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VW's 'Happy Jamaican' Super Bowl TV Spot (No Problem Or Over The Line?)

by Sergio
January 29, 2013 9:10 AM
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VW TV Spot

It's been said that more people watch the Super Bowl every year more for the ads than the actual game.

I wouldn't know since I've never watched one. Well, maybe, I think I did once for about 15 minutes until I got bored and switched the channel. But I'm not here to talk about me but about Volkswagen's new TV commercial for this year's Super Bowl,  which since it's been leaked on online yesterday,  has been getting plenty of comments and all of them not favorable.

The ad, for VW's new redesigned Beetle, features a group of a bland and bored white and Asian employees in some nondescript office building who are constantly faced with one of their smiling, cheerful and laid back white co-workers.

Except that the guy speaks in a Jamaican accent, which we find out at the end is the result of  the happy feeling he gets driving his new Beetle.

Of course the questions arise.

Why does he have to speak in a Jamaican accent? Why could the guy had the same attitude, but speaking in his natural voice?  Is the commercial implying that a carefree, lazy attitude towards work and life is a "black" thing?

Then again they could have gotten a black guy for the part, but that would have made a bad situation even worse resulting in all sorts of angry complaints about stereotypes.

Or are the complaints about this ad taking everything way out of proportion and this is just a stupid ad and nothing else?

What do you say?

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  • viv | February 1, 2013 6:03 PMReply

    mimic is the highest form of flattery. As a proud Jamaican, I was ok with this commercial.

  • donnadara | January 30, 2013 9:38 AMReply

    Strange. Doesn't make me want to buy a VW. I'm going with T. Renee, too many non-matching elements.

  • zo | January 29, 2013 6:42 PMReply

    smoke some weed Mon and enjoy the commercial

  • lauren | January 29, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    Cute and harmless...

  • Geneva Girl | January 29, 2013 4:53 PMReply

    My Jamaican husband and I had a good laugh. He said that the accent wasn't bad for an American. He saw no harm in it, neither did I. It was in good spirit. Sometimes, a commercial is just about having fun and not much else.

  • artbizzy | January 29, 2013 2:14 PMReply

    What this commercial is really reflecting is the attitude that has arisen out of the tourism culture that pervades Jamaica and contributes greatly to the economy even though most of the people still live in poverty...hmmm. Anyway, if you have money to spend to go to a resort you will be treated well by smiling Jamaicans doing their job. If you aren't particularly in an insightful mood then you will believe that this is the essential nature of Jamaicans and you probably wouldn't consider the fact that Jamaicans are human beings with a variety of ways of being like everybody else. You will also not want to think for a moment about Jamaica history since it isn't taught too much in American schools. Because if a person did they would have to reflect on how "Jamaicans" even got to the island of Jamaica and all they endured there. Therefore if you are a tourist it's much safer and easier to just think of Jamacians as weed smoking laid back people with an easy way of life. And "white Jamaicans" aren't necessarily white people born and raised in Jamaica. A white Jamacan often means that you are of mixed race and look more white than you do black and often because of this the so called "white Jamaican" has a few more priviliges. This light-hearted commercial is quintessentially American and only concerned with selling its product by whatever dopey means necessary.

  • Nadell | January 29, 2013 1:34 PMReply

    Of the year's wasted TV ads, this would be included in my book.
    VW could have opted to have a black man with a country accent down in Gatorville South somewhere telling his boss and co-workers 'CHOOT EM' while the theme song for the "Golden Girls" was playing in the background and it would've made no difference in not having sense...

  • QBN | January 29, 2013 12:59 PMReply

    Laid back, carefree, but not lazy. It's not just a Jamaican thing, it's applies to the Caribbean in general. They have a more balanced approach to life imo..

  • Darkan | January 29, 2013 12:24 PMReply

    It was a fun commercial. I'm usually very militant about these things but this one doesn't offend anyone unless of course you're Jamaican. Actually the commercial honors the Jamaican culture by attributing to them that they are a culture that lives with a stressless attitude and sees things with a positive perspective. It's not like they had the characters listening to Bob Marley, wearing bright colors and smoking big spliffs.

  • Marie | January 29, 2013 11:09 AMReply

    I agree with Sphinx regarding the idea of the expected vs. the unexpected. Although some of us know that there are actually white Jamaicans, most ignorant Americans probably don't know that and will see a white guy with a Jamaican accent as unexpected and therefore funny. What bothers me is that there are ZERO black people in the office. First, it suggests that blacks are absent from offices. Second, and more importantly, it would've been MUCH funnier to see his black colleagues or a black Jamaican reacting to his accent. Otherwise, this isn't nearly as offense as Jar Jar Binks!

  • Sphinx | January 29, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    I have a slightly different take... And believe me, much to the chagrin of my wife and daughter, I am apparently a bit TOO sensitive to stereotyping in ads (like the overweight, jive talking black wife in the new Progressive Flo ad...) Anyway, I think they're also making fun of the expected vs. the unexpected. Clearly, none of these guys looks like they'd have that sort of accent. Instead, I would have, at the end, had a dreadlocked black guy chastising them for being late with a straight, "corporate" sounding voice. But all in all, I get the ad.

  • getthesenets | January 29, 2013 10:07 AMReply

    "carefree, LAZY attitude"? quite a stretch isn't it?

    not lazy more like laid back

    When we were in school....and I'm not making this could tell which students were from metro NYC area by the pace of their natural walk....quick paced....people from out west...just had a more laid back vibe to them...didn't make them lazy or anything of the sort..just more laid back

    Students from the islands tended to be even more laid back....

    gonna view the video later, and maybe I'll read more into it but at face value but sounds like a reach...

    better yet...I'll let the Jamaicans weigh in gauge whether or not it's offensive to them...and even if the accent is "Jamaican" to their ears....

  • robert hayes | January 29, 2013 9:50 AMReply

    sweeten your coffee!

  • T Renee | January 29, 2013 9:49 AMReply

    fake jamaican accent, german car, and partridge family song...back to the brainstorming session!

  • Jim | January 29, 2013 9:39 AMReply

    Pfft. Don't many native white Jamaicans talk with the same accent? Also, doesn't that accent say more about stoner culture than race?

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