Mercedes Benz has become the latest company to face backlash in China for allegedly perpetuating Western stereotypes about Chinese people in a recent advertisement.
Driving the news: The critical response reportedly blew up on Monday after the German carmaker posted a video that featured a model with “slanted eyes.” The ad was particularly criticized for the makeup it had used on the model, which critics found to be “ugly” and “offensive.”
- The state-run Global Times claims the image of a Chinese person with “slanted eyes,” as well as braids, is a Western stereotype of the Chinese from the 19th century. The outlet further explains that the stereotype is not “an objective description… but a label for East Asians” predicated on Western supremacy.
- “The premise is that Chinese cannot let the West shape our aesthetics. For those malicious slander, we should maintain sufficient vigilance and counter-attack,” one Weibo user wrote, as per Global Times.
- Mercedes Benz, which published the video on Weibo on Dec. 25, appears to have deleted it in the wake of backlash. The company has not released a statement in relation to the matter as of this writing.
The big picture: Mercedes Benz is the latest business to be accused of depicting Chinese people unflatteringly by consumers in the country. Last week, ads from a local snack company called Three Squirrels drew flak for similar reasons after also featuring a model with “slanted eyes.”
- Three Squirrels was forced to apologize; however, the model in question pushed back against the vitriol by asking, “Am I disqualified to be Chinese just because I have small eyes?”
- Dior found itself in a similar controversy in November when a Chinese photographer whose work was featured in the brand’s Shanghai exhibition provoked accusations that her work perpetuated a “Western aesthetic.”
- Other international brands that have faced scrutiny in China include H&M, Nike and Zara. One of the largest cases to date involved Dolce & Gabbana, which most recently faced a $660 million defamation lawsuit.
Featured Image via Mercedes-Benz and Image via Weibo