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Dori Monson

Is Volkswagen's new Super Bowl ad racist?

Is this Volkswagen Beetle ad racist? Some commentators on The Today Show say it's the worst they've seen in years, but Dori thinks it's just playing on harmless stereotypes.

The ad walks viewers through a dismal office environment, where one Caucasian man with a Jamaican accent just can't stop smiling - all because of his new VW bug.

"The guy with the Jamaican accent is just a big 30-something white guy," said Dori, "and this ad is being decried as racist now."

Everyone in the office appears to have a serious case of the Mondays - until the man with the Jamaican accent takes them for a ride in his VW Beetle.

"The thing I don't understand - every single commercial on television today is about the mom and teenage kids making fun of the Phil Dunphy-type dad," said Dori. "The white dad is middle-aged and a dope, and the mom and dad are always making fun of him. We can have the most blatant, stereotypical, ridiculous caricatures of 40-year-old white dads in every single commercial on the air. But heaven forbid we have a guy talking in a Jamaican accent."

Guests on The Today Show were adamant. They had a half-hour discussion about the flaws of the commercial, featuring advertising experts.

"I was shocked. Didn't anyone look at this? This is so racist," said Today Show guest Barbara Lippman. "And maybe Jamaicans don't find it offensive, but it's just saying that black people are happy."

One commentator was able to see past some of the well-intentioned stereotypes.

"I see positivity and happiness in this ad. I love it," said Today Show guest Michelle Stalling.

Despite criticism, Volkswagen is defending the commercial. The makers of the ad said they had gone to great lengths to make sure the commercial wasn't offensive. Volkswagen of America Executive Vice President Tim Mahoney said they hired a speaking coach to make sure accents were authentic, and consulted 100 Jamaicans to make sure the ad wasn't offensive.

Jillian Raftery, KIRO Radio Editor
Jillian Raftery is an afternoon editor at KIRO Radio. She loves the neighborly vibe of the Pacific Northwest and spends as much time as possible outdoors.
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