A television commercial for St-Hubert BBQ reinforces stereotypes of Quebec’s Chinese population, says Cathy Wong.
The ad entitled “Competition Crusher,” which is embedded below, shows a Chinese restauranteur upset about a special promotion at the Quebec restaurant chain. He tells his wife in Cantonese about how he just renovated his Chinese food restaurant and replaced the oven.
'The ad irritates me because the storyline is based on a false competition between Chinese restaurants and local product.' - Cathy Wong
He crushes a fortune cookie in anger, unveiling a message that reads, “For a limited time.”
Wong, a Plateau-Mont-Royal resident, sent a letter to the Quebec company saying as much and was on CBC Daybreak Thursday morning to talk about her position on the ad.
“The ad irritates me because the storyline is based on a false competition between Chinese restaurants and local product, and uses stereotypes from a minority group to brand St-Hubert’s products as cool and funny,” Wong told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.
She said it raises ethical questions regarding members of a majority group in Quebec mocking minority groups and said the ad, while not racist, reinforced stereotypes that often portray Chinese people in Quebec as dépanneur and restaurant owners and little else.
Listen to the whole Daybreak interview here:
“It is not a negative stereotype, but because the fact that there are so [few] Chinese on TV and every time that they go on TV, we see them in cliché roles, and those stereotypes are extremely lazy or reductive and they’re repeated constantly,” Wong said.
“They’re so deeply rooted in popular culture that we actually use them as punchlines to sell, and that’s exactly what bothers me about this publicity,” she continued.
The company declined requests for an interview from CBC News. However, it responded in a statement Wednesday that reads:
“We truly apologize if this television advertisement has offended or insulted you. At no time did we want to portray the Chinese community in a negative way, and we don't believe that we have done so.
We simply wanted to show the impact that our new offer has on the competition. We chose a Chinese restaurant because there are hundreds in Quebec. This is not a question of stereotyping as it is in fact, a reality.
Furthermore, the actors who played in the advertisement agreed to do so good-heartedly and knowingly, without ever feeling exploited, insulted or ridiculed.
Thank you for your understanding and again, we are sorry you felt that this advertisement was demeaning to the Asian community.”
Wong said she’s disappointed that more Quebec companies and television programs don’t take the opportunity to think outside the box and cast Chinese people, and members of other ethnic and racial minorities, in more positive roles.
She said she was also disappointed by the people who criticized her online for expressing her feelings about the ad. She said the commercial may have been funnier had it been French-Canadians making fun of French-Canadians.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Canadian National Council and the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations are getting involved.
The two organizations plan to submit a formal complaint to St-Hubert together and are asking the company to pull the ad and issue a formal apology to Quebec’s Chinese community.