Mastercard’s ‘Meet the Family’ commercial promotes perpetual foreigner stereotype

by guest contributor Michelle Leung

mastercard meet the familyIn one of MasterCard’s recent commercials, initially titled “Meet the Family,” a white/Asian couple celebrates their engagement and makes arrangements for their parents to meet each other. With all deep racial-psychological implications aside, I initially loved the MasterCard commercial, just because an interracial couple (especially white/Asian ones) was finally featured in a commercial, and I found it to be “cutesy” and reminiscent of my own interracial relationship.

However, after reading several comments from other readers on Racialicious, I realized that I did have a major bone to pick with the commercial. It also led me to somewhat understand certain people’s view towards white men dating Asian women: that Asians/Asian women, even if born in the US, will continued to be viewed by the mainstream media/society as “exotic” and un-American/foreign.

(By the way, judging from priceless.com, the site of MasterCard’s commercials and photos, the commercial’s title has been changed to “Meet the Japanese Parents.”)

Now the commercial started to incense me a bit, based on how the Asian mate in the commercial, once again, just has to be from a foreign country (Japan), whereas her white fiancé’s family is from Chicago. This reinforces the mainstream media’s view that white = American. Once again, Asians are condemned to having to answer questions of our possible un-American birthplace of origin for the rest of our lives.

Judging from my personal observation, black Americans who grew up in a predominantly white community like myself (while they obviously have other serious racial issues to contend with) don’t have to worry about feeling un-American. They don’t have to deal with questions from so-called well-meaning members of the majority. Questions like: “Your name’s Jane Smith? But you’re Asian!” to an Asian adoptee. To a US-born Asian who lacks a foreign accent, “You speak English so well!”. And the worst one: “Where are you really from?”

If an African-American says he/she is from Cleveland to a white person who asks, “Where are you from?” the white person seems to accept the answer. But if an Asian-American born in the US answers that question, then that person, in disbelief, goes further and asks, “No, where are you really from?” One of my few Asian friends, a Filipino born in Ohio, told me that he was even asked, “How do you like this country?”

So, if Mastercard replaced the Asian mate with a black one in the commercial, I think they probably would have omitted the international flights because they wouldn’t have tried to make the black mate foreign.

Ironically, in my relationship, I am the “American.” I’m Chinese-American, born and raised near Chicago, and my boyfriend is a Polish immigrant. At first glance you might think he’s the “American” just because he’s white, and you might think I’m the foreigner here. But once we open our mouths, any cultural ignoramus would definitely be surprised.

It’d be hilarious if MasterCard did the commercial where the Asian girl is American-born with 3-4 generations of her family living in Chicago or San Francisco, and her white fiancé’s family comes from, say…England. (Okay, if England is a bad example, due to English being a “universal” language, let’s use a non-English speaking country, my boyfriend’s country….Poland). So, who would be the “foreigner” in that case?

Ignoramuses would probably still insist that the Asian-American girl is the foreigner.

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