japan's new mcdonald's mascot: a geeky white guy!

In Japan, the McDonald's marketing campaign is apparently drawing criticism from the country's foreign-born population. This has been getting some interesting play on the blogs, but I didn't feel particularly compelled to write about it because, frankly, I'm less than sympathetic about their plight. But it's been getting some mainstream attention, so here goes...

What's got them unnerved is Mr. James, a geeky, bespectacled white guy who speaks mangled Japanese, and is the star of the latest McDonald's ad campaign for its new burger line, the "Nippon All Stars": Not Everyone Is Lovin' Japan's New McDonald's Mascot.

Mr. James, dressed in a buttoned-up red polo shirt, tie and khakis, is described as "a 43-year-old Japanophile born in Ohio with a penchant for travel, who, when particularly excited, generously treats people he doesn't even know." Basically, he's something of a stereotype.

This is apparently offensive to some non-Japanese residents, who say the character is embarrassing, culturally ignorant, and will only make life more difficult for foreigners living and working in Japan.

Fascinating to see what it looks like when the tables are turned, isn't it? Do the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens' Association of Japan have a point? Is Mr. James an offensive stereotype? Maybe. Probably.

I'm not going to attempt to say that Asians-making-fun-of-white-people is somehow okay because, hey, white American media sticks it to us in advertising all the time -- it's karma. No, I'm not going there (though believe me, I have been running this blog for a long time, and I have seen things).

That said, I have to ask -- how does it feel? How does it feel to suddenly be on the receiving end of an ad campaign's crappy cultural stereotype? How does it feel, for once, to have to give a shit and be offended about the way you are portrayed in the media? Yeah. It sucks, doesn't it? This one time, I mean.

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