Volkswagen released a statement responding to allegations that its Super Bowl ad, in which a white guy from Minnesota adopts a Jamaican accent and irie attitude after getting a Beetle, is racist.
But some are calling the superimposed accent offensive. New York Times columnist Charles Blow likened the fake accent to “blackface with voices” on Soledad O’Brien’s “Starting Point.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher John Farley postulated if this is “the Jar Jar Binks of 2013.”
VW, however, defends the spot without completely addressing the race issue:
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 coworkers to “Get Happy.” His accent is intended to convey a relaxed, cheerful demeanor 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.
Monday, VW America marketing officer noted that “We actually talked to about 100 Jamaicans in the research, and we had a speech coach on site to make sure it was authentic as possible.”
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