Black Toothpaste Video

29 Oct 2008

I was searching Youku for interesting Chinese videos about Obama, but all I could find were a few CCTV news clips. If only average Chinese young people liked to video themselves talking about all sorts of topics and put it online, like American kids do on YouTube!

In the process, I ended up doing a search for 黑人 (“black person/people”). Most of the search results were rap or hip hop or dance related, but there was one bizarre one that stood out:

It’s not even Chinese (not related to “Black Man Toothpaste“); it looks like Thai to me. Apparently the Chinese have no monopoly on bizarre/offensive use of black people in toothpaste advertising.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. ok i get what they’re saying, but i am NOT brushing with black toothpaste. the yellow stuff i get at suguo is bad enough. though it’s nice to see them recognise that black people are people too. or are they toothpaste?

  2. Here in NYC, you can still find 黑人牙膏, it’s just that they don’t sell the type with Chinese writing on it. Curiously, the only version that’s available is the kind with Thai script on it, like the script in this video. I suspect that too many people in NYC can read Chinese, and so stores don’t carry it, whereas very few people can read Thai. Using Thai script minimizes the problems of political correctness. It also seems to establish that 黑人牙膏 is popular in Thailand, which might then suggest that this toothpaste in the video is a knockoff of one sort or another.

  3. That is so…freaky! If I were black, or if it were white toothpaste with a white guy in the commercial, I’m not sure whether I’d be offended or laugh at it, possibly both. It’s definitely not politically correct, though. Of course, so are many American things, like certain mascots for sports teams.

  4. Here’s a picture of the Thai version of Darlie:

    http://tinyurl.com/5jt2qc

    According to this website:

    http://www.thai-language.com/dict/

    “ดาร์ลี่” is a transliteration of “Darlie”, so it thus avoid the problematic directness of the Chinese translation.

  5. what do they put in it to make it black ?

  6. This ad reminds me of the wind ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mTLO2F_ERY) that played during the Super Bowl. Except that ad was funny.

  7. Ah, wow! That is really bizarre. Totally more racist than I was expecting.

    Do similar commercials play in Chinese-speaking areas? (I’d assume the propaganda department would block it on the mainland.) I do remember an HK friend once asking me straight out “Are black people bad people?” — Been trying to figure that one out for a while.

  8. Whooooooooooooa! That has got to be the most racist thing i have ever seen in my life. Haha.

  9. Darlie is big in Taiwan. I dunno about China though.

  10. That is unbearably creative……
    I ADMIRE the author’s audacity and empathy for the black people.

  11. “Looks can be deceiving.” It’s so blatant I can’t believe it. But I did laugh.

  12. Politically correct, it is not, but I am not so sure it is racist. I think the point of the ad was that the adult assumed bad things about the Black man, when in reality all he was doing was trying to help. Interestingly, the child (as is so often the case in real life), was more concerned with how the person could help her get her balloon than with the color of his skin. The adult woman’s racism led her to completely misread the situation, just as people assume that the black toothpaste will be bad. Yes, the commercial was a bit heavy-handed, but I don’t think it was racist. I would love for you to re-examine it and tell me if you still thing it so and I would love to see more comments.

  13. Dan does it again. I think you are right .

  14. TGIO!!!! Nice post John. You do know, of course, that hei ren means gangster right?

  15. Yes, that’s definitely written thai on the box.

  16. John,
    YOu are right. It is a Thai commercial. I have actually used this toothpaste before. My initial impression was that it looks bad on the toothbrush (it’s dark brown, and thick – but not black). The next step was to try it on my teeth. Ewww! was my first impression, but it actually did a good job on cleaning my teeth and it had a long lasting, cool refreshing feeling ( I don’t know if it was actual or because I just had the foul tasting toothpaste removed from my mouth… Joking).

    I would use it again, but I agree that the advertising, logo and mascot are poor when you consider the myriad of other possibilities one could imagine.

    Take care
    Greg Pasden
    http://www.GregPasden.com

  17. That was not racist at all, in fact it could be show as a good example of anti racism. Black people are getting more respect in many parts of the world now. One thing I have noticed is Asians in the US to be really facing alot of racism even from other Asian who might be 2nd or 3rd generation, its like its ok to be racist against them as the dont have a voice in America unlike black people who have been fighting for equal rights for more than 50 years. No real point here just something I noticed.

  18. Hello John,

    I listen to your podcast at the intermediate and advanced levels to keep my skills sharpened. I am an African American that has studied Chinese and Economics both in and out of China for several years. I can’t say that I am offended, but disappointed in your narrow mindedness to post. It shows a lack of sensitivity on your behalf. As a loyal listener to your podcast I believed your experiences abroad would have given you much more cultural diversity. I will report your insensitivity to your superiors as well.

    -Brian

  19. Brian,

    I don’t see how pointing out this video makes me narrow-minded. The whole point is that different cultures see racism in different ways, even if they recognize it as a bad thing.

  20. John,

    Thanks for writing back. Narrow-minded might be a little to harsh and I don’t think it is racism. I think it is just ignorance to entertain. But I guess as you wrote it is to the viewer to decided. I just looked at the post and the comments that you were moderating. I guess if you can’t see it then I should not have to point it out. I enjoy your show and I wish you all the success in all you do. In the future if you could be mindful of the information you put out there. You never know who is reading it or how it might be interpeted. Kudos to China Pod and your site!

    Peace & Best Wishes-
    BR

  21. Brian,

    Yes, I do think that some of the commenters are not really getting it.

    I certainly agree that sensitivity is important; it’s something I’ve learned a lot about over the years as a blogger.

  22. […] W. sent in this ad for an herbal toothpaste (from Thailand?), found at Sinosplice (originally found […]

  23. […] W. sent in this ad for an herbal toothpaste (from Thailand?), found at Sinosplice (originally found […]

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