Article: McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) is closing 430 restaurants in Japan, the latest sign of the faltering economy in the Asian country… The Golden Arches has been struggling in Japan for a while. Last year, a marketing campaign featuring “Mr. James,” a geeky, Japan-loving American, was denounced as an offensive flop, according to Time.com. McDonald’s has tried to appeal to Japanese tastes with wassabi burgers, chicken burgers and sukiyaki burgers. A Texas Burger, with barbecue sauce, fried onions, bacon, cheese and spicy mustard, proved to be a hit. But consolidated sales at McDonald’s Japan fell 10.8% last year. Profit is expected to plunge 54.7% this year.
COMMENT: Kinda makes you believe in karma. Zamaa miro.
Funny thing, this. We get KFC Australia doing a hasty retreat from its controversial commercial days after it goes viral on YouTube, and pulling it pretty quickly.
Now contrast with the ad campaign by another American-origin fast-food multinational, McDonalds. For those who don’t know, between August and November of last year McDonalds Japan had that White gaijin stereotype “Mr James” speaking katakana and portraying NJ as touristy outsiders who never fit in. More on what I found wrong with that ad campaign here.
Yet the “Mr James” ad campaign never got pulled. In fact, the reaction of some Asians in the US was, “Karma’s a bitch”, as in White people in Japan deserve this sort of treatment because of all the bad treatment they’ve foisted on Asians overseas in the past. Still others argue that we can’t expect Japan to understand the history of other countries, or how they feel about certain sentiments found overseas, and one shouldn’t foist their cultural values onto other cultures (this argument usually pops up when one sees minstrel blackface shows etc in Japan). This argument was also made in comments to this blog as well.
But KFC pulls the ad, in contrast to “Mr James”, where people rushed to defend it in the name of cultural relativism. Why the difference?
I’m not saying I have the answer to this question. So I bring it up for discussion here on Debito.org. What do readers think?
Bit of a tangent but not really. Here’s what happens when another multinational apparently caters to “regional sensibilities” — this time Microsoft photoshopping out an African-American in one of its ads to cater to a Polish audience.
Contrast with “Mr James”. We see none of the cultural relativity that the whole McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” issue got (or even claims of “just-deserts” from certain parties). And Microsoft even apologizes — something McDonald’s Japan has steadfastly refused to do (and still runs the “Mr James” campaign to this day; fortunately it finishes shortly). Any theories behind the difference?
日本マクドナルドが八月から展開しているNIPPONALL STARSキャンペーンのキャラクター「Mr. ジェームス」に対し、「偏見と固定観念に満ちたガイジン像」と在日外国人らが抗議している。
Hello McDonald’s USA:
You might be interested to read my column in the Japan Times talking about what’s wrong with McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” Campaign. Also articles in SF Chronicle, TIME, SCMP, and more. Perhaps it’s time to consider pulling the plug on this campaign before it embarrasses your organization any further?
UPDATE: Even Subway Sandwiches lets their NJ character shills speak in proper Japanese. Why not McDonald’s Japan?
UPDATE 2: McDonald’s USA responded within 24 hours with another “Dear John” letter, the same one sent verbatim to all complainants, stressing the lack of intent to offend and that we should take it up with McD’s Japan. Taraimawashi.
SF Chronicle: “What’s the matter [with this depiction]? Put the shoe on the other foot,” wrote foreigner-rights advocate Debito Arudou (nee David Ardwinckle) [sic] in a column for The Japan Times. “Imagine McDonald’s, a multinational that has long promoted cultural diversity, launching a McAsia menu in America, featuring a deep-bowing, grimacing Asian in a bathrobe and platform sandals saying, ‘Me likee McFlied Lice!’ or, ‘So solly, prease skosh honorable teriyaki sandrich?'”
Of course, in the past, McDonald’s has essentially done just that. During last year’s Olympics, it unveiled a commercial featuring two Chinese kids engaged in high-flying wire-fu combat in an ancient temple, dueling it out with fists and feet and chopsticks over the last McNugget in the pack.
Seeing that ad brought back memories of McDonald’s limited-edition “Shanghai” Chicken McNuggets, which briefly appeared on menus back in 1986. Served in a red takeout box stamped with cartoon-Chinese lettering, they came with a fortune cookie, chopsticks and three absurdly non-Shanghainese dippings: “duck sauce,” hot mustard and … teriyaki sauce.
