So where or how does the Volk­swagen ad fit into this par­a­digm? I reached out to my col­league, Carole V. Bell, Assis­tant Pro­fessor in the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Studies Depart­ment at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity to get her reac­tion. (By way of dis­clo­sure, I am Trinida­dian; Pro­fessor Bell is Jamaican). Although Pro­fessor Bell is not offended by the ad, she admits being con­tin­u­ally annoyed by the reduc­tive way the iden­tity of “Jamaican” is con­structed. The VW ad, she points out, is one-​​dimensional; the accent and atti­tude are a one-​​note gag.

Pro­fessor Bell wrote in an email exchange:

This VW ad is con­sis­tent with the Malibu Rum ad cam­paign and a pre­vious Red Stripe cam­paign. When we’re not being cel­e­brated for our ath­letic prowess, which is great, Jamaicans are fre­quently reduced to happy go lucky sim­ple­tons or vio­lent drug dealers in Amer­ican cul­ture. And I think that’s triv­i­al­izing. It’s also cre­atively lazy, and I believe, inef­fec­tive. Mar­keters use it because the ‘happy-​​go-​​lucky/​no problem, mon’ Jamaican has become a rec­og­niz­able stock char­acter. Jamaicans also use that image to sell prod­ucts to tourists.”

Read the article at Huffington Post →