Volkswagen under fire for its “racist” Super Bowl advert
Volkswagen has been criticised for its new Super Bowl advert, in which a white man spreads the joy to his work colleagues in a Jamaican accent, which he seems to have acquired due to owning a Volkswagen.
The “Get Happy” spot will cost the car manufacturer $8 million to air during the Super Bowl.
However, its reveal on Tuesday 29 January elicited less than positive responses, with New York Times columnist Charles Blow comparing the fake accent to "black face with voices".
Similarly, Barbara Lippert, editor-at-large of Mediapost.com, said of the ad: "Didn't anyone look at this? This is so racist."
Christopher John Farley, a Jamaican-born journalist, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that it was "off-putting to see the Island spirit used as a punchline."
Adding: "The Jamaican aesthetic–shaped by such Jamaican-born notables as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and the revolutionary Nanny of the Maroons–is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness."
VW, however, has defended the spot, stating: “The concept of Volkswagen's "Get Happy" advertisement is to put a smile on your face, and continues to build upon the heritage of "human stories, told simply."
“The protagonist in the commercial is intentionally meant to portray an upbeat perspective and intelligence as he influences his co-workers to "Get Happy." His accent is intended to convey a relaxed, cheerful demeanour while encouraging a positive attitude as the antidote to a tough Monday.
“Everyone can relate to being in an office and being ground down by the pressures of work and "Get Happy" brings an optimistic, bright spirit into an otherwise mundane day.”
Additionally, executive vice president and chief marketing officer Tim Mahoney told The Huffington Post that the company consulted with 100 Jamaicans and used a dialect coach to ensure the accuracy of the actors' accents. He said: "We obviously did our homework to make sure that we weren't offensive.”