases thrown around…very offensive. I think that perhaps a letter writing campaign might be in order?

    10. Marius Says:

      How about the hiragana/katakanaized mix on his “blog”:
      http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/
      Like so: “Ohh、タマランデス!!!
      ニッポンへこられ、ヨカッタ”

      Perhaps even worse than just katakana.
      Perhaps even more stereotyping than the love for geishas…
      http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/img/090811_1800_01.jpg

    11. iago Says:

      Here’s a link to the TV Commercial: http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/company/cm/index.html

    12. debito Says:

      After watching that, I take back what I said above. This twit is fully aware of what he’s doing. Jackass.

    13. Claus Says:

      I think the worst part is really the “Katakanago”. Sent a complaining message to Mc Donalds Japan.

    14. DM Says:

      I’ve always wondered at how a British upper class twit stereotype or accented French snob seem unaffected by politically-correctness, but a drunk sombrero Mexican or yeah the ching-chong Chinaman and such types attract criticism. In a way that, the ethno-economic distinction says something disturbing … But I digress.
      On this offensive McDonalds campaign, probably best thing is to get it up on YouTube with subtitles and commentary, also send out a bunch of letters to McD as mentioned. Then approach US TV and print media, see if someone will play the backlash sympathetically.

    15. Matthew Klaus Says:

      This does reflect badly, but not on the average Caucasian resident of Japan, but on those who have promoted this campaign. I’ll laugh it off until this country decides to ‘evolve’.

    16. Rob Says:

      Thanks McDonalds!

      Perhaps a few e-mails to McD’s media people in the U.S. would be worth a try? The contacts are here: http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/media_center/Media_Contacts.html.

      I haven’t found the right Japan contacts yet, but here is a list of directors etc: http://www.mcd-holdings.co.jp/english/company/index.html.

    17. john Says:

      mameha Says: “caucasians are safe target” i have to agree in many ways.
      I guess if you pay someone enough, then they will do it.(tacitly go along with it) Somehow,it reminds me of the softbank white campaign.That really offends me,but thats another campaign.
      Now, I off to write to Mcdonald.

    18. Adamu Says:

      I agree that this is an unkind stereotype of “gaijin otaku” and warrants complaints. But for my comment I want to avoid getting into my outrage in favor of trying to give some context.

      As many of you are aware, there are TONS of Japanese commercials that feature foreign-looking people speaking Japanese (I am guessing they only became this ubiquitous over the past few years). The most famous example might be Softbank’s White Plan campaign, but more typically they feature white children or other actors speaking. They often say some pretty sophisticated stuff, though it’s obvious they are just reciting the phonetic pronunciation. I am guessing it’s an outgrowth of commercials that featured foreigners speaking simple English.

      By all appearances, this commercial looks to be in the same genre, except with a twist – the character is not an idealized White Family or a parody “White Family” (as in the Softbank case) – it’s a stereotypical foreign visitor who totally loves Japan. It plays on all the attention that foreign tourists and residents have received (and the increasing presence of them on Japanese streets). And those print ads give some more detail – these Japanese-flavored burgers are so good that foreign tourists will fly in just to taste them.

      When I saw those commercials (he is watching fireworks from a boat and the fireworks magically turn into burgers, if I remember correctly) I didn’t find them any more offensive than the ones featuring a little white girl in a meadow speaking Japanese she obviously doesn’t understand. It took Debito to point it out to me that this is actually a direct caricature of people like myself. It would be unfortunate indeed if characters like this became acceptable joke fodder.

    19. Jeff Says:

      “After watching that, I take back what I said above. This twit is fully aware of what he’s doing. Jackass.”

      I doubt that he actually has anything to do with the publishing of the blog, though.
      Seems to me the McDonald’s Corporate needs to get involved, if explained properly to them how/why this is offensive racial stereotyping they will consider it a violation of their Franchise and Brand Use policy. Damages them world wide.

    20. betty boop Says:

      i saw the mr. james cut-out at the mDs at our local mall and didn`t think too much of it – just thought, weird. then i saw the commercial. mDs has such poor taste (pun intended). but, hey, i am sure he got paid big bucks for that.

    21. Max Says:

      Nowadays business interests are stronger than any moral value, but wouldn’t it possible to write to somebody at Mcdonalds HQ in the US?
      Can they stand this ridiculization of western people in Japan only for the sake of a new hamburger? Is it a new hamburger worth the dignity of an entire group of people?

    22. D.B.Cooper. Says:

      Mr.James provides yet another reason for all right thinking people to boycot this hideous company.

      Although off topic I recommend this excellent documentary..
      McLibel is the story of two ordinary people who humiliated McDonald’s in the biggest corporate PR disaster in history..
      http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/mclibel/

    23. Manule Says:

      What this kind of stupid marketing does is appealing to the inner conscious of j society, “look how the silly foreigners recognize the superb taste of our products” geeh, like the mac was originally japanese, but then again, remember that they use to copy and assimilate ideas that after were assumed as indigenous. Anyway, why is it that they need to be psicologically reinforced from time to time on the advantages and superiority of their cultural preferences to the eyes of the foreigners, what they need to proof? Is it that this greasy heavy looking product called Gracoro is good to my health just because some stupid gaijin promotes it? sorry, I don’t think that even stinky natto is good to me just because some silly geisha says so… I expect more from j public opinion, but [overgeneralization deleted]

    24. Josh Lim Says:

      It’s obvious that “Mr James” of the Nippon All Stars McD campaign is a representation of McDonald’s – a western entity, doing his best to fit into Japan (through creating a Japanese menu/learning Japanese). Creative rationale: The burger is inherently western, and the new Nippon menu that they have shows that they are ‘adapting to Japan’. Mr James is an appropriate metaphor as a human representation of the above.

      I fail to see how this can be offensive (I am also aware that I am not a foreigner, yes). There’s been plenty of Asians pandering to Western culture (esp commercials featuring Asians in ‘hip-hop’ settings), what’s so wrong with it the other way around?

      On a side note, those burgers look tasty, and I wish that they had the menu here. I’ve just ordered McDonald’s delivery, and nothing’s available with egg now. The Japanese people seem happy to see Mr James (http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/img/090810_1800_02.jpg).

      And btw, a stereotype has to be popular: How many awkward Japanese speaking foreigners have we seen prominently used in advertising over the years? Lighten up, it’s a fun campaign :)

      Yours truly, a Ching-Chong Chinaman with glasses and slightly crooked teeth.

    25. formosan Says:

      I never thought I would be defending McDonalds, but miracles happen.

      Debito wrote: ” Hell, you think McD USA would start putting up a full-body “ching-chong-chinaman” with funny glasses and protruding teeth, saying “Me likee McFlied Lice”. You think that would fly over there? If not, it shouldn’t be allowed over here.”

      That wouldn’t fly in the USA because the USA needs to loosen up. It would be awesome if USA media felt free to play with stereotypes. The media should feel free to offend *every* ethnic group.

      The USA has too many lawyers and too many stupid rules. It should not inflict its insane restrictions on everyone else.

