Blackface Dunkin' Donuts ad in Thailand brings racism accusation
Fair-skinned teen turns black or 'chocolate' in TV commercial yanked this week. Donut giant is on the defensive.
A Thai television commercial for Dunkin' Donuts yanked off the air days ago amid controversy has ignited a debate over what it meant and how it aired.Skip to next paragraph
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The advertisement opens with a fair-skinned teenager wearing a white dress standing in a white room. A close shot of the girl’s face reveals a flash of defiance in her doleful eyes before she bites into a chocolate doughnut. Then the camera cuts to a splash of chocolate, the girl takes another bite -- and suddenly her white face turns black.
After that, the camera pulls back to show the girl now painted in chocolate all over, including her hair, done up in a 1950’s beehive. Her lips are bright pink. Finally a tag line flashes across the screen: “Charcoal Donut: Break every rule of deliciousness."
The ad first aired in Thailand last month. Last week it was pulled after a leading human rights group based in New York said it would cause "howls of outrage" if it ran in the US.
“Discrimination in Thailand is directed toward citizens from neighboring countries, particularly Burma and Cambodia, as well as people from South Asia who are invariably tagged with the pejorative 'kaek' or 'guest' label,” says Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. “One hopes that this may have a positive impact in compelling people in Thailand to look more outwards and recognize people are people and should all be treated equally, without discrimination of any sort.”
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Several US media outlets picked up on the story, pointing out the clear resemblance of the chocolate covered girl in the doughnut ad to blackface minstrel caricatures from America in the 1930s and ‘40s.
The American arm of the Dunkin' Donuts franchise promptly published a strongly worded statement apologizing for any offense caused and the ad was removed from airing. .
However in Thailand, the director of the company, whose teenage daughter stars in the controversial campaign, was unapologetic.