South China Morning Post on McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” Campaign, quotes FRANCA


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Hi Blog.  SCMP reports:

Foreigners fail to see joke over McDonald’s dorky-white-guy ad
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
South China Morning Post, August 21, 2009 (registration required)

He’s white, dorky and speaks mangled Japanese.

Meet Mr James, McDonald’s Japan’s fictitious white envoy, who has managed to outrage foreigners’ rights groups, which labelled him an offensive racial stereotype.

The chain began its “Nippon All Stars” campaign on August 10, fronted by what the Foreign Residents and Naturalised Citizens’ Association (Franca) said was an “oddball-looking Caucasian” praising a new line of burgers in pitifully broken Japanese.

With trousers worn high, Mr James’ thick-framed glasses and polo-shirt-and-tie combination is unmistakably nerdy. He is travelling around Japan and keeping a blog of the places that he visits. As part of the advertising campaign, people who see him are encouraged to take a photo and send it to McDonald’s, with the best one photo winning a 100,000 yen (HK$8,220) prize.

“The idea behind the campaign is that Mr James used to live in Japan as a student, heard about the new McDonald’s product and wanted to try it again, so he has come back to travel around the country,” spokesman Junichi Kawaminami said.

The actor playing Mr James, whom the company declined to identify or provide contact details for, was until recently in the southern city of Fukuoka.

“McDonald’s has obviously put a lot of money into this campaign as there are full-length posters and banners in every restaurant that I see as well as by the side of roads here, and the company is apparently not concerned that they are offending people and hope we continue to buy their burgers,” Franca chairman Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese born in the United States, said.

“This is untenable in a Japan with ethnic minority residents,” he said. “They are being ill-portrayed by this stereotype and their lives may be affected by this careless campaign by one of the world’s most influential multinational companies.”

McDonald’s Japan confirmed that it had received complaints about the campaign and said it was examining the matter. Similar complaints to its US headquarters have been referred back to the Japanese firm.

“What really angers me is that no one involved in the process here thought that anyone would take offence to see a caricature such as this advertising their company,” Mr Arudou said. “Can you imagine the outrage there would be in the US or any other country if a restaurant chain used an image of a Japanese man with big, round glasses, buck teeth, geta sandals and a kimono telling people to `buy flied lice, is velly good! “That’s the sort of thing that gets embassies and global human rights’ groups angry and involved,” he said.

17 comments on “South China Morning Post on McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” Campaign, quotes FRANCA

  • Another John says:

    If you read the entries in The Consumerist and Huff Po, it looks like FRANCA is getting bitch-slapped by the western media.

    — Is it? The Huff Po rebuttal comment is a good one:
    So let me get this straight…

    Something happened in America that was offensive to Asian people, thus something that happens to un-related white people in an Asian country is ‘Karma’, thus these new victims deserved it? Is that what you are saying?

    All your sources about these disrespectful acts towards Asians in America are speaking out against them, correct? So if these acts of disrespect towards Asians in America are wrong, and you say this act of disrespect towards whites in Asia is the same thing, shouldn’t it also be wrong as well?

    I can almost hear you chanting, ‘nah, nah na na naaa!!’ as you wrote this post. The appropriate way to go about this would be to try and use act in Japan as an example for Americans as to why this type of stereotyping is disrespectful, and thus try and gain further understanding and cooperations by both parties to put a stop to this type of stuff. But unfortunately, you are instead finding joy in other peoples suffering, which in fact contributes not to the greater good, but the greater evil.

    I see they have a ‘Flag as abusive’ link for comments, to bad they don’t have one for articles…

  • Michael Weidner says:

    I’m interested to see what happens if a group of foreigners spots this “Actor” in public. What McDonalds Japan basically did is put a $1000 USD price on his head.

    What could be more interesting is if a bunch of foreigners start sporting around his look so that people will take pictures and send them in, only to find out it’s not the right person. Or better yet, have us send in pictures of “Mr.James” doing things that are, um…..not so kosher ^_~

  • Jean Patrick says:

    Ah! the good old times of japanese advertising campaigns featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonardo Di Caprio, Meg Ryan, Sean Connery… I can even go with Bill Murray from the movie Lost in Translation.
    Now we have to settle for dull “Mr. James”. Times had change a lot…

  • I’m having some trouble articulating why, but somehow making the comparison that this would be unacceptable behaviour if it focused on a different ethnicity seems wrong. I agree that this campaign, and discrimination in general, should be challenged. However, I would argue that this should be done because it’s discriminatory and offensive as opposed to being something that would not be tolerated by others. It’s not all that important, it was just bugging me somewhat.

