Johnnie Walker is a brand of Scotch whisky that originated in Scotland. In what seems to be a contrived effort to reach out to Chinese consumers, they released a commercial on their Facebook page that features a white man, his female Chinese fiancé, and her obviously disapproving Chinese father.
The problem with this commercial is that it follows a pattern that we’ve seen over and over again in TV shows, films, and commercials that go something like this: 1) White man falls in love with Asian female, 2) White man and Asian female must overcome cultural barriers in order to be together and 3) Asian men are asexual, patriarchal, oppressive villains who act as another barrier that the white man and Asian female must also overcome.
Why can’t the media ever just portray normal Asian men with Asian women in relationships together? What about an Asian men with white women? It’s because these images would not fit into the narrative that western socierty wants us to see.
Let’s take a closer look at the commercial itself.
The two of them are at the dinner table eating. The woman is showing flash cards with Chinese characters on them, trying to teach him the Chinese language. Notice how the white man is holding chopsticks?
We then see him trying to become more Asian by going for a brisk job through Chinatown and doing his homework.
Now it’s the day of the wedding. The father-in-law, named Mr. Fong, appears to be cold and calculating. The white man approaches him and says “Ni hao, Mr. Fong.” Oh boy.
He gives Mr. Fong a bottle of Blue Label whiskey while saying “Please accept this gift” in horribly butchered Mandarin. Mr. Fong seems to smile approvingly. (Why Mr. Fong, why??)
The Chinese woman peeks through the door, happy that the exchange seems to have gone well. However, she is met with an angry glare from her father. The happy look on her face quickly vanishes as she closes the door and leaves. Are we supposed to get the feeling that being with a white man is more liberating and free than being with an Asian man? It sure seems that way.
In conclusion, the theme of “White man falls in love with Asian woman, must defeat the evil, oppressive Asian man” is nothing new. It’s been done over and over again in countless western martial arts tv shows and movies. It’s sad to see a modern commercial continue to embrace and reinforce tired cliches and stereotypes.