volkswagon dont worry mon

One of the major Superbowl Sunday attractions is always the outlandish commercials and the money spent on them. One commercial already making the spotlight is Volkswagen’s “Sunny Side” ad which features a white guy named Dave expressing his happiness to his co-workers while speaking in a Jamaican accent.

At the beginning of the commercial, Dave is in an elevator with his grumpy co-workers and tells his co-workers “No worries, mon. Everyting will be all right.” Eventually the happiness becomes contagious and everyone is sitting in the backseat of Dave’s “happy mobile” with their insta-accents.

A few critics have complained about this commercial being “insensitive”. On NBC’s The Today ShowBarbara Lippert, editor-at-large at mediapost.com, said she believed the commercial was racist because it was “just saying that black people are happy.” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow said during an appearance on CNN that the advertisement was like “blackface with voices.”

Interestingly enough, Jamaican officials don’t seem to understand why everyone’s making a fuss over it.  Opposition lawmaker, Ed Bartlett feels the commercial “is a perfect illustration of Jamaican culture’s global reach and our uncharacteristic penchant to be happy even in challenging situations.”  Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill thinks the Super Bowl commercial has the potential to increase tourist arrivals. “I think this is a very creative commercial which truly taps into the tremendous appeal that brand Jamaica and its hospitable people have globally,” McNeill said in a late Tuesday statement.

Even the legendary Jimmy Cliff, who is the voice of Get Happy, is actually pretty happy with the ad. On his Facebook page he stated:

I chose to record the song that’s part of the Volkswagen Super Bowl campaign because it has a great message and it is something that people can apply to everyday life. I have travelled around the world many times, met all types of people and played in front of millions throughout my career. I have personally seen the positive effects of reggae music and Jamaican culture. I am a proud Jamaican and stand by this campaign, I feel like people need to focus on peace and unity. Blessed love.

Could it be that the majority of the people who find this commercial racist, don’t have a sense of humor and don’t realize Jamaica isn’t just made up of black people with accents, but Asian, White and Latino as well? On CNN’s Starting Point, Volkswagen’s marketing officer,Tim Mahoney said, “We actually talked to about 100 Jamaicans in the research, and we had a speech coach on site to make sure it was as authentic as possible.”

What’s your opinion? Do you think the ad is racist?

  • http://gravatar.com/afrosaxon1 afrosaxon1

    I’m British Jamaican. I have mixed feelings about the advert. On the one hand, yes not all Jamaicans are ‘black’ so technically this shouldn’t be a black issue. However, in the eyes of most non-Jamaican whites, Jamaicans are black. We all know this. I think my problem is that black culture is always portrayed as comedic in a way that white culture isn’t. I am uncomfortable with the advert for the same reason I’m uncomfortable when people wear afro wigs as comedy. It might be well intentioned, but it still reinforces the idea that our hair is comedic, unprofessional etc…
    I hate the ‘happy -go-lucky’ stereotype of Jamaicans, because white people are generally quite condescending and patronising about it. In a strange way, I find it a rather de-humanising. Maybe I’m being over-sensitive, but unfortunately the white establishment has historically acted in a way that makes me automatically suspicious of them and very protective when they use images of my culture.

  • http://gravatar.com/afrosaxon1 afrosaxon1

    “But many Jamacians said they had no problem with the commercial, so if they, like many Black Americans, can’t realize when whites are laughing at them and exploiting their image, that’s on them.”. This is a good point. Just because a culture/group accepts their exploitation, it does not mean they are not being exploited. Not saying that this is necessarily the case for the advert, but a good point nontheless.

  • Fa

    This made me laugh! I live in Barbados where white, black, and brown people speak with the thickest Bajan accents and in Jamaica it’s no different. Ya, this dude is from Minnesota but it’s a bloody good commercial.

  • Fa

    hahahahah@ Dagger!!!

  • Ajw

    How is this exploitation? We Jamaicans are not ashamed or bothered by people wanting to mimic our accent/dialect. In this particular context they are not even being condescending , if anything they are praising the optimistic and happy going mentality Jamaican culture strives to promote. Jamaicans are the last culture anyone in their right mind would attempt to minimize or make fun of in a negative way, because we’d most definitely rectify that In a way that’s not to be reckoned with.

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