    26. Adamu Says:

      Oh just noticed Mr. James is the ad on the top page of Yahoo Japan
      http://www.yahoo.co.jp/

    27. riChchestMat Says:

      I think the outrage about this will be more significant than the campaign itself. The ads aren’t THAT bad. Sure they are dumb and unfunny but what advert isn’t? Currently I’m about the same level of spoken Japanese anyway so I’ll partly reinforce the image next time I visit. I’ll just look a whole lot better than Mr. James while I do.
      NHKWorld already have dumb gaikokujin characters such as this so it’s nothing new. Recently in one 2008 recorded episode the american character learning about Japanese culture was so amazed by mobile phones that could take pictures that he almost wet himself. He thought they were magic. Literally.
      Here in the UK we still have ads that stereotype Japanese in a similar way. One example would be the Oasis soft drink ads where vaguely Japanese screaming girlies cower under a Godzilla style rubber duck alongside stupid jpop style music and that oriental looking font. See the ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO5A8XTUg0Q and consider the comments underneath. If it’s any consolation I was offended by that ad but mainly on behalf of my wife and not enough to do anything about it.
      Having said that the outrage could do some good if it gets media coverage. Certain issues such as being called firstname-san should really be addressed.

    28. Ben Says:

      I agree – letter to McD’s is in order, will write a online complaint now.

    29. Cliodhna Says:

      But it is funny, the thing about using sterotypes in humour, and my god it has been done well in the past, think faulty towers, think father Ted, is that you have to pick a strong person to lampoon, and there is no one so strong historically speaking as the white man. In fact it s funnier still to see such a reaction at a little humour and undoubtedly a lot of commercial profit from the exploitation of a brand of being who have exploited so widely and so successfully as much throughout history and across the globe as they do here in japan, anyway just thought i would put that forward but please do rail, somebody has got to

    30. Frodis Says:

      Instead of focusing on the actor who is trying to make a living by playing this role (however problematic we find the characterization) should we not focus on the McDonald’s campaign itself? Getting a national advertising campaign like this is a major coup for a struggling/working/frustrated actor. I don’t think this necessarily makes him a twit or jackass any more than it makes any actor one for taking a role that plays into others’ stereotypical beliefs. Focusing on the Asian guy who takes a role as a laundry owner or the black guy who takes a role as a pimp/drug dealer seems to be missing the point. Should we not focus our outrage on McDonalds Corp. for making such a bonehead play in this day and age and not on the poor guy who has become the face of it?

    31. Jair Says:

      Thanks for Mc Japan’s comments page, Gary.

      Sent them a protest comment trying to make them understand how it makes me/us feel.

      Basically wrote it’s VERY unpleasant because it reinforces the stereotype of the foreigner who’s clueless about the country’s culture and speaks no Japanese. A big company like Mcdonald’s should be a bit more careful with its PR. It’s not like there’s no discrimination in the US or Europe for example, but I feel the public opinion wouldn’t allow for a company putting forward such a campaign. Lastly, it’s a pretty sad sight not only for tourists, but even more for people who’ve been around here a long time [taking time and effort to adapt and learn the language].

      Curious to know if and how they will respond. Will let you know if I get an answer.

      Their policy states their “replies are directed to individuals, so please do not reprint (‘tensai’) responses somewhere else”. OK, I’m sure summarizing or translating the reply without copying it verbatim is not “reprinting”.

      BTW, feel free to correct my Japanese. :)

      はじめまして。

      昨日、「Mr. James」が登場する日本オールスターズキャンペンをマック店内で目撃しました。調べてみると、なんとカタカナとローマ字のブログまで用意されています。

      非常に不愉快です。

      日本語が極めて拙い、ゲイシャフジヤマしか分からない、間抜けという偏見を使って笑いを取ろうとするところは差別でしかありません。

      仮に「悪意は一切いございません」と言われた方が立腹します。マックドナルドという大企業としてこんな偏見丸出しなキャンペンを利用しては無責任としか言えません。

      「まあまあ、よその国では同じでしょう」と思ったらそれも大違い。たとえば、欧米では残念ながら差別が未だに残っても、企業は決してこんな偏見を肯定するイメージは国民と行政国は許しません。先進国であり、かつ国際化を控えている日本には相応しくありません。

      観光客のみならず、留学や仕事で日本は長い人なお更悲しく思います。

      今一度考え直して頂いて、イメージキャラクターであるミスタージョンズの撤去をご検討下さいませ。

      よろしくお願い致します。

      My full name

      追伸:当方の住所と携帯番号の入力は控えさせて頂きます。メールでのご返信をお願い致します。

    32. G. Janssen Says:

      He may be a nerd, he may be a jackass, he may even be a twit,
      But he’s enjoying himself and he’s getting paid for it.

      Life is short and should be taken with a large dose of salt.
      Don’t take it so serious: before you know it you’re grey and old.

      I know you’re trying to improve the world and i think that’s fine.
      But keep in mind that patience is needed, since this process requires time.

      And now if you’ll excuse me i go and have something to eat.
      I promiss it won’t be a burger, although it contains meat.

    33. Inflames Says:

      The sad thing is that McDonald’s actually is a fairly progressive employer and many foreigners work there (and it’s not just Asians).

      There’s also the movie on the blog: http://mcdonalds.dtmp.jp/blog/movie.html

    34. let`s talk Says:

      It didn`t start yesterday. I can often see gaijin-looking mannequins in kimono or yukata in department stores. Does it bring better sales? Maybe. I don`t know. Mac advertisements and commercials are never sophisticated. Mr.James and his image are pretty natural things for Mac` s level.

    35. john Says:

      I totally agree with Frodis comments”Instead of focusing on the actor who is trying to make a living by playing this role” should we not focus on the McDonald’s campaign itself”
      Absolutely, we should refrain from name calling and being rude to him or others which serves no purpose.

    36. su Says:

      I dunno what I should think about this. Basically I don’t mind such stereotyped stuff, as long as you know it’s just a parody and a CM. I’ve also seen German beer CMs using the stereotype of Japanese tourist, unable to speak foreign languages and just going to the places recommended by their travel guides as well as German McDonalds TV campaigns using for example Chinese and Mexican people in the same way as Mr. James (unable to use correct grammar and pronunciation).
      As long as you know its a parody and as long it doesn’t only goes against foreign minorities but also against domestic people (lets say Osakans in Japan or Bavarians in Germany), I wouldn’t pay that much attention to it.
      On the other hand, after reading that blog (which gives me really an headache), and with all that “Japan is the greatest” stuff I think that Makudo is overdoing it this time.
      Despite the fact that I feel that in Japan with just 2% foreign population and their popular question “and when do you return home?” a lot of people might not realize this as a parody. Moreover, when talking to them about foreign issues, they’re likely to answer with their ultimate excuse for life, universe and everything: “Yeah, but Japan is an island country.”
      I wonder how people in Britain, New Zealand or Indonesia live.

    37. Ben Says:

      address for McDonalds – any takers for a visit their office Monday morning with the press?

      McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd.
      Shinjuku I-Land Tower
      5-1 Nishi Shinjuku 6 Chome
      Chinjuku, Tokyo 163-13
      Japan
      Phone* : 81-3-3344-1063
      Fax* : 81-3-3344-6982
      Website* : http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/

    38. Sioraf Says:

      NHK World shows “baka gaikokujin”? I’m a regular viewer and beg to differ.

    39. darridge Says:

      Apparently no one has noticed the irony.

      Play the equivalent ad in the US, Canada, the UK, NZ or Australia and see what happens. Its fun (funny) while we live in Japan because its funny things like this can be shown here. In the countries mentioned above, it would be the subject of complaints to the correct authorities and removed within a couple of days with large and appropriate public apologies and fines.

      The media perpetuates stereotypes enough without using them to advertise products.

