When we ran the Volkswagen "Get Happy" Super Bowl Ad featuring non-black people speaking in a Jamaican accent there was a voice in the back of my head that asked "is this racist?" Racism brings in eyeballs and every editor/producer/writer gets a little media stiffy anytime they find anything remotely racist. Sadly, my racism detector didn't go off.
Of course, not everyone can resist a good story, so here's the one person in America who thinks this is shockingly racist and a bad idea. She is neither black nor Jamaican.
The woman upset at the ad is Barbara Lippert, an Editor-at-Large at MediaPost.com and she probably got a huge, raging I-get-to-go-on-TV-and-talk-bullshit erection when she saw this commercial. She is obviously tumescent with joy because she can call something racist even though everyone around her, and everyone in her life, disagrees.
But hey, I'm a super white guy, don't take my word for it. Let's ask some actual black Jamaican people. The guy in the video sounds a little bit like reggae star and 100% real Jamaican Sean Paul so TMZ smartly asked him what he thought.
Current Grammy nominee Sean tells TMZ he doesn't understand why VW's catching heat for the spot — featuring a white guy speaking in a Jamaican accent — because it's "just entertainment."
SP added it's in good taste, and "to me it's no different than the Italian accents in 'The Sopranos' or the English accent in Guy Ritchie's movies."
Sean Paul brings up a good point. Jamaican is, of course, associated with people of color, but not all Jamaicans are black. I'll concede that even a positive stereotype such as being happy can be a negative thing, but that works from the assumption that all people in a country are one color.
I watched The View this morning, as I often do, and Whoopi Goldberg also doesn't seem bothered by it. She's not Jamaican, of course, but I have to make watching The View mean something.
VW also says they focus group tested it on 100 Jamaicans and they didn't mind. I agree with Lindy West that this is a kind of hilarious as far as claims go, but not as funny as this Barbara Lippert person complaining about it.
She said she'd bet they're not going to run the ad. I'm going to bet they are. I'd like to think that her being wrong would get her banned from television, but as we all have learned, being correct doesn't have anything to do with being a pundit. In fact, it seems being wrong is the only prerequisite.