  • Semi-related: 6 years ago a Hungarian TV show had what sounds to me like a Japanese version Mr. James, though I never saw the show. The Japanese embassy in that country filed a formal protest and got the show pulled off the air.

    Friday, May 16, 2003
    Hungary TV pulls ‘slanted eyes’ show
    VIENNA (Kyodo) Hungarian television station TV2 has told the Japanese Embassy in Budapest it plans to suspend a popular show that mocks Japanese and drew the ire of the local Japanese community and Japanese diplomats in Hungary.

    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 Japanese community in Hungary was furious and the Japanese Embassy filed a protest with TV2 as well as the Hungarian Foreign Ministry late last month.

    Hiroshi Abe, an official at the embassy, said Wednesday that “Micuko” producers told the embassy late last week that TV2 decided to suspend the show for three months beginning next month.

    The show will return in September under a new name and the producers promised to make other changes, Abe said.

    Abe said the embassy will keep an eye on the show when it comes back on the air and will take action again if the changes are not satisfactory.

    “The show can only be described as racially biased,” Abe said. “The problem won’t disappear if only small changes are made, like changing the name of the show.”

    TV2, which started operation in 1997, bills itself as Hungary’s first commercial broadcaster. Its official Web site says the station provides entertaining and informative programs targeted at the nation’s “young, urban population.”

  • Poking fun is something that could be taken lightly. But not listening to someone who says (and requests that) “I/we am/are hurt, please withdraw this act of poking fun….” is more serious. THAT, is objectionable according to me. If McD management takes it as a protest which they would judge only by numbers, (as compared to current situation of one person / one blog / one NPA protesting), I think it would be better to open one e-signature-campaign/e-log and forward it to McD after collecting 1000 odd protesting signatures. If Japanese embassy could do it in Hungary, various foreign embassies of people who protest can do the same if their citizens reveal their own identity in this signature campaign.

  • What I find rather offensive is that there is a big assumption here that McDonald’s is stereotyping all white men. Mr. James is “from” Ohio, according to “his” blog. The campaign may discriminate against guys from Ohio, but I am sure that if the his character were a white guy from another English speaking country, he would be portrayed quite differently. This isn’t really about “ethnicity,” unless you consider white Americans to be a separate ethnic group.

    Here’s a question. Do you think Australians living in America should have complained about this ad, which features a non-Australian actor playing a stereotypical Australian in order to promote an “Australian” restaurant?

    If not, then I’m not sure where you are coming from.

    On another note, why does your letter of complaint make the point that the using ones first name is something one does in “adult” Japanese society? Most foreigners I know in Japan prefer to be called by their first names, just like I call many of my Japanese friends in America by their family names.

    — The assumption being that people are going to read the whole back story. I bet most people are just going to see him as that strange white guy selling hamburgers. This is not a campaign focussing upon Americans. It’s a campaign focussing upon a gaijin who can’t speak Japanese properly (or even in hiragana, although “Mr James’s” blog suddenly shows he’s a quick study, fancy that; pity the people who only patronize the restaurant still see the same old katakana). It’s the embodiment of an epithet.

    Most foreigners I know in Japan, for what it matters, prefer to be called by their last names plus san in Japanese. In any case, Japanese etiquette demands last name plus san for adults. Anything else as a public rule tends to be belittling and othering to NJ residents. If your friends are comfortable being gaijinized, fine, don’t protest; but my friends don’t, and we will. Says something for the company we keep.

