FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign

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Hi Blog.  Please feel free to adapt this letter to your needs and send it to any corporate outlets of McDonald’s you feel are appropriate.  Please continue to express your disgruntlement where it can be heard (there is even the suggestion that people walk in to restaurants with indelible ink pens and wrote “racist” across the face of the “Mr James'” full-size display figure).  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGONPO Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association

(一般社団法人)日本永住帰化移民住民協会

[…], Sapporo, Japan

FRANCA is registered with the Japanese government as an NPO.

Registration number 4300-05-005413

McDonald’s Corporation Headquarters

2111 McDonald’s Dr, Oak Brook, IL 60523 USA

cc:
Walt Riker
Vice President, Corporate Media Relations
walt.riker@us.mcd.com
Heidi Barker
Sr. Director, Corporate Media Relations
heidi.barker@us.mcd.com
Louise Marcotte-Jervoe
Director, Corporate Media Relations
louise.marcotte@us.mcd.com
Tara Handy
Sr. Manager, Corporate Media Relations
tara.handy@us.mcd.com
Lisa McComb
Sr. Manager, Corporate Media Relations
lisa.mccomb@us.mcd.com
Lizzie Roscoe
Supervisor, Corporate Media Relations
lizzie.roscoe@us.mcd.com
Theresa Riley
Administrative Coordinator, Corporate Media Relations
theresa.riley@us.mcd.com
Sue Atzhorn
Administrative Coordinator, Corporate Media Relations
sue.atzhorn@us.mcd.com

To Whom It May Concern:

We write to you on behalf of FRANCA, a human rights group concerned with the rights of non-Japanese residents in Japan.  Our goals are:  1) To eliminate negative public images and stereotypes of non-Japanese and multi-cultural Japanese; 2) To eliminate discrimination by race, nationality, ethnicity, and national origin; 3) To highlight the benefits of immigration and a multi-cultural society.  FRANCA works to achieve these goals through sustainable and effective lobbying, networking and public relations campaigns aimed at educating the public.  More about us at www.francajapan.org.

We wish to bring to your attention a sales campaign launched this month by McDonald’s Japan that we find extremely problematic.

The “Mr. James” character, representing the “Nippon All Stars” hamburger campaign, features a spectacled Caucasian narrating his love for Japan and Japan’s version of McDonald’s’ hamburgers.  Our association finds the following things problematic:

  • 1) The character speaks broken accented Japanese (using the katakana script, one used for foreign loanwords).  The impression given is that Caucasians cannot speak Japanese properly, which is simply not true for the vast numbers of non-native (and Japanese-native) foreigners in Japan.
  • 2) The character is called “Mr. James” (again, in katakana), promoting the stereotype that foreigners must be called by their first names only (standard Japanese etiquette demands that adults be called “last name plus -san”), undoing progress we have made for equal treatment under Japanese societal rules.
  • 3) The image used, of a clumsy sycophantic “nerd” for this Caucasian customer, is embarrassing to Caucasians who will have to live in Japan under this image.

To illustrate the issue more clearly, would McDonald’s USA (or McDonald’s in any other country, for that matter) choose to promote, for example, a new rice dish with a “ching-chong Chinaman” saying, “Me likee McFlied Lice!”?  Of course not.

Likewise, we do not think these attitudes perpetuating stereotypes of ethnic minorities within their respective societies should be promoted anywhere by a multinational corporation with the influence of McDonald’s.  We ask that McDonald’s Headquarters review McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” Campaign and have it discontinued immediately.

We look forward to your favorable reply.

Sincerely yours,

ARUDOU Debito (Mr.)

Chair, FRANCA Japan.  debito@debito.org

Enclosures:  copies of relevant media materials regarding “Mr. James”

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, Sapporo Nakanosawa Branch):

mrjamesoutdoorssmall

ends

53 comments on “FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James” Campaign

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  • Curious in the linked video (practicing Japanese from a phrasebook) that the only thing he really gets and says normally and fluently is the well known tongue twister “tonari no kyaku ga yoku kaki kuu kyaku da” (mmmm, wakatta). I have to admit that little detail was actually quite funny.

  • I have read with great interest the letter of protest and subsequent postings, and I have mixed thoughts about what I’ve read. I think strong, salient points have been made by many on both sides of the issue. As an American, I am sensitive to PC run amok. However, as an American living in Japan, married to a Japanese with a mixed-race/dual national daughter, I come down more along the side of FRANCA.

    I think anytime we allow negative stereotypical characeterizations to go unchallenged, no matter how small, well-intentioned, or couched in humor, we do both native Japanese and non-natives a disservice. Raising concerns enables conversations, and converstions more often than not lead to greater understanding and sensitivity.

    There are times and places for thick skin. There are also times and places for calling out inappropriate behavior. This is the latter.

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