In McDonald’s New Japanese Ad Campaign, The Wacky Foreigner Joke’s on Americans

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

Put on your glasses or pop in your contacts and get a good look at the picture below, because this is what karma looks like:

Meet “Mr. James,” new face of a McDonald’s ad campaign in Japan. Mr. James is a Wacky Foreigner in Japan who speaks broken Japanese, wears the archetypal nerd uniform of glasses, a short-sleeved shirt with a tie, and ill-fitting khaki pants, has bad teeth, and–we’re only guessing here–is probably someone who’s never gotten laid. Sound familiar?

Clockwise from top left: Wacky Hiro Nakamura from Heroes, Wacky Engrish-Speaking Kentucky Fried Chicken-Grilled Chicken Lovers, I Survived a Japanese Game Show‘s Wacky Host Rome Kanda, Wacky Engrish-Speaking Six Flags Guy

Oh right. Usually THAT GUY has slanty-eyes.

Interestingly, there are some foreigners and non-natives in Japan riled up about this humiliating depiction of themselves, going so far as to compare Mr. James to Stepin Fetchit. Because there aren’t enough positive depictions of beautiful and sophisticated foreigners selling things to the Japanese, apparently. Arudou Debito, née David Aldwinckle, an American who’s become a naturalized Japanese citizen, writes:

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.”

Guess he hasn’t seen this Six Flags commercial, which began running last year, or this KFC commercial for their new Grilled Chicken, which has been running all summer.

Karma’s one wacky bitch, isn’t it?

[Japan Probe: Mr. James: McDonald’s Japan has a gaijin clown]
[Mr. James’s Official Blog]

Thanks, Josh!

Update: Jen received a lot of pushback on this post from people who, well, generally don’t think about racism unless it happens to them.  In a post titled “We Don’t Care About White People,” Jen responds:

But let’s get back to me not caring. I provided examples of Asian versions of Mr. James in my other post so as not to say, And now we’re even, but rather, Open your eyes, racial stereotyping is all around us, and actually, it’s often tolerated or ignored or dismissed, and yes, it’s sometimes even tolerated or ignored or dismissed by YOU. And that’s why I call Mr. James the face of karma. He’s getting people who don’t want to think about race issues or don’t have to think about race issues to think about them. He’s getting people who can’t be bothered or don’t see what’s wrong with stereotypes so long as they’re stereotypes of other people–the very thing Japan Probe accuses me of–to suddenly declare that negative stereotyping is bad all-around and, by golly, everyone oughta do something about that.

Well good. It’s about time more people did.

  • Louise

    I love how outraged the white community are over this!It is ridiculous. Talk about double standards!
    I won’t deny the unspoken power that just merely appearing “white” holds, and I say this in a non-congratulatory manner.
    And don’t even get me started on that Debito dude (he is mentioned in the article). Listening to a white dude living in Japan ranting on about how badly he gets treated verges on the absurd. He wouldn’t know what real racism was if it smacked him in the nose.