Worst of all, to complete the pseudo-Sino experience, the chain’s employees were forced to wear conical McCoolie hats — a bit of irony given their minimum-wage status — while commercials ended with mascot-clown Ronald McDonald throwing a karate chop to faux Asian music.
Lame, ignorant campaigns like this one may seem innocuous. But they give people license to mock and exclude people based on racial or cultural difference, which in turn can lead down a slippery slope to more troubling outcomes…
I personally have three tests for whether stereotyping is offensive or unfair: 1) Does it suit the purposes of humor and satire, or is it just mean-spirited? 2) Has it any redeeming social value? 3) Is there turnabout in fair play?
Regarding 1), yes, I grant that Mr. James is disarmingly funny. However, it still takes mean, cheap shots at foreigners for a purported lack of language ability. Allow me to elaborate from decades of personal experience what this stereotype does.
When asked if the Japanese language is difficult, I say it isn’t. What’s difficult is talking to Japanese people. One has to overcome so much ingrained baggage — often instilled from childhood in approved textbooks — that foreigners, particularly the non-Asians, are “guests and outsiders” — illiterate, inscrutable and incomprehensible. Thanks to this, I dare say that in the majority of random interactions, foreigners who do not “look Japanese” have to prove every day to new listeners that they speak Japanese just fine.
It’s like having to untangle your headphones before you listen to music. Every. Single. Time. And Mr. James just pulls the knots tighter…
At a convenience store (Lawsons) in deep south Shikoku, we have a sports drink company which uses an alien character to promote its products. Visual:
Note that like McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” Character, he too speaks katakana.
But UNlike “Mr James”, even the space alien speaks kanji!
Somebody please explain to me again why space aliens but not Caucasians are allowed to speak in more natural Japanese? We can’t use the “island society” mentality against fellow humans, can we?
Either way, this helps to show just how alienating this “Mr James” campaign actually is.
Hi Blog. Take a look at my column today in the Japan Times, where I make the case with historical context that McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” campaign is something that should be discontinued. I’ll have the full text up here for comment here hopefully tomorrow for comment. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090901ad.html Arudou Debito in southern Shikoku
TIME Magazine: But elsewhere, Mr. James, dressed in his buttoned-up red polo shirt, tie and khakis, is seen as playing to Japan’s xenophobic tendencies. Annoyed expats have described the character as “white, dorky” and speaking “mangled Japanese.” The chair of The Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens’ Association of Japan, Arudo Debito — a naturalized Japanese citizen born David Aldwinckle — has officially protested the Mr. James campaign with a letter to McDonald’s Corporation headquarters in Illinois. Soon after the ads started to roll out, somebody set up an “I hate Mr. James” Facebook group, which now has 67 members.
Debito considers the characterization of “a clumsy sycophantic ‘nerd'” an embarrassment. “If this were in a different country, and we had a Japanese in a [summer kimono] and [wooden sandals] saying ‘Me like Mcflied lice, please eato,’ we’d have the same sort of anti-defamation league speaking out and saying this is disparaging to Asians or Japanese,” says Debito. He says the campaign’s portrayal of non-Japanese as “unquestioningly supportive and culturally ignorant” will only make life more difficult for foreigners in Japan.
McDonald’s Japan seems to be tweaking the “Mr James” campaign in a more positive direction: 1) Losing the katakana tray inserts, 2) Giving him a more endearing backstory, 3) Having him speak in hiragana too, not just katakana, 4) Not featuring him in more international neighborhoods of Japan. Readers, confirm, deny, or expand?
These are all evidence that McDonald’s Japan is taking complaints about this campaign seriously. But I still say the campaign must be suspended entirely. They may be trying to make him a character with more redeeming characteristics. But he’s still, in my book, a gaijin — an epithet made flesh; that’s how he was designed, and now McDonald’s Japan, for better or worse, is saddled with him.
“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.
Here is the Japanese translation for FRANCA letter protesting the “Mr James” burger campaign currently underway at McDonald’s Japan. You can see the original English here.
Please feel free to copy and send this letter to McDonald’s yourself via their feedback inlets on their website. Better yet, take it to your local McDonald’s doing this campaign, ask for the manager, and hand them this letter to express your disgruntlement. You can download the Word version of it here:
Please also consider not buying food at McDonald’s for the duration of this (three-month) campaign. Maybe tell the manager that when you submit your letter.
