The TV spot I saw was created for the Georgia Lottery and is a continuation of an effort that's been running since 2007. The one I saw was bad. The original spot, which I found online, was worse. It incorporated a full cast of Asians pulled together to promote KENO, one of the many games of chance offered by the Georgia Lottery.
While I applaud BBDO Atlanta for casting such a wide number of Asians and, presumably, Asian-American actors, I found the storyline offensive. Please allow me to explain:
1) The banter that occurs at the bar and in the rest of the spot is pure gibberish. Because the banter is meaningless and exaggerated, it creates a mockery of the Chinese language. And, based on my experience as a community leader, creating a spot that incorporates such meaningless discourse just invites people to mock the way some Asians, particularly recent immigrants, talk. Many Asian-American leaders still remember when actor Rosie O'Donnell used a commonly used racial slur, "Ching-Chong, Ching-Chong," to mimic how she believes many Asians converse with one another. Creating a spot with exaggerated accents also helps to fuel stereotypes about Asian Americans and other communities with large immigrant populations.
2) Showing Asians acting in subservient roles, as the woman is cast in this particular TV spot, perpetuates another common stereotype that we, as Asian Americans, are trying to dispel. Asian women are often objectified in TV, print ads and on billboards as obsequious, obedient sub-human servants or as mysterious, exotic sex kittens that serve at the pleasure of domineering, older men. Yeah, maybe this happened in 189 B.C. as the commercial suggests, but seeing these images on modern-day TV is tired. Very tired. Can't we be a bit more creative?
3) The costumes, use of martial arts weapons, exaggerated accents, music and voice-over are also very offensive. These images and sounds are demeaning and perpetuate negative and damaging myths about Asian culture. Our community does not wish to be portrayed as mysterious or exotic. And we certainly don't want to be cast as zany masters of martial arts and mysticism. Instead, we are looking for fresh roles that cast us as real people. Contemporary people. People who live everyday lives like most Americans.
Clearly this ad was not meant to offend anyone; and arguably, this ad wasn't directed specifically to Asians or Asian-American consumers. However, when a state entity such as the Georgia Lottery approves of such a TV spot, they are saying that it's OK to use stereotypes, misguided imagery and exaggerated accents to promote one of their products to a larger and wider audience.
I frankly expect more from one of my favorite states. I welcome your comments.