Is the Volkswagen Super Bowl Commercial about Jamaicans Stereotypical or Racist?

The Jamaican culture is very dynamic and is not necessarily consistent with any Hollywood film portrayal. The spoken dialect of the Jamaican culture is different based on your specific location on the island and also the time period. For example, the way how someone speaks in the city of Kingston is very different from how their counterparts speak in Montego Bay. If a Jamaican were to leave the country for five years, when they return, it would be obvious that their dialect is from an earlier time period. This is because the Jamaican dialect is an evolutionary method of expression.

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Its Okay, Jamaicans Don't Mind

I was doing some research about the development of the super bowl Volkswagen commercial that references the Jamaican dialect otherwise known as patois. To my surprise, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Volkswagen, Timothy Mahoney bragged about the fact they had interviewed 100 Jamaicans and also had the blessings of the minister of tourism. That is 101 out of three million people. I wonder how much of the US $10,000,000 went into that market research.

I would have to admit that this is a complacent approach from the marketing and public relations team. The reason that they took this approach is because of their pre-conceived notion that Jamaicans are complacent and would not react in a negative way to the commercials. I would have to admit that most Jamaicans do not even care about this super bowl commercial. Racism does not even come to mind. However, a Jamaican stereotype does come to mind.

Professional Work Environment

Communication within the work environment in Jamaica is not like that portrayed in the commercial. You would be fired on spot for showing up late to work even if you drive a Volkswagen. The work environment here mostly constitutes Standard English. Within the tourism sector, the managers encourage their workers to speak to the tourist in a manner similar to that portrayed in the super bowl commercial. On the other hand, the managers demand professional communication from their workers. If the manager is a friend of the worker then probable communication in patios is okay.

“Those in the tourism industry love this Commercial”

While I was typing this review, my mother called me and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was writing an article. She said “Is it a positive vibe?” I said “Yeah mon”. This is a standard communication between two Jamaicans. This also slightly changed the tone of my written expression of the super bowl Volkswagen commercial about the Jamaican stereotypes.

Positive Vibe

The Volkswagen beetle has always been marketed to the counter culture. This would include the cool people, artistic souls, revolutionaries, hippies, peace embracers. Who better to portray this group than Jamaicans? The company is trying to make the beetle look cool. They are also trying to give an impression of positivity towards their potential customers. There is nothing wrong with that. This is how most Jamaicans perceive the advertisement.

What Some Jamaicans Say about the Super Bowl Volkswagen Commercial.

  • The common consensus is that the commercial is a sham and it is not authentic but still funny. Some Islanders thought more research should have been done in order to make the commercial even funnier and is a clear case of corporate exploitation.
  • Some Jamaicans would say that it is too commercialized and plays on the Jamaican stereotype. They are tired of being portrayed in that manner.
  • Some say it makes them look lazy within a professional environment and resent such a gesture.
  • Others say that they are being taken advantage of because of their reputation of not fighting back. They say that corporations would not do a similar commercial portraying people in the Eastern countries behaving silly.
  • Majority of Jamaicans think the Volkswagen super bowl 2013 commercial is very funny and have NO PROBLEM with it.

Jamaican Dialect (Patois) Mistakes

The reason why the commercial was not authentic was because of the numerous mistakes made within the dialect. Most Jamaicans do not understand what Winston was saying some of the time. I had to have an American friend explain the part about the gopher state, because I thought he said Gopher sticks and land of a thousand licks. My friend explained that Minnesota is the gopher state with a thousand lakes. We had a laugh about it. You see, lake and state sounds the same in Patois as it would with standard English. As a matter of fact the "a" is pronounced much stronger in Patois.

Another point, is when Winston said "sticky bun come soon". That is wrong. It should have been "Sugar bun soon come". If they had done their research, they would have known that Jamaicans would never say "sticky bun" or "come soon".

The accent was drawn out or slurred. The accent is very hard to copy. It sounded more like a general Caribbean accent.

Otherwise than that, It was funny. #GetHappy

Jamaican Parody of Germans

The Miserable Volkswagon Parody

Volkswagen Parody by MadWhiteJamaican

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Comments 28 comments

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

I like the VW commercial. It's optimistic and happy! Who cares what anyone thinks or says...it's only because they are miserable. The spoof videos were funny, but downers. I'm glad to hear the majority of Jamaicans have "no problem" with the real VW deal! Thanks for the entertaining videos!:)


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Sunshine. I found all of the videos funny, I just had to share them.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Art,

I'm glad you've discussed how the citizens of your island nation feel about the VW commercial and the spoofs that were produced. Thanks for publishing your very well-researched, well-written article. I feel that Jamaica has received a lot of positive publicity as a result of the commercial.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Daisy. The publicity was great. It just came as a surprise to most people. The tourism industry has already started cashing in, so I have heard.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

I must respect your views and opinions as I do not have the proper sensitivity. Some may say you are making too much of this. I say thank you.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Interesting about the commercial and thanks for sharing this information


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Mhatter99. Thanks for your abstract thought. It is just the common consensus I am representing.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect DDE. Thanks for the appreciation. As they would say in Jamaica, 'it had to be done'.


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 3 years ago from London, UK

Interesting article - I agree with Linda (Sunshine625)

Anyway, hope you enjoyed watching the whole Superbowl. Now that you mentioned it, if we (in UK) had Superbowl, I have no doubt Usain Bolt will be featured in Ads. (He is already on some Ads here and we love him).