Talked to the media yesterday. An article on this issue should be appearing in the South China Morning Post tomorrow (Friday). It’s already appeared on Consumerist.com…
To McDonald’s USA corporate headquarters:
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:
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 (“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):
Table of Contents:
1) JT’s Philip Brasor on BBC QI show and atomic-bombings and “victim ownership of historical narrative”
2) Kyodo: MOFA Survey shows divided views on GOJ signing of child custody pact
3) Japan Times on what needs to be deregulated for Japan’s future as an Asian business hub
4) NYT: Japan society puts up generational roadblocks, wastes potential of young
5) Weekend Tangent: Economist.com compares GDPs of US states with whole countries
6) DEBITO.ORG PODCAST FEBRUARY 1, 2011
7) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column Feb 1, 2011: “Naturalized Japanese: foreigners no more” (full text)
8 ) Japan Times JBC/ZG Column Jan 4, 2010: “Arudou’s Alien Almanac 2000-2010” (full text, Director’s Cut)
In this podcast:
Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 18, “Unlike Humans, Swine Flu is Indiscriminate”, on the the lessons to be learned from Japan’s public panic due to the Swine Flu Pandemic, and how to avoid discrimination arising from it (August 4, 2009)
Japan Times ZEIT GIST Community Page Article 51/JUST BE CAUSE Column 19, ” McDonald’s Japan’s “Mr James” campaign: Why these stereotyping advertisements should be discontinued”. (September 1, 2009)
Plus interim excerpts from Tangerine Dream “White Eagle” and an excerpt of another song from Duran Duran’s most recent album, “All You Need is Now”. Title: “Being Followed”.
22 minutes. Enjoy!
What follows is the Table of Contents for an information packet I will be presenting Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants Jorge A. Bustamante, who will be visiting Japan and holding hearings on the state of discrimination in Japan. Presented on behalf of our NGO FRANCA (Sendai and Tokyo meetings on Sun Mar 21 and Sat Mar 27 respectively).
It’s a hefty packet of about 500 pages printed off or so, but I will keep a couple of pockets at the back for Debito.org Readers who would like to submit something about discrimination in Japan they think the UN should hear. It can be anonymous, but better would be people who provide contact details about themselves.
Last call for that. Two pages A4 front and back, max (play with the fonts and margins if you like). Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org by NOON JST Thursday March 18, so I can print it on my laser printer and slip it in the back.
Here’s what I’ll be giving as part of an information pack. I haven’t written my 20-minute presentation for March 23 yet, but thanks for all your feedback on that last week, everyone…
DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 27, 2010
Table of Contents:
WHY THINGS DON’T CHANGE
1) Dejima Award for racist Sumo Kyoukai: Decides to count naturalized Japanese as foreigners and limit stables to one “foreigner”
(this will be the subject of my next JAPAN TIMES JUST BE CAUSE column, due out March 2, 2010)
2) Colin Jones and Daily Yomiuri on J judiciary’s usurpingly paternal attitudes re families post-divorce
3) SMJ/NGO combined report for UN CERD Committee regarding Japan’s human rights record
4) Kyodo & Mainichi: 14 prefectures now oppose NJ PR suffrage (Debito.org names them)
WHY THINGS ARE CHANGING
5) International community serves demarche to MOFA re Int’l Child Abductions Issue, Jan 30 2010
6) Int’l Child Abductions Issue: USG formally links support to GOJ re DPRK abductions with GOJ’s signing of Hague Treaty
7) Japan Times: Foreign press pulling out of Japan in favor of China
8 ) Kyodo: NJ “Trainees” win Y17 million for trainee abuses by employer and “broker”
9) DailyFinance.com: McDonald’s Japan loses big, shutting 430 outlets, thanks in part to “Mr James” campaign
10) Japan Times: Immigration dropping social insurance requirement for visa renewal
11) Comfort Hotel Nagoya unlawfully tries Gaijin Card check on NJ resident, admits being confused by GOJ directives
THEN THERE IS OUTRIGHT NASTINESS
12) Tokyo Edogawa-ku LDP flyer, likens granting NJ PR suffrage to UFO alien invasion. Seriously.
13) Mainichi: Rwandan Refugee applicant jailed for weeks for not having photograph on GOJ-issued document
14) Ariel updates experience with not-random Gaijin Card and Passport Checks by Narita cops
15) Day Care Center in Tokorozawa, Saitama teaches toddlers “Little Black Sambo”, complete with the epithets
16) Kyodo et.al falls for NPA spins once again, headlines NJ “white collar crime” rise despite NJ crime fall overall
17) Laura Petrescu, MEXT Scholar, update: Bowing out of Japan, reasons why.
