Toshiba is not just a Japanese corporation. It’s an international one, with offices all over the world. But one of its commercials for the Japanese market is being dubbed “racist”.
Below, you can watch the ad. It’s for rice maker called “SuiPanDa” that doubles as a bread maker. The ad was spotted by Debito.org.
In the commercial, the Japanese actress dons a blonde wig, wears a big nose and speaks in heavily accented Japanese. In Japan, these are stereotypes of what foreigners (here, Westerners) look like. To drive home the point that she’s playing a foreigner, the woman’s dialogue is subtitled in katakana, a writing system for foreign words.
This is just one ad in a series of spots that feature the same two businesswomen. The other commercials (here and here) are over-the-top too.
So, for some reason, Toshiba thought it would be good to mock foreigners in this one. Because mocking potential customers is good for business? Because bread equals foreigner? White bread equals a white person? Or a Japanese person dressing up like a foreigner is like a rice cooker than can bake bread? I dunno!
Everything this is exacerbated because out of a nation of 120 million people, only 2.5 million (or so) are foreigners (more here). Perhaps, Toshiba thought this commercial would be fine because it was for Japan only? But Toshiba is an international company. It should know better. Just imagine if Toshiba’s North American branch created a commercial that exaggerated a group’s physical features in ridiculous make-up and exaggerated accents.
Racist accusations aside, this is not a very good commercial! The YouTube link says “TVCM” or “television commercial”, but I have yet to see it on air.
There’s a history of this kind of stuff in Japan — heck, there’s a history of this kind of stuff everywhere. And because of that, it’s easy to shrug this off and say, well, all people are a little racist. And thus, the cycle perpetuates itself. And here we are.
It’s not OK — and worse, it’s not funny or interesting! The get-up and the accent are so tired and so base. It’s simply taking innate physical features and turning that into the gag. That’s it. Look, she has a big nose — just like a white person. Ha. Ha.
I don’t mind comedy that centres on racial or cultural differences. However, I’d argue that the bar for this type of humour is high — very high. You must be clever. You must be insightful. If you can’t do that, please, don’t bother.