      Fancy walking into McD’s next late night and wonder why they’re giggling?

    40. John Says:

      The fact so many people are offended by this is a telling sign of western culture. Sure the character in this ad is a buffoon and speaks poorly and dresses like he just got off work from teaching English. This is exactly who the Japanese see standing in line at McDonalds everyday at lunchtime. The foreign person who speaks poor Japanese. And the reason he keeps acting so excited about Japan is probably because the few words most of the foreigners here can say are “ニホン ダイスキ デス!”
      It’s not really a stereotype. It’s an accurate portrayal of foreigners here. At least in the eyes of Japanese. And that’s the target audience, not gaijin, because McDonalds knows foreigners will keep buying hamburgers in Japan no matter what they advertise.

    41. Brad Says:

      What’s most interesting to me is the steps that the McDonald’s marketing department took in order to make the foreign character non-threatening. They got a guy who’s a bit overweight, put round glasses on him, and a tie. They also made sure he speaks poor Japanese. Note how all these things serve to emasculate him so that Japanese people will feel comfortable about the character and therefore embrace the product. If Mr. James spoke perfect Japanese or was a young guy with a slim build, how would that change the marketing approach?

      I think when you get down to it, the characteristics of Mr. James say a lot about how Japanese people feel about foreigners and the traits they find threatening versus non-threatening.

    42. hotbertaa Says:

      I’m not offended by this ad,

      I think G. Janssen summed it up well by saying, lighten up. If you want to have your equality then don’t complain about silly adverts, people wont take you seriously.

    43. Max Says:

      OK OK, there are such stereotypes overseas about Asian people, there are not many Asian actors in ad campaigns in EU or US and we, white people, may be too touchy.

      But just try and think opposite: an ad campaign by Mc donalds US representing a stereotyped Japanese otaku… I am sure Japan would react.

      So it is valid the said : don’t do to the others what you wouldn’t like to be done to you.

      Just a simple and clear rule of living.

    44. Max Says:

      Sorry just an actual happening in my salariman life here in Japan to show how Japanese are picky about these matters.

      while I was working in a foreign company mktg dept here, we were discussing internally about a CM to be broadcasted on main TV channels in Japan for a heater. I remember we had got an already exisiting corporate format which HQ was pushing to be adpoted in Japan too to uniform communication all over the world. The corporate CM was showing some Eskimos heating up in polar regions with our heating appliance. Well Mktg director, Japanese, and other managers, Japanese, strongly opposed it because they thought it was a ridiculization of Japanese people since Eskimos look Asian. A lot of money was spent to make up a brand new CM only for Japan.

      So I strongly doubt that people at MC Donald’s Japan marketing dept. are so unconscious about this kind of issue.

    45. snowman Says:

      Everybody I know, NJ that is, speaks japanese fluently. And why not, it’s not a difficult language at all, at least as far as speaking/listening is concerned. Maybe the japanese just like to feel secure with their image of their language being oh so difficult. I just hope that the guy who played the part of the bumbling idiot was well recompensed for having to act so stupidly.

    46. iago Says:

      “It’s not really a stereotype. It’s an accurate portrayal of foreigners here. At least in the eyes of Japanese.”

      If you’re really not clear on what a stereotype is, John, read your first paragraph again. That’s it.

    47. Brad Says:

      Anyone who thinks “this is just an ad so just relax” is pretty unaware of even the basic concepts of how public discourse is conducted through popular culture and how advertisements can be more powerful in their message and scope than the most distinguished of academic theories. I would suggest reading McLuhan or any other book on media discourse you can find and get informed a bit before dismissing this as a minor issue.

      Anything that appears in the public sphere affects and shapes public discourse and ultimately, this affects public policy. In a functional and healthy society, those entities that have the power to shape that discourse (like a big corporation, a news agency, or a government) are in tacit agreement with the consumer and public in taking care not to distort or adversely affect existing public discourse through what it puts forth in the public sphere.

    48. Miles Says:

      The “Mr. James” actor and his parallels to Stepin Fetchit bring to mind the “Long Duk Dong” character in the 80s movie “Sixteen Candles.”

      Played by Japanese-American actor Gedde Watanabe, “Long Duk Dong” made life hell for a generation of Asian-American men growing up in the US. “I was making people laugh,” he says. “I didn’t realize how it was going to affect people.”
      There’s an interesting NPR feature on him here:
      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88591800

      Of course Asian-American groups protested Long Duk Dong as a racist stereotype. Just as we foreigners in Japan should protest “Mr. James.”

    49. Mr.Tickles Says:

      Couldn’t care less. North Americans put too much stock in “offense”. Some people need to grow thicker skin.

      As another guy said, the only thing I take issue with is the Mr.First Name thing.

    50. George Says:

      By the way, what was wrong with the softbank white ads? I thought they were funny precisely because they broke down stereotypes. And that dog was just like my old host-father!

    51. jim Says:

      these kind of racial sterotypes are not new at all in japan. lets not forget the nigerian bobby on TV over here, he is made to act like a fool and he is made to dumbdown his japanese speaking skills to the point that he almost sounds handicapped.these kind of cases happen all the time over here and there seems to be a serious pattern of this in the entertainment industry in general regarding NJ.

    52. JP Says:

      @John, comment #40,

      Could you define “western culture” for the rest of us who don’t lump groups of individual and unique cultures into one in order to make generalizations to fit our own opinions? What cultures make up “western culture”?

      The problem with this ad campaign is that it reinforces NEGATIVE stereotypes that many of us have worked so hard eliminate. We expect more from McD’s who usually does a much better job. Many of their campaigns are global, while this one was defintely contrived by the Japan based marketing team. It is simply in poor taste!

    53. SergioK Says:

      The stereotype is ok, you need to be a stupid gaijin to shout that Japan is “saiko”, “Sugoi”, “apare”(whatever this means) and “tamaran”(land of tamago?)
      The whole campaign is stupid, therefore a stupid character.

    54. Behan Says:

      John says:

      “It’s not really a stereotype. It’s an accurate portrayal of foreigners here. At least in the eyes of Japanese.”

      I think you are defining the word ‘stereotype’. And, I don’t think it’s an accurate portrayal of the average foreigner at all. I don’t think you would see many foreigners like that at all. In nearly 20 years in Japan, I haven’t.

    55. Jay Says:

      I sent a complaint to McDonald’s Japan yesterday asking them to shut this campaign down. This is the response I got back today. It’s pretty standard meaningless keigo apology stuff, but I was impressed at how fast they got back to me.

      平素よりマクドナルドをご利用頂き、誠にありがとうございます。
      また、弊社開設のホームページをご閲覧下さり心より御礼を申し上げます。
      XX様からのメールを拝見いたしました。

      この度は、弊社商品のNIPPON ALL STARSキャンペーンにおいてご不快な思いをお
      掛けしたとお伺い致しまして、誠に申し訳ございませんでした。
      また、貴重なご意見を頂戴しましたこと感謝を申し上げます。

      頂戴致しましたご意見は真摯に受け賜り、今後のコマーシャル製作の
      参考とさせて頂く所存でございます。

      店舗のみならず会社と致しましても、
      お客様に満足頂ける商品やサービスのご提供を心掛け、
      今後も一層努力して参る所存でございますので、何卒宜しくお願い致します。

      この度の貴重なご意見をお寄せ下さいました事に感謝申し上げ
      ますと共に、今後とも変わらぬご愛顧を賜りますようお願い申し上げます

    56. riChchestMat Says:

      “NHK World shows “baka gaikokujin”? I’m a regular viewer and beg to differ.”