18) Olympic Tangent: US-born Reed siblings skate for “Team Japan” despite one being too old to have dual nationality
19) UK Independent: Toyota’s problems being pinned on foreign parts.
20) Debito.org Poll: “Are you rooting for Team Japan in the Vancouver Olympics?” Vote on any blog page http://www.debito.org
21) LA Times: “Korea activists target foreign English teachers”
22) Odd treatment of “naturalized” people (guess who) by Air Canada/Canadian Government at Narita Airport
23) Dentistry in Canada, wow, what a difference!
… and finally …
24) SAPPORO SOURCE DEBITO column on Middle Age (full text)
Table of Contents:
1) Query: What to do about J children being rude towards NJ adults? (also Debito.org Poll on the subject)
2) Discussion: KFC Australia’s “racist” CM vs McD Japan’s “Mr James”
3) NZ publisher prints “Tales of Gaijin”; I have to withdraw submission due to rubric I cannot accept
4) Fukushima Prefectural Tourist Information website advertises that now 318 of its hotels refuse NJ clients
5) GAIJIN HANZAI Magazine becomes a “Taboo” topic in a 2007 magazine, victimizing J publisher
6) A Debito.org Reader updates on Toyoko Inn’s discriminatory treatment of NJ clients
7) Asahi Shinbun Jan 8 “Japan edges closer to signing Hague Convention” on Child Abductions issue, still mentions NJ “DV concerns”
8 ) Mainichi: New real estate guarantor service set up for NJ residents
9) Getchan on Japan Post’s recent anti-terrorism half-measures regarding parcels
10) DNA checks of “hakujin” at my university (?!?)
… and finally …
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Jan 5 with my top ten NJ human rights issues for 2009 (full text)
read aloud in
DEBITO.ORG PODCAST JANUARY 10, 2010
A magazine on “Taboos”, sent to me more than two years ago, tells the story of the reactionary gaijin who took the “Gaijin Hanzai Ura File” mook to task for the lies and hate speech it was spreading on convenience store newsstands nationwide (substantiation of that all here). And portrays that pitifully misunderstod publisher, Eichi Shuppan Inc., which went bankrupt within two months of releasing that mook, as victim.
It has quotes from me (even of me laughing) that it never garnered through any interviews (they apparently talked to Eichi, but I received no communication from this publication), and shows me as some sort of fearsome activist (thanks, I guess). It of course offers no counterarguments to Eichi’s spurious published assertions, for example about the rise of NJ crime (I would have given those counterarguments if they’d only asked), accepting their assertions at face value. And of course we have no real debate on whether or not the book was actually telling the truth or not (obviously, as I argued in many venues, it wasn’t). For all the research they did pulling my written quotes out of context, they didn’t cite my questions of the veracity of the portrayals that assiduously at all.
In other words, it’s a debate that once again favors and victimizes Team Japan. Those poor victimized convenience stores responding to public pressure (yeah, like that worked for “Mr James”; McDonald’s basically ignored us). It couldn’t just be that the stores carrying the mook were convinced by our arguments about its exaggerated and errant claims and hateful tone now, could it? Naw, Japanese lost to the foreigners, therefore the foreigners didn’t fight fair. And now because of that, we have yet another “taboo” that hurts We Japaneses’ Freedom of Speech. Hardly a “taboo” here. You overdid it, and lost the debate. That’s all.
Table of Contents:
1) Debito’s decade 2000-2009 in review
2) Debito.org Blog Poll: What do you consider the TOP THREE NJ human rights events of 2009 in Japan? (More in Japan Times Jan 5)
3) Oguri’s “Darling wa Gaikokujin” becomes a movie, with parody cartoon about the “Darling Dream” being sold by all this
FUN STUFF AND TANGENTS
4) Book review of “Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me” (Pubs Simon and Schuster). Yes, that is the title.
5) Holiday Tangent: My Movie Review of AVATAR in 3D
6) LIFER! cartoon on “End-Year Holiday Activities in Japan”
7) Haagen Daz ice cream excludes Indians from sampling the latest flavor — in India!
BUSINESS AS USUAL
8 ) Proof positive that some people really do suck: JT responses to proposals for a Japanese immigration policy
9) Yonatan Owens’ excellent riposte Letter to the Editor
10) Guest blog post by Steve on “How to get the Japanese public to demand a non-discrimination law”
11) Yomiuri: Scriveners aid illegal marriages, work
12) DR on dealing with GOJ border fingerprinting: sandpaper down your fingers
… and finally …
13) Next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out January 5, on the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2009 (get a copy!)