Cheers.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Lady_E. Usain Bolt is really cool. It would have been great if VW had contracted him but Audi and BMW are already fighting over him.


justom profile image

justom 3 years ago from 41042

With all respect I found it humorous. Having been to Jamaica a couple of times myself (once for Sunsplash '83) I attempt to speak patois also, with no malice intended. I too caught the "soon come" mistake :-) but I think people enjoy the dialect and have no intention of racism. Peace!! Tom


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

I don't watch football, so I didn't see the commerical. Did watch the videos though. I had a very good friend from Jamaica who came to the US, she was a lovely person. I visited her on a few occasions and loved your country.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 3 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

"101 out of 3 million" - that reminds me of the typical Fox of CNN poll I see posted online from tv!

LOL!

I can easily identify with thinking the commercial is humorous, and I can identify with thinking it is racist.

Sometimes in life...lines get blurred like that for me.

I'm reminded of the stereotypes people have about Texas....AS IF everyone really did ride a horse, wear a cowboy hat, and carry a pistol!

Sometimes things are just funny, or just offensive regardless of the intent of the person who said this or that, or who created a thing, but other times I think it matters very much what the actual intent was of a person when the did this or that.

In any case, I'm not sure I'm the person who could ever say, "no this is just funny," or, "no, this is offensive."

Sometimes I wonder if the eye of the beholder isn't the most right.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Justom. If you went to Sunsplash 83, that would make you a semi-god and an authoritative figure on patois. I do not think the commercial is racist either.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect mary615. Most Jamaicans do not watch American football but they sure did go to sports bars for the super bowl. I heard the sports bars in Jamaica erupted in laughter at the VW commercials. Keep visiting.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

FOX, CNN and CBS are in it for the dough just like VW. The video is funny for sure like most other US commercials. I do not think its racist but a desperate attempt to cash in based on ridiculing the islanders of the Caribbean.

Some Jamaicans feel betrayed because VW is a major brand in Jamaica. They feel that they should have been consulted in order to make the commercial really bang.

Most Jamaicans are proud of the commercial because we say at least Volkswagen think we are really cool.

Believe it or not, this commercial is why Jimmy Cliff won the Grammy for best reggae artist. More good coming from the commercial.


SkeetyD profile image

SkeetyD 3 years ago from Barbados

Of all the Jamaicans I have ever met, I have not observed nor would I say that any of them have a complacent nature. Almost to the contrary really! But I have to say that the commercial is funny and I am thinking that perhaps it was supposed to portray an American embracing the Jamaican relaxed island vibe and not a true blooded white Jamaican. The Jamaican accent is very interesting and other Caribbean peoples sometimes have difficulty discerning what is being said. Thank you for bringing this commercial to my attention, I enjoyed watching it.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect SkeetyD. Most people think we are complacent because of the chill vibe. I am happy to hear someone from the Islands view.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

I have had Chinese people tell me that Americans have no respect for their elders or parents based on movies they have seen based in the U.S. It's true that many people in the U.S. do not respect the experience and knowledge gathered over many years by our older citizens and some children here disrespect their parents -- and most everyone else too, but it isn't yet the majority of people who feel this way. Everyone here is not on drugs and//or alcohol or sexually 'free' as I was told Americans are believed to be by many people around the world. Some of us are quite conservative in those respects.

I noted the first video after the one in question included the required objectification of women. I think our world will have a lot more trouble getting along if we take issue with everything that offends someone because everything is going to offend someone somewhere.

As for the accent being less than perfect in the commercial, it was intended to be a put-on accent and would therefore not be perfect nor expected to be by anyone here.

I have owned 3 Volkswagons in my life, but I'm not a hippy, nor have I ever been one.

I think the commercial was made in fun and exemplifying what someone or some group believes are desirable and positive traits of Jamaicans. The attitude generally portrayed seems like a good one to me. What good to whine and cry and grumble? What does that change? What does that improve? One is usually a happier person if they don't take life or themselves too seriously.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

After the Volkswagen commercial, there was another commercial that depicted the burning of the Jamaican flag. It was a Saturn commercial in Germany. Some people just take the fun and games too far. It was supposed to be a funny ad, but it was pulled from TV.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Thanks for shedding light on this subject, Art! I obviously have no handle on how Jamaicans would feel about this. Getting your viewpoint is interesting and helpful.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Billybuc. It has become a sensitive topic due to a more recent German commercial. Thank you for being neutral.


Lastheart profile image

Lastheart 3 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

Wow!! I made my husband read this article. Voted up and every inch across. You really made your point. Very good attitude my friend, many ought to learn from this. It brings indignity mix with so many other emotions, but I am smiling for some reason.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Lastheart. The fear is whether they are going take it too far and over step boundaries. Thanks for the support.


ohic32 profile image

ohic32 3 years ago

rasta1 you are a true writer. Very well said.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Respect Ohic32. I am not saying its wrong or right. Just exploring the different perceptions.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

Art, loved this hub - great that they boasted about interviewing 101 Jamaicans - come on! That's not representative, as you say though, the ad was still fun. I love all of the idiosyncracies you mention - we would say 'sticky bun' of course! I think you're right that the ad is selling an idea of 'cool' and that Jamaica is seen in that same category which is quite a nice thing. However, being always conceived in a certain way is annoying. my part of the UK has a very strong Geordie accent, it is unmistakable if you hear it and unfortunately the British press tend to use it to lampoon a certain type of person - it drives me mad!


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thanks Jools. Advertisements intentionally try to initiate some controversy. When I think about it now, they intentionally tried to make the commercial silly in order to cause a media stir. The media cartels have no mercy. lol.

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