      Well they do because I saw it and gave a specific example. It was an episode of Sense Of Japan. Although the show is about a foreigner who learns about Japanese culture there was no reason to show him stunned by basic consumer technology that 12 year olds have been using for years. It was seeming to say that only Japanese technology is modern and that foreign tech is quaint and basic. Gaikokujin coming into Japan are supposedly so amazed that they honestly think it’s magic.

      I’m not overstating it. It was really embarrassing to watch. It was like a children’s TV program.

    57. debito Says:

      “MR JAMES ESCAPES THE RESTAURANT”: DEBITO

      Outdoors in Sapporo, so you don’t even have to go into the restaurant itself to see the image perpetuated (photo taken August 15, 2009)

      mrjamesoutdoorssmall

    58. AET Says:

      Well, I tried leaving a comment on Mr. James’ “blog”, but I doubt it will get published. To the people saying White people deserve it because they’re White or should lighten up, really? Is that the sort of attitude you’re going to take towards this? I would never tell my Asian American friends who get pissed off at all the stereotyping they receive in American media to just lighten up or just accept it because “Hey, Pearl Harbor and stuff.” That’s not a reason at all. That’s just more bigotry. Don’t stand for bigotry, whether being the victim or viewer of it.

    59. KG Says:

      When the shoe or blackface/big nose is on the other foot –

      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20030516b5.html

      “The program features a Hungarian TV reporter who wears a black hairpiece and fake teeth, and passes herself off as a goggle-eyed Japanese woman, using the stunt to ambush and interview Hungarian celebrities.

      Apart from that caricature, the prime-time TV show, “Micuko — the World in Slanted Eyes,” pokes fun at everyday Japanese life and Japanese customs…

      The show can only be described as racially biased,” Abe said.”

      the HSBC sumo ad –

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/aug/24/hsbcholdings.banking

      ‘The campaign has upset members of Britain’s Japanese community, who claim that the man’s skin tone has been darkened and that make-up has been applied that appears to narrow his eyes… Mikio Abé, director of MD Business Consultants, who came to England from Japan 28 years ago, said: ‘This advert is a caricature, a stereotype. Small eyes are part of our physical features and we can’t do anything about it. The majority of Japanese people are probably offended by it…’

      In the States Mc gets flak for –

      http://raceatrhodes.blogspot.com/2009/04/racist-advertising.html

      “Although the two young African Americans in a dark setting romanticizing about the great chicken nuggets is extremely wrong for a number of reasons, one aspect is it tries to appeal to the assumed average African American. In this advertisement, there are many visual characteristics that are directed towards racial profiling of the black population. First, there is the obvious attractive black man and woman each embracing the stereotypical outfits with the baggy jeans, undershirt with a button down, clingy dress and both are decked out in their “bling.”…

      …is it racial profiling to adjust a commercial to appeal to a certain race? In our politically correct world, is this form of advertisement acceptable or racist?”

      And something for us all to ponder on –

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHjUP6T4qSY

      The Virginia Slims campaign mentioned here makes me wonder who the other ‘Nippon All Stars’ will be? A black guy? An Indian? An Asian?

      As the end quote states-

      “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.” – Norman Douglas

    60. gary townsend Says:

      I said it before and I’ll say it again. If you are irritated, to to

      http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/cservice/information/q_a/form/attention.html

      and tell them how you feel in an email. Way at the bottom of the page you can select if you want an answer or not.

      And write in in Japanese, or they won’t bother to read it.

    61. Steve Says:

      I like the advertisements. I don’t find it offensive. I don’t think it is racist. I don’t buy into the theory that this is stereotyping all white foreigners living in Japan. I don’t believe that Japanese people have just one simple view of all non Japanese people living in Japan. To think so shows a hint of cultural insensitivity towards Japanese people. I think it is nothing more than a commercial. I don’t believe that this “show[s] so well how Japanese people often see foreigners.” I don’t believe that as a result of these commercials, all Japanese people will now start calling me Mr. Steve….I get called by my last name followed by -san everywhere I go…I think those statements are a huge negative stereotype. Who are you to say how all Japanese people see foreigners? Where is the uproar against the dole banana commercial showing Japanese turning into monkeys after eating a banana? If I were to take the logic that is being applied to the McDonalds commercial, I would think…Oh no…Japanese people are so stupid…they will believe they are monkeys if they eat a banana because it was on a commercial…Where is the uproar against the commercials showing beautiful Japanese women…how dare those advertisers portray all woman as beautiful!!!

    62. Max Says:

      The character represents the ideal gaijin Japanese people would like to have here in Japan; they would feel more comfortable and reassured.

    63. Getchan Says:

      What a waste of cyber ink…

      I don’t particularly care about predigested beef, as I rather prefer the tasty and healthy food up here in Hokkaido – and I don’t care who advertises it, and how it is advertised, as long as it is tasty… ;-).

    64. Mr. James – McDonalds Japan New Controversial Marketing Campaign Says:

      […] story is even being featured on Arudou Debito’s blog Debito.org: “Mr James” Burger Campaign. He likens the McDonald’s Japan use of the Mr James character to if McDonald’s in […]

    65. Jean Patrick Says:

      The whole campaign doesn’t make any sense, the target consumer is obviously the j population so why introduce a silly foreigner as the main character in the campaign? Think about it, how are they going to convince the costumers if a stupid foreigner endorses the virtues of those products? I know I wouldn’t listen to this idiot telling me what is good food and what is not…
      What kind of morons run this advertising campaign? They should listen to Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”.

    66. Hoofin Says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4JgvTOdhtQ

      Get yourself ready for a trip with Mister James
      The doofy looking guy in place where they forget last names.

      Follow James-san around as he speaks in katakanese.
      And don’t be surprised if he gets ebi baagaa wizu cheezu!

      – Naisu!

    67. Max Says:

      Gary,
      I had writtent to Mc Donalds Japan but you get only a super polite reply with no content inside, a fresh glass of water to cool down :)

      お客様

      平素よりマクドナルドをご利用頂き、誠にありがとうございます。
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      お客様からのメールを拝見いたしました。

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      誠にありがとうございました。

      お寄せ頂きましたご意見は早速、本社関係部に報告させて頂き
      今後の参考とさせていただく所存でございます。

      お客様にはこの度貴重なご意見をお寄せ下さいました事を感謝申し上げますと共に、
      今後とも変わらぬご愛顧を賜りますようお願い申し上げます。


      日本マクドナルドお客様サービス室

    68. Steve Says:

      Please note: recently there are 2 different people posting here with the same name Steve

      http://www.debito.org/?p=4026#comment-181561 (“No pension needed for visa” opinion = me.)
      http://www.debito.org/?p=4136#comment-181692 (“Mr. James ads not offensive” opinion = not me.)

    69. William Says:

      Please keep in mind that this actor is doing a very good character portrayal of someone who is visiting Japan for the first time, not someone who is living in Japan. This character is along the lines of Mr. Bean or Inspector Clouseau. Lighten up folks, and spend your time on issues that really matter.