Happy New Year, Blog. As a smaller post to start off 2010, let me ask readers what they think the most important NJ human rights events (I won’t say “advances”, as I consider 2009 to be pretty mixed) were last year? I’ve put them as a blog poll on the right so you can vote (choose three), but below are the ones that come to my mind, in no particular order (if you think I’ve missed any, Comments Section).
I’ll be ranking them myself in my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column out January 5, so have a read!
Table of Contents:
CHILD ABDUCTION ISSUE STILL HAS LEGS
1) Letter from US Senators Boxer and Corker to Obama re Child Abductions, for his Nov 12 visit to Japan
2) Joint statement by eight governments re Japan’s untenable stance on international child abductions
3) Global Post’s Justin McCurry on Savoie Child Abduction Case. Issue isn’t passe yet.
4) Letter to Prime Minister Hatoyama regarding Child Abductions and legislative lag, from a Left-Behind Parent
5) MSNBC.com/AP on left-behind dads in Japan regardless of nationality
FALLOUT FROM ISSUES OF LABOR, HISTORY, IMMIGRATION, DOLPHIN AND OTHER SLAUGHTERS
6) Mainichi: Numerous foreign trainees forced to work under harsh conditions in Japan, even to death
7) Mainichi: Chinese trainees file complaint with labor bureau over 350 yen per hour overtime
8 ) Sakanaka Hidenori’s latest paper on assimilation of NJ now translated into English, full text
9) Economist.com BANYAN column on DPJ moves to right historical wrongs
10) Fallout from “The Cove”: TV’s “South Park” takes on Japan’s dolphin slaughters and whale hunts
11) Tangent: Microsoft apologizes for photoshopping out black man from its Poland advertising. Contrast with “Mr James”
12) Tangent: Japan Times reporter Eric Johnston on getting freelance reporting jobs in Japan
13) Tokyo International Players present “Honiefaith”, true story of NJ murder, Nov 6-7-8 in Shibuya’s OUR SPACE Theater
14) New Debito.org Poll: “What should be the DPJ’s NUMBER ONE priority policy for helping NJ in Japan?”
… and finally …
15) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Tues Nov 3 on Japan politicization of demographic science
Table of Contents:
MORE ON THE SAVOIE CHILD ABDUCTION CASE
1) CBS News interviews Chris Savoie after his return to US
2) Joseph pieces together plausible timeline in Savoie Case, finds for Christopher
3) Colin Jones in Japan Times: What the media attention from Savoie Child Abduction Case highlights
4) Colin Jones II: How J media is portraying J divorcees and child abductors as victims, NJ as perps
5) Asahi Shinbun Editorial: Child abduction in Japan, English Translation tweaks for NJ audience
6) CSM’s Kambayashi ties up Savoie Case, alludes to gender discrimination
7) The Atlantic Monthly on mercenary child-retrievers, mentions Japan
8 ) Foreign Policy.com: US Govt advised Chris Savoie to get children to Fukuoka Consulate! Plus lots more media.
9) The Toland Child Abduction Case: making waves in the wake of the Savoie Case
10) Wiegert Case of child custody awarded to NJ: In 1984! A precedent, anyway.
ASIDE FROM THE SAVOIE CASE
11) YouTube: right-wing xenophobia: rightists resort to street violence to shut people up
12) Query: Driver License schools now checking NJ visas? (UPDATE: Also Postal Savings)
13) Reuters on skater Yuko Kawaguchi: How Japan’s lack of dual nationality brands her a “traitor”
14) Sunday Tangent: China Daily on Chinese African-American girl facing racism in China
15) JK: recent moves by Japan’s Immigration Bureau that seem like loosening but not really
16) Tangent: Japanese family wants to become naturalized Korean citizens
17) McDonald’s “Mr James” in Shuukan Kin’youbi — the only Japanese press coverage the issue got
18) Contacting San Fran Human Rights Comm re Japan Times letter to the editor from exclusionary landlord
… and finally …
19) Presentation at Japan Writer’s Conference Sat Oct 17, Doshisha Women’s Univ.