  • Ed fat chance if you think the american embassy will do the same thing over here. for that matter when has the american embassy ever done anything to help there own american citizens in japan. at least the japanese embassy has the balls to stand up against discrimination but too bad the GOJ could give a rats ass.we should all do a boycott of mcdonalds japan until they stop this racist Mr.Dumb gaijin James campaign

  • Doug Norman says:

    In this white dude’s opinion, getting “bitch slapped” in the Huffington Post by two asian chicks “Disgrasian” who grew up in the heartland of the U.S. and probably have never been outside the United States is a badge of honor – Wear it Well. Now that is reality! To me they just add credence to the argument (might be the Huffington Post thing)

    Seriously – since I am not a naturalized Japanese it is easier for me to write this thing off and not take it so seriously, however for non Japanese that have chosen to naturalized in Japan I definitely could see how this could be a bit of salt in the wound. I know Asian groups in the U.S. usually speak very very loud when this type of stuff happens (and the Japanese speak the loudest)

    Let’s see how the corporate folks at McD’s spin this “Charlie Foxtrot” of a campaign

  • And where is the out roar for non White?

    What about that Coca-Cola ad featuring all people well dressed except the Black guy? Dressed so stereotypical… thats way more racist than the MCdonalds ad.

    And I dont see you guys bitching about it.

    — You bitch about it to them then. We can’t be everywhere at once.


    Sendaiben Says:
    08/21/09 at 10:26 pm
    The people complaining about this ad live in Japan, pay taxes here, and in some cases have naturalised and become Japanese citizens. Of course from the outside it doesn’t seem like a big deal -it isn’t going to affect your lives or the way your children are treated in school or on the street.

    We find this campaign reinforces unwelcome stereotypes that affect our lives here. I have been denied housing, bank loans, and even entry to businesses specifically because of my race/nationality. By pandering to the ‘hapless foreigner’ stereotype, McDonald’s is reinforcing the idea that non-Japanese cannot speak Japanese or conduct themselves properly in Japan.

    A multinational corporation like McDonald’s should be more careful about the subliminal messages they put out, and we are just trying to bring that to their attention.


    And you know who they’ll blame, as they wander off with their Tsukimi Burger gripped between their fingers…

    “Hey, that junk will kill you. Where’d you get it?”

    “Huh? Oh, uh, I got it from some foreigner in Shibuya…”

    [sop to Sakai Noriko &co]

  • It is up to the group being offended to decide if they are offended. The group cited here are white residents in Japan – not whites who live in America, or elsewhere, and DO NOT speak Japanese.

    Example: An African immigrant in the U.S. may not be offended by a black caricature saying “I’s loves me fried chicken” but a native-born black American WOULD be offended. This ad is THAT bad. Think about it.

    White people in America have NO IDEA what it is like to be a minority as are caucasions in Japan.

    This ad reinforces several stereotypes in how the average Japanese person views caucasions (even those born in Japan, and with Japanese passports):

    1) Whites cannot speak proper Japanese – this is the cornerstone of racism around the world – “they” cannot speak “our” language properly.

    2) Whites love everything Japanese.

    3) Whites are not cool.

    4) You call ALL white people by their FIRST name, even in a society where EVERYONE goes by their LAST name (separate systems for differenct races – sound familiar?)

    I know… let’s call all white people Mr. + LAST NAME, and all black people by their FIRST NAMES!!!!!

    All of this is in this ad…

    Are we on the same page yet???

  • CokeMan said:

    And I dont see you guys bitching about it.

    Debito replied:
    – You bitch about it to them then. We can’t be everywhere at once.

    Previously, Debito also said:

    Likewise, we do not think these attitudes perpetuating stereotypes of ethnic minorities within their respective societies should be promoted anywhere by a multinational corporation […]

    Why the double standard? Can FRANCA not send out a similar letter to Coca-Cola, another
    multinational corporation of influence?

    This is a serious question.

    — We’ve only just gotten started. Cut us some slack. And you’re welcome to join FRANCA and take this up yourself.

    Anyway, the point remains: You got a gripe with a company’s business practices, go ahead and gripe to them. We’re doing what we can, feel free to do the same.

  • Perhaps every white person living in Japan, should go to their local McD, with a pair of black spectacles, and speak very very poor Japanese and reinforce all the sterotypes a hundred fold and gauge the reaction from the staff…then when comes the predicated reply, just point to the ad. campaign, saying, if you understand Mr.James and love him so much, why can’t you understand me, ??

  • Jean Patrick says:

    Yeah! next time the hoken bills come to my door I will dress like “mista jeemuz” and try some stupid stuff like Nippon Sugoi, apare, Tamaran while asking for a reconsideration of taxations to see if they are going to be amused by that. actually sounds good!


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