    70. AJ Says:

      I am a simultaneous interpreter.
      Even after interpreting complex technical meetings backwards and forwards between both languages, I still have (a minority, admittedly) people asking me if I can read Japanese and expressing amazement that I chose to live here on a permanent basis without going “home”. Where do these views come from? Why do people find it difficult to perceive someone non-Japanese as a fully-fledged member of the community? Such views are not formed in a vacuum. They are fostered by stereotypes such as those shown in the commercial. People acquire their views on the basis of what they see and here. We should not underestimate the cumulative damaging affect negative portrayals in the media can have.
      The key problem here is the katakana speak, reinforcing the notion that non-Japanese cannot speak the language and are only passing through. This is highly prejudicial. To people like Steve (no.61) above, who profess to liking the ad, I would ask: Don’t you think these stereotypes damage our standing in the community and our ability to make a living? How many non-Japanese people do you think get their resume binned because the human resources manager thinks they won’t be able to communicate (or won’t stay in Japan long enough to repay the company’s investment in them)? This an issue that affects peoples’ livelihoods and futures, particularly if they are committed to Japan as a long-term resident. Now (before someone points it out) of course recruiters do not make up their minds on whether to employ foreigners due to the direct influence of a McDonalds commercial but, as I said, stereotypes are built by accumulation. Once a stereotype is ingrained, it is very hard to breakdown. That is why I have written to McDonalds asking them to stop this campaign, a campaign that will be seen by millions of people if it continues. That is why I hope readers of this board will do likewise. It is so sad to see other non-Japanese people failing to see what the issue is here.
      My letter to McDonalds, which anyone is free to use and adapt, is included below:

      私は大手企業で同時通訳をやっています[氏名]ーと申します。
      貴社のMr. Jamesキャンペーンは「外国人は日本語が分からない、頭が悪い」というイメージを日本中に広めている現状に対し、強く抗議をすると共にキャンペーンの中止を要請したい。
      私は多くの外国人と同様日本の社会の一員として毎日日本語を使いながら生活をしています。というよりも日本語を使わないと生活できません。日本では当然ながら日本語が分からないと雇用の機会が限られます。よって、多くの日本人が「外国人は日本語が分からない」という偏見を持つようになると困ります。一般的には「日本語ができない」ということは「一緒に仕事をするとめんどくさい」「阿吽の呼吸ができない」という状況を連想させるからです。こう言った先入観は外国人の雇用の機会を狭まり、生活水準の向上を阻止し、社会参加の妨げとなります。
      そこで、外国人に対する誤った印象に拍車をかける存在として、そして我々の生活に対する悪影響を及ぼすものとして、Mr. Jamesキャンペーンの中止を切に願います。
      繰り返しになりますが人権侵害と成り得る偏見に満ちた広告をおやめください。

    71. M.Bond Says:

      Worse than this US TV show? […]

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPZLW505ZfU

    72. Chris B Says:

      Yep, not good at all. You really would hope that McDonalds would avoid this kind of racism internationally and make sure its local marketeers didn’t do such stupid things.

      I will boycott until they remove it. I’m gonna miss ebi-burgers though! Saizeriya it is from now on, thank goodness in Japan there is a choice. In the UK there is simply no competitor to MCD’s (at that price/quality level).

    73. jim Says:

      well i did my small part, today i called the HQ office of Mcdonalds japan and i told them off. so hopefully they will stop this stupid Mr.dumb gaijin james campaign ASAP, but i doubt it. see in america they would already be boycotted and taken to court over something like this but in japan the courts are weak and theres really no protection for this type of thing.

    74. Zurui Says:

      VERY INTERESTING comments. I posted my take on BT here and will follow this closely!

      http://www.blacktokyo.com/?p=3798

    75. Rie Says:

      http://www.disgrasian.com/2009/08/in-mcdonalds-new-japanese-ad-campaign.html

    76. Andrew Says:

      Normally I’m right with Debito on this stuff, but I’ve tried to get myself worked up over this, and I can’t.

      Here’s why: it’s the same stereotype that *I* hold of the Otaku English teacher who comes here because he (usually he) thinks Japan is friggin’ Adult Disneyland. He finds out quickly it isn’t, and either changes, or leaves when or before his contract is up.

      I don’t think that this character represents or is meant to represent foreigners any more than Hello Kitty is supposed to represent all cats.

      I think it’s clear that this character is just that, a character; if they had used an Anime style, we wouldn’t even be able to say for sure he was a foreigner by looking at him. I take much more offense to the more famous foreigner tarento who are featured on variety shows (and sometimes even news programs), since it is NOT clear in those cases that they are portraying characters, and I think they do much more damage to the Japanese perception of NJs than this silly little MacDonald’s advert. (In fact, I find the current run of AEON ads more offensive, because they *are* selling the foreigners pictured in their ads.)

      (And, by the way, I had assumed James was his last name, although I am aware of the tendency of foreigners to be called Mr.Firstname.)

    77. Mike Says:

      Hi. My Japanese writing was not up to snuff (just call me “Mr. James”), but this is the response I got from MacDonald’s USA corporte:

      Hello Michael:

      Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s.

      I’ve shared your comments with our corporate office in Japan that oversees the advertising in this country. I’m certain your concerns will be addressed immediately, so that your future visits to McDonald’s can be more enjoyable.

      If you still wish to contact our office in Japan, please visit http://www.mcdonalds.com/contact/contact_us/restaurant_visit_outside.html for a list of our international offices, or they can be reached at:

      JAPAN
      McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd.
      Shinjuku I-Land Tower
      5-1 Nishi Shinjuku 6 Chome
      Chinjuku, Tokyo 163-13
      Japan
      Phone* : 81-3-3344-1063
      Fax* : 81-3-3344-6982
      Website* : http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/

    78. Mike Says:

      Mr. James vid on Youtube

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZjlVrcthmY

    79. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » White man’s burden: Mr. James Says:

      […] just an example of the universality of marketing principles being proven yet again. But at least one blogger is upset: I think a strongly-worded letter from registered NPO FRANCA to McDonald’s USA HQ regarding the […]

    80. Glenski Says:

      William wrote:
      “Please keep in mind that this actor is doing a very good character portrayal of someone who is visiting Japan for the first time, not someone who is living in Japan.”

      Not as I see it. The guy has an apartment and has his daughter in tow (wearing the same style oval glasses). Yes, he appears new, but who’s to say whether he’s just visiting?

      AJ wrote:
      “The key problem here is the katakana speak, reinforcing the notion that non-Japanese cannot speak the language and are only passing through.”

      Well, most foreigners CAN’T speak the language very well! And, for those who are truly just passing through, same thing. I’m trying to see this point objectively, but look at that one long ad/video where James is reading a Japanese language book. Slow, plodding, practicing pronunciation in front of a mirror — many characteristics of a learner. Give this part a break, I say.

      AJ also wrote:
      “Don’t you think these stereotypes damage our standing in the community and our ability to make a living?”

      Well, I have only seen the ads from the blog. They apparently don’t show them on TV where I live in Hokkaido. But what exact stereotype are we talking about here? The guy is enthusiastic (perhaps on par with any Japanese person when in a similar situation). The guy is a white person (as far as we can tell, but that’s the majority of American ethnicities). Has it actually been stated he is a teacher? Just because he wears chinos and a tie, does that label him as such? He’s on the boat with his daughter watching fireworks. So? Sorry, again, I have to say, this “image” is just a character portraying some eagerness in TRYING to learn the language while enjoying some sightseeing. I see no harm in such “image”.

      Want harm? Get the 3 guys who do insipid commercials with one of the members of The Drifters. Get some of Tommy Lee Jones’s commercials off the air.