On how to write quickly, concisely, and with panache (link to handout)
SPECIAL ON McDONALDS JAPAN’S BURGER-PROMOTING CHARACTER “MR JAMES”
Intro to the issue:
1) McDonalds Japan’s new creepy “Mr James” burger campaign, featuring katakana-speaking gaijin
2) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Sept 1 2009 on why “Mr James” is a problem
3) NPO FRANCA protest letter to McDonald’s USA HQ re “Mr James”
4) NPO FRANCA’s downloadable protest letter in Japanese
5) “I Hate ‘Mr James’ Facebook page created (not by me), now at 232 members
6) South China Morning Post on “Mr James” , quotes FRANCA
7) San Francisco Chronicle on McDonald’s Japan “Mr James” campaign, and similar ethnically-insensitive sales campaigns overseas
8 ) TIME Magazine on “Mr James”, misses point
9) McDonald’s Japan CR Director Kawaminami Junichi responds to FRANCA, no apologies or retractions
10) McDonald’s Japan “Mr James”: Reports of improvements
11) Sports drink uses katakana- and KANJI speaking alien:
Contrast with McDonald’s “Mr James” katakana-only character
12) Quick follow-up letter to McDonald’s USA “Contact us” website re “Mr James”:
Compare to Subway Sandwiches’ J-speaking NJ shills
LA Times: From his window seat in the Roppongi bar district, Neil Garscadden eyes an exotic street parade: the reggae-styled hipsters, the Nigerian nightclub hawkers, the soft-stepping geishas, the secretaries in miniskirts and impossibly heavy eye shadow.
The nuances of the scene, Garscadden insists, would be lost on a mere tourist.
This, he says, is a job for Charisma Man.
With his blue eyes, tousled blond hair and foreign passport, Charisma Man is a sake-sipping man about town, suavely negotiating the intricacies of Japanese culture. Women adore him. Men respect, even fear, him. Life in the East bends to his every whim.
“It’s great to be a Western guy in Asia,” he says. “I’ve got lots of money, chicks dig me — everybody respects me.”
Well, not everybody.
In this land of anime, Charisma Man is a comic strip character created in 1998 by Larry Rodney, a Canadian then teaching English in Nagoya, to lampoon what he saw as the absurd hubris of many Western men in Japan. Capitalizing on their novelty status, they prowled for cheap thrills, an easy paycheck and sex — not necessarily in that order. Many were slackers posing as teachers (a job for which they were underqualified) to continue the charade of their low-wattage celebrity.
[Gamba Osaka striker Leandro’s] departure has the potential to unleash catcalls that Brazilian players are only in the J-League for the money.
Well, so what if they are?
In a country where xenophobia is a softly-spoken secret – how’s this for McDonald’s latest Japanese ad campaign?– can anyone really blame Leandro for hopping on the first available flight to Doha?…
There are plenty of Brazilians in the J-League committed to the cause. Some, like the high-profile Zico, are afforded star status.
But others toil in relative anonymity, happy to ply their trade far from their homeland, struggling to overcome cultural and language barriers.
Often their contracts are terminated with no fanfare and little regard for their welfare…
It’s a draining lifestyle – one I can attest to – and I don’t begrudge a single Brazilian player who chooses to make a living in Japan, or one who departs for pastures anew.
NPO FRANCA received this morning a response from McDonald’s Japan Director of Corporate Relations, a Mr Kawaminami Junichi, regarding our protest letters in English and Japanese on the “Mr James” sales campaign.
I appreciate him taking time to respond, but he toes the line he narrated to various world media stressing the lack of intention to offend, again without discussing any of the possible ill-effects to NJ residents from stereotyping.
He also only answered in English, wish is a bit of a disappointment. I presume he doesn’t want the discussion to expand to the Japanese debate arenas. Letter follows below.
Meanwhile, I have devoted my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column to the “Mr James” phenomenon and what it might mean, with a historical context. Out Tuesday, September 1, get a copy!
Japan Times: Aso also expressed his disapproval of DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama’s willingness to give local-level suffrage to foreign nationals with permanent residency.
“Hatoyama says that Japan is not a country just for Japanese, but if that is the case, then whose country is it for?” Aso asked. “Honestly speaking, this isn’t something that will be resolved by just granting (foreigners) suffrage and it is likely that there will be many more difficult problems.”
While many lawmakers in the DPJ and New Komeito are for granting foreigners the right to vote in local elections, many conservative LDP members have expressed strong reluctance.
The prime minister added that the number of descendants of Koreans who lived in Japan before the war and were forced to take Japanese nationality at that time is declining and that “we must consider various things like whether (suffrage for foreigners) is even necessary.”