No, I Don’t See Anything Wrong With This Lawyer Ad. Why Do You Ask? [Updated]

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Okay, yes, I can see without even starting the video that it's going to be based on an offensive racial stereotype. That is true. The attire, the coolie hat, and—wow—the glasses with fake squinty eyes painted on the lenses, do all suggest that this is going to be a video of a Caucasian man portraying a bad stereotype of a Chinese person. I see where you're coming from there.

And it does appear to be an advertisement for a plaintiffs' law firm, of the type one might see on late-night and low-rent TV. I agree, that does not bode very well for the content here, but let's not rush to judgment. We should at least give it a chance. <clicks play>


Okay, you have a point there too. It is even more offensive than one might have expected, what with the horribly stereotypical and heavily accented English used by the character, "Mr. Wong Fong Shu." But at least the actor is speaking in a very high-pitched and irritating voice.

Fair enough—that is not a positive, either. I see what you're saying, FindLaw. You too, Angry Asian Man

Nor is it funny in any way. I will grant you that. Neither the words themselves nor the context are even remotely comical.

And the production values are low.

We should also take into account, however, that Definitive Television, the company responsible for this, states on its YouTube page that the Wong Fong Shu videos—yes, there are more than one—are "satire" in the "same prerogative [sic] or edgy vein" as the cross-racial portrayals by (among others) Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" and the Wayans Brothers in "White Chicks." Well, no, this is nothing like what Robert Downey Jr. was doing in "Tropic Thunder." And yes, if your defense involves comparing yourself to the Wayans Brothers, you are not doing yourself any favors. Agreed.

But to be totally fair to this production company, at least it blames its client for the content of the video. "The copy or script is not ours," they say on their YouTube page, "the client paid us to say their copy/script."

No, I guess blaming the client is not an appealing characteristic of one who works for hire. There is that.

Okay, one possible mitigating factor—the creators may be poorly educated. In another YouTube video, the same character notes that he can be hired for "just 5,000 yen," which of course is the currency of Japan, not China. (Really, you should at least know who you're trying to offend.) Beyond that, the creator's comments often seem intended to be prerogative provocative, but at times, they are virtually unintelligible and head-snappingly inconsistent as well:

We believe the client wanted this video for top mind awareness and shock value. We cannot speak on behalf of our client.

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We are respect your 1st amendment right and your freedom of opinion and speech on our comment board and will approve your comments. Currently out of respect to the Attorney Firm, we have elected to disable the comment threadat the request of McCutheon & Hamner, We may open them back up soon 

(All sic.) I said mitigating, not vindicating.

Okay, but let me also say this. So far, I have not seen any evidence that McCutheon McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C., actually approved these ads or that they have ever run on TV or elsewhere. At one point the creator seems to refuse to "confirm or deny" that the firm actually bought them. So the firm may have been just as horrified as others are, and these spots are on YouTube only as a promotional effort by Definitive Television. (I have asked the firm for comment.) If so, then the firm itself would not be responsible for this ad.

Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Update: For some additional details on the finger-pointing and name-calling over this terrible ad, see this Dec. 2 post.