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

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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.

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

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  • 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.

  • @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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • “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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!!!

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

  • 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… ;-).

  • 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”.

  • 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。
    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。
    お客様からのメールを拝見いたしました。

    この度は、弊社キャンペーンにつきまして貴重なご意見頂き、
    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

  • 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.

  • 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。

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

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