      Hey, Bobby Olgun (sp.) make butchering the language his trademark when he showed up on Thane Camus’ interviews. Now he’s famous and still does his act and has become a naturalized citizen!

      AJ wrote:
      ” How many non-Japanese people do you think get their resume binned because the human resources manager thinks they won’t be able to communicate (or won’t stay in Japan long enough to repay the company’s investment in them)?”

      I’m sorry, but this is not connected at all with the ads. James is a character. People who want teaching jobs don’t even NEED to speak/read/write Japanese most of the time. Many/Most HR managers ashcan resumes because they are poorly written (in English, mind you), or they show scary signs of what the person wants (a girlfriend, time to immerse in manga/anime), or that the cover letter just doesn’t have the proper information (trust me on that point because I’ve proofread literally scores of them from teacher wannabes), or because they feel the person will not respond well to culture shock. It’s NOT because their Japanese language skills are in question, IMO.

      – Quick point of order: “Well, most foreigners CAN’T speak the language very well!” The majority of registered NJ in Japan are Permanent Residents and Zainichis. I daresay they speak Japanese just fine because the Zainichis at least are natives. And that’s before we get to the NJ professionals and their progeny who have to speak either for their jobs or to survive in school etc. Let’s think outside of our bubbles, please.

    81. carl Says:

      The Black Tokyo blog entry (#74) was quite interesting. There was this questionable comment left by a reader, though:

      “…gaijin = clown in japan. it is right. Even Hollywood star become gaijin clown in japan…you gaijins may think that you can push japanese around like other asian country, but you cant.
      you gaijins must learn that there are times when things won’t go the way you wants.this is japan.welcome to japan…we Japanese often hold bad feelings towards gaijins who complain about Japan.You’ll cut your throat if you yell at japanese.
      If you don’t like japan, please just leave.”

      – These are the comments I delete. And I won’t reproduce any more of them here.

    82. snowman Says:

      Glenski 80, says that most foreigners can’t speak japanese well. He must be a member of the short term english teacher circle I guess. The majority of the foreigners here are Koreans and Chinese and I imagine they have good japanese skills, most of them. And I and everybody I know, work in japanese companies and we need our fluent speaking/writing skills to survive.

    83. chuckers Says:

      Debito said:

      The majority of registered NJ in Japan are Permanent Residents and Zainichis.

      Technically, that is not true. Even if you include spouses and children of
      Japanese nationals, the majority of registered NJ in Japan are not PR or Zainichis.

      In 2006 (most recent data I could find) there were 8,107,963 foreigners that entered
      Japan legally. Of those, 6,407,960 were designated Temporary visitors. That leaves
      1,700,003 on longer visas.

      Of those people:

      Zainichi: 156,164
      PR: 313,018
      PR Spouse/Children: 13,113
      Long term residents (not counted as PR): 115,999
      Spouse/Children of Japanese National: 227,130

      SubTotal: 825,424

      Remaining visa holders: 874,579

      Source:

      http://www.stat.go.jp/data/nenkan/zuhyou/y0234000.xls

      I won’t go anywhere near the issue of the Japanese language ability
      of anyone in any of those groups. No facts to back up anything on that
      issue.

      – I stand corrected; the numbers are changing too fast these days, thanks for the update. But I will stand by my assertion that saying that most NJ can’t speak Japanese well is worse than merely facile. It’s insulting.

    84. Glenski Says:

      My earlier remarks about foreigners who can’t speak Japanese well were not meant to include the Zainichi or Chinese. They don’t look like the Mr. James character, and since most comments here seem to have been targeted at how this guy looks “nerdy” (to quote Debito), I felt that comments were aimed at his Caucasion/Western features which suggested he was not of Asian extraction.

      I would like to ask Debito what “nerdy” means, too. Be careful you don’t insult those of us who have dark-framed glasses and are just a wee bit overweight.

      As for “most foreigners” who can’t speak Japanese well, perhaps I should qualify things a bit more just so it stays with the picture McDonalds seems to portray:
      Mr. James is white. Do you include other ethnic groups? Considering all things, I will.
      Mr. James is not a child nor a senior citizen. Let’s give “foreigners” the benefit of the doubt here and use an age range of about 20-55.
      Some people have said Mr. James bears a striking resemblance (or some such words) to an English teacher here. I dunno. Other foreigners who live here wear chinos and a tie, but ok, let’s go with the remarkable statement anyway and stick to English teachers.

      6000 JET ALTs per year. Half are newbies. Do they all speak fluent Japanese?
      About 10,000 other teachers in eikaiwa. C’mon. They certainly don’t all come off like David Spector.

      I won’t go on, but let’s just say that if Debito can dismiss numbers just by writing he stands by his assertion, anyone else can do the same with the opposite opinion. It’s already been shown by Chuckers that some of your numbers are in doubt, Debito. Mine are far from conclusive, but they stand as strongly as yours.

      And, if they are even close to being true, I agree with you… such numbers are insulting, but if they are true, well…

      I’m not picking fights here. I don’t believe there ARE numbers for either side, just lots of anecdotes. These are the ones I’ve run across a lot, not in small circles, either. Snowman, what does it matter if the people are short-term teachers or not? If the beef about the McDonalds portrayal is that Mr. James puts a bad image on any non-Zainichi, non-Chinese foreign English teacher here, I would like to see the data that shows how well most of them speak Japanese!

      And, snowman, you may very well be in a company where Japanese skills are required by all foreigners. Good, because that substantiates what I tell people who come to look for non-teaching jobs, but it does not apply to all people in that situation. How many DOES it apply to? Can’t say, as I mentioned just above. Many DO get along with minimal skills, though, because they work in some IT businesses or for foreign branches where the official office language is not Japanese.

      To all:
      What is the beef about Mr. James?
      His looks? The guy can’t help it, IMO.

      His childlike eagerness to use the language? Naw, look at all the native Japanese who are just as overly enthusiastic in their own commercials.

      His poor Japanese? Well, we can’t all be Ruy Ramos or Daniel Kahl, but I’ve already made my point earlier about how this guy just seems to be an excited person just learning the language, unlike Bobby Ologun who does it as part of his act as a talento.

      What SHOULD be a chief complaint (maybe) is that all the written Japanese for his dialogue is in katakana, but you can easily discount that, too, when you see how flooded TV is with katakana even for native Japanese speakers! But perhaps I see too many variety shows and game shows.

      – Perhaps McDonald’s Japan should hire Glenski as their spokesman. You make it sound as if McDonald’s had no choice in the image character they chose to portray.

    85. Johnny Says:

      Speak for yourself Glenski (or Glumski as he is known on some Japan based forums).

      I don’t have any friends here from English speaking countries who can’t speak Japanese to at least high intermediate level.

      For me, and for a lot of my friends, no Japanese equals no job.

    86. Mr. Brian Says:

      Glenski,

      We must hang out in very different circles. I am a US-born white guy, and in my 12 years here in Japan, I have never taught English and have only one friend who speaks English, but we often speak Japanese because it is more convenient. In addition to many Japanese friends, I also have many foreign friends variously from Korea, China, Malaysia, and Russia.

      You have apparently bought hook and sinker into the common Japanese myth that link nationality with linguistic skills and states that foreigners can not speak Japanese. That is contrary to my experience. All of my NJ friends speak Japanese, mostly at a very high fluency level. Nearly every NJ that I know has JLPT 1. If you live in Japan, participate in a Japanese environment, and have the will, you should easily be able to pick up enough Japanese sufficient for daily conversation within 3-5 months. The pronunciation and grammar is remarkably simple and systematic. Kanji takes more time, but recognition is much more important than writing, which can be supplemented with IMEs. Due to a dependency on computers, adult Japanese are pretty bad at writing kanji.

