Does This Volkswagen ‘Jamaican’ Commercial Cross A Racist Line?

Jan 29, 2013

Screen shot from Volkswagen commercial. Watch the spot by scrolling down to the last paragraph

With the Super Bowl only a few short days away, anticipation is building up for the superstar lineup of commercials.  The spots are widely known to be the products of endless hours of brainstorming, and deeper pockets than the average citizen can fathom.

For about $3.8 million per 30-second slot, German car company Volkwagen is going out on a limb with a fun-loving one minute piece featuring Anglos and an Asian speaking in a Jamaican accent.  It features Dave, a white man from Minnesota going around his office speaking in a thick Jamaican accent, and trying to infect his downtrodden coworkers with “Get Happy” vibes.

By some accounts, the commercial crosses a racial line.

On a recent MSNBC segment, Barbara Lippert of calls the voice characterization of Jamaicans racist. She adds that the ad is “just saying that black people are happy,” and doubts that the company will actually run it during the Super Bowl. 

According to a USA Today analysis, the one minute spot could be costing the company up to $10 million dollars.   That would be a heck of an expense for something that never runs, and would be something of a “failure on the world's largest ad stage.”

So watch the commercial here (opens in a different window) and tell us: is the commercial racist, or is this an instance of racial oversensitivity?