      I now work at a Japanese company where speaking Japanese is absolutely required, just as it is for daily life in Japan. This seems to be the case with other NJ friends as well. And why should it be any different from any other long-term resident (=J) of Japan? This is Japan, after all. If you came here for English, then you are either a tourist or are in the wrong country.

      If the Mr. Jeemusu campaign does not offend you, fine. Feel free to ignore the topic. I do not know you, but from your comments it is my impression that you have not tried to live in Japan on an equal base with other Japanese so have no reference to comprehend from. If you ever do, then one day I think you will very well understand the topics that we are talking about right now.

      Get out of the JET/eikaiwa classroom and experience more of Japan. Get rid of the English crutches. There is a lot that you are missing.

    87. Ryan Says:

      I submitted the following feedback to the contact forms at both the Japanese and American McDonald’s home pages, for whatever it’s worth:

      —–

      To whom it may concern,

      I am writing to express my disappointment and embarrassment at your recent “Mr. ジェームス” advertising campaign.

      For fear that my long-studied and hard-won Japanese will have its flaws mocked and derided in the same way that Mr. James’ ridiculous and laughably poor Japanese is construed, I have decided to write here in English. I am certain that a large multinational organization such as your own has a number of staff members who can understand me perfectly.

      When I was recently confronted by a life-size billboard of a poorly-dressed Caucasian buffoon wearing classic nerd glasses and twisting his face into a placid, stupified grin, I was immediately dumbfounded, shocked at what I was seeing. Looking over the blog entries and watching the videos of the television commercials, I’m outraged by this egregious and blatant promotion of racial stereotyping. The entire campaign is constructed around a backward and negative stereotype of foreigners, playing on their perceived oddities of appearance, mannerisms, dress, accent, as well as their provincial and childish nature.

      I work in the marketing field, and can tell you for a fact that no Japanese traveling to the United States will encounter any ad campaign based on a stereotype of yellow-skinned buck-toothed squinty-eyed Asian foreigner. No American advertising agency would dream of proposing–and no client of promoting–anything even vaguely reminiscent of what McDonald’s is propagating. These attitudes belong in the past, not plastered across billboards and promoted in print and video advertisements.

      I have lived and worked here in Japan, for Japanese firms, in purely Japanese-speaking environments, for the past six years. I have worked hard to learn what is expected of me by the culture I live in, to improve my language skills, and to build a career in this wonderful country. This is the experience of the vast majority of foreigners who live and work here in Japan, yet we are now faced with seeing this pathetic, insipid, vapid and homely stereotype being displayed nationwide by one of the largest and most popular restaurant chains in the country.

      Although aware that it is a futile gesture with no impact on McDonald’s bottom line, I swear that I will not set foot in any of your establishments so long as this campaign continues.

      This shameful display is an embarrassment to McDonald’s and the Japanese people. Should these advertisements become known to the majority of the American public, what stereotype do you think it would promote about the Japanese themselves?

      This racist and belittling campaign is simply unconscionable, especially coming from a company such as yours, especially with the cultural place that it holds among children.

      I sincerely hope that those responsible for this travesty will somehow come to realize the negative impact that it has on Japanese culture, and how it has the potential to cloud young Japanese’s view of and interaction with the rest of the world. As the world moves further down the path of globalization, this kind of rash and offensive stereotype will have no place, and those who grow up with them will be the worse for it.

      Good day,
      XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX

    88. Ryan Says:

      UPDATE: the American site form didn’t take it–it’s too long, and I don’t have a US address or telephone number for the form entry to be accepted.

    89. Glenski Says:

      Debito,
      I would kindly ask that you moderate your blog a little better for the sake of kindness. To have posters throwing epithets around is just not what a human rights blog should permit.

      Moreover, your own wisecracks will be ignored simply because they are just not worth taking seriously. They are a poor attempt at discussing the issue seriously. You should really be ashamed.

      Mr. Brian (interesting choice of usernames considering the situation we’re dealing with here),
      you are right about one thing. We go in different circles.

      Johnny,
      I don’t speak just for myself, as I thought I’d made it clear, and I don’t purport to speak for people in non-teaching jobs, as I also tried to make clear. Kudos to you and the others.

      – Sorry Glenski, but I’m not ashamed. You asked for it. Ignorance deserves b-slapping. Shame on you instead for perpetuating nasty stereotypes. You really oughta get out of Eastern Hokkaido more.

    90. Mike Says:

      I fairly certain he’s a magician named Steve Marshall who use to also work at Disneyland.

    91. debito Says:

      On a related note:

      Burger King had a “Samurai Chicken” advert that looks like martial arts boot camp in China. Spot how many Asian cultures are mashed up within.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81DT8j7akdc&NR=1

      I wonder if any Asian AFDL groups protested this. Keep your eyes open.
      Would be an interesting case study in contrasting public reactions if they did.

    92. Disgrasian: The McDonald’s "Mr. James" Ad Campaign and How We Don’t Care About White People, Apparently | DoisPontoZero Says:

      […] the blog Debito.org, written by an American who’s now a naturalized Japanese citizen, who 1) compared Mr. James to Stepin Fetchit–a reference that has since been removed from Debito’s post, although it was mentioned […]

    93. Isaac Says:

      Lol…I find this too funny.

      Being a coloured man I grew up watching and listening to people stereotype about coloured people and asians. If I was to pick a fight in any manner with all the stereotyping I grew up with, i’m sure i’ld be dead by now and so would my friends.

      If this was in North America stereotyping a coloured person, Japanese or Chinese some or most of you may not care. Hell you may even laugh.

      Ever notice that some things in life don’t bother people because it has no direct effect.
      But when it does their voices will be heard.

      Good luck with the campaign.

    94. A. Says:

      Debito – I have one simple thing to ask you.

      WHERE WERE YOU when non-Japanese people had to deal with Bobby Ologun?
      WHERE WERE YOU when we had to deal with the Obama impersonators?
      WHERE WERE YOU when among the various forms of advertisements in Japan, white people are still considered as, to a degree, as superior and are often used, positively, I may add, to sell all kinds of products?
      And even better – WHERE WERE YOU when Asian-Americans have had to continue to put up with portrayals such as Long Duk Long, Hiro Nakamura, the Six Flags guy and even, most recently, the Kentucky Grilled Chicken commercials which are still being aired here in the US? The Mr. James ad campaign is EXACTLY how East/North East Asian men, Japanese, Korean and Chinese alike, are portrayed here. Yet you and many of your commenters seem to be oddly silent about that. Oh but right, when this happens to Asian men, who are stereotyped as feminine, nerdy, caring only about martial arts or oppressive to the the hot Asian China Doll, they’re told to get the hell over it. “It’s only comedy” they’re often told. In the US, there is not one positive depiction of an Asian man over here. It’s isn’t as though White Foreigners don’t have any positive advertising about them. It’s better than the shaft that Asian American men are being given.

      I find that it reeks of privilege for a lot of people in these comments, and you yourself, Debito, that you feel that you should be seen as “individuals” and be treated exactly as the Japanese, but Asian-Americans are seen as perpetual foreigners in their own homeland. Why do you say nothing about the droves of American men (white and black alike) that come to Japan on a quest for “Asian babes” and think of it as a personal amusement part, but when they find out that Japan DOES INDEED have issues and isn’t this idealized utopia of sex with babes and gaijin-smashing, they get pissed.

      I understand your aim. I know that you want to be seen as equal. But my belief is that your home country is godawful when it comes to portrayals of not just Asians, and your own sense of entitlement and refusal to admit your own privilege is still carried over from there to here.

      If you’re going to get into anti-racist activism, I suggest dealing with real anti-racist activists rather than talking to people who already have this idea of “oppressed white man” syndrome.

      – You are not asking “one simple thing”. You are lashing out at people you’ve lumped into a box (who are not necessarily saying what you say they’re saying, doing what you say they’re doing) who share a phenotype with people you find objectionable. Sorry, but cut us some slack.

      We are trying to fight discrimination where it occurs. I live in Japan. I’m Japanese. I fight it here. You live overseas. Go ahead and fight it there, too. Don’t be so critical of people doing what they can where they can. Just because they can’t fight it everywhere in every single case is no justification for doing nothing when you can.

    95. Asian American Says:

      I understand why there is such an outrage within the white community, but have you realized that racial profiling has been a CONSTANT problem for Asians within American/Western societies for the last FIFTY years? Asian men have constantly been demoralized within western media — how many movies have you watched that has a strong Asian male protagonist: a well respected figure that has sex appeal? Do not say Jackie Chan or Jet Li; although they are respectable figures, all they do is continue to perpetuate the fact that Asians can’t speak English, can’t get girls, and all know martial arts. How many times have you seen Asians depicted as short, scrawny, bad at English, subservient, and is in a position where the white man can do anything an Asian can, but better, except for academics, video games, and ping pong? The roles are finally reversed and I am actually quite happy at what McDonald’s is doing — Western society is getting a taste of its own medicine. Maybe this will finally get people to open their eyes and see that these are the troubles that Asians living in Western society face in their every day life. If this is not a laughing matter to you, then start targeting your disapproval letters to Hollywood first, not McDonalds.

      – So instead of fighting discrimination whenever it occurs, discrimination is justifiable when it serves your sense of revenge?

      This is what long-term discrimination does to people. It makes them bitter, vindictive, irrational and mean.

    96. Rusty Says:

      McDonalds.CustomerCare@us.mcd.com wrote:
      Hello:

      Thank you for taking the time to contact us about a McDonald’s commercial in Japan. Customer feedback is very important to us and we appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concerns.

      First, we’re sorry you are disappointed with this commercial. It’s certainly never our intent to offend anyone. Your comments have been shared with our advertising staff in Japan. Please know your feedback is helpful and will be considered in the future planning of commercials in these countries. If you’d still like to contact our office in Japan to share your feelings personally, they can be reached at:

      McDonald’s Company (Japan), Ltd. – Chuo

      You wrote:

      Your “Mr James” campaign in Japan is just about the most disgusting, racist thing I have ever seen in Japan.

      What happened to you? You would never make such awful stereotypes in America or elsewhere.

    97. Manule Says:

      The last comment by A. sounds [ridiculous]. I never came to Japan looking for “babes” or any of that crap that you mentioned. I came to work and I pay taxes so I demand respect and fair treat. Is that too much for you?

    98. Kimberly Says:

      In response to the above comment, I’ll give you Bobby Ologun… granted, he’s making a living and so is Mr. James. I personally wouldn’t take even a very high-paid job that contributes to negative stereotypes, but I can understand why those entertainers DO. Even though Bobby speaks excellent Japanese, he pretends to be terrible at it on TV, parades his children around etc… yes, I’d say he is a negative force rather than a positive one.

      But I don’t see anything wrong with the Obama impersonators. If anything, the guy who plays Obama all the time makes HIMSELF and JAPAN look silly by running out of English after “Yes we can” etc. Obama is not portrayed negatively by the media as a whole, and I think that poking fun at the President, whoever the current President happens to be, is something that happens in the US as well. I don’t see this contributing to a negative image of Obama himself or of foreigners and naturalized citizens.

      And Hiro Nakamura (the character, not the actor who plas him) is not Asian-American, he’s supposed to be from Japan. And as nerdy as he is, his father and his friend Ando were not portrayed as nerds. I’ve only seen the first season of Heroes and a little of the second, so I don’t know if that went downhill after awhile… but while the scenes of Japan and Japanese people in that show are not completely accurate, it never came off as intentional to me. The character is noble, brave, admirable… yes, the writers are sometimes ignorant about Japan. But there are multiple Japanese characters on that show and only ONE is a nerd. Nerds DO exist in this country, just as they do in any other. Are there stereotypes in the show? Yes, but I don’t think they were intended to poke fun… the writers were working with a variety of characters from different ethnic backgrounds and if they didn’t have a complete understanding of every single culture they were working with, I think we can forgive them for a few mistakes, it seems that they were trying to create an heroic, likeable character.

      Sure, Mr. James is only one instance of discrimination. But fighting only one (or only two, or ten, or a hundred) is better than not fighting at all.

    99. Zack Says:

      Maybe if he wasn’t a lack-wit this advertising campaign would only be a little offensive. But this is unbelievable. They’ve created a mascot that directly makes fun of foreigners living in Japan, and Mr.James’ existence can only serve to make their lives harder. This is horribly irresponsible.

    100. El blog de Ikusuki.com! » Blog Archive » McDonalds Japón y Mr James Says:

      […] Debito.org Time.com The Huffington […]

    101. Goldengai Says:

      Debito-san has his detractors. A shat load of them. However, I`m not one of them. More power to you Debito-san. Banzai, Banzai, Banzai. I don`t know what it is, but everytime Debito-san writes anything, scores of these whiny, pontificating, detractors (more like swarm instinct Japanese school yard bullies) pounce on him in drooling glee as if they were on a Uyoku Mission from Hell to `teach him a lesson` about the proper way for foreigners to live in Japan. Debito-san has an _unequivocal_ right to write what he wants to. Who are these bullies to say Debito-san`s conclusions drawn from his life any less valid, meaningful, or important than their own? Krist. Moreover, his writing is balanced, researched, intelligent writing based upon empirical experience. Debito-san is simply making some valid points. I grumble about Japan too but I still love this place and will not leave. That‘s life. If the detractors don`t like what Debito-san writes then don`t read it! Easy. I`ll wager a couple of zillion Yen that The Land of Wa doesn`t need a gaggle of braying gaijin bullies, afraid to stick their collective necks out to protect its national interests. If you‘re undecided about actual political undercurrents in Japanese society with regards to the foreign population, try hitching a ride on an uyoko gaisensha, chatting up the kumicho, marry into a Burakumin family, or get a job at Yokohama port unloading Yamaguchi-gumi controlled containers. It might slag off some of your dilettante Ivory Tower pro-Japan attitude.

    102. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      A thought for A and Asian American, inspired by Professor Yoshio Sugimoto:
      “Your perceptions of someone else’s racism is a poor way of justifying your own”
      Do something about

    103. Emanuele Granatello Says:

      I just called their office and told them what do I think about their campaign (in Japanese). DO THE SAME!

    104. Sons of Loki » Shibuya! Says:

      […] Mr James has kicked off a bit of debate in the non-Japanese community, with Arudou Debito obviously a tad miffed, with a thorough dissection in the Japan Times. Thing is, it’s quite hard to see how […]

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