Mercedes-Benz removes ad with ‘slanted eye’ model following backlash

Chinese social media has been engrossed in an eye-popping debate over ads depicting alleged Western beauty ideals for Asian women, including the usage of makeup to create stereotypical “slanted eyes.”

Mercedes-Benz has reportedly removed a recent video advertisement published on Chinese social network Weibo on Dec. 25, after the brand was criticized for doing up a model’s face to give her exaggerated sloping eyes.

“Is there any beauty in this makeup?” one critic wrote. “It is not [open for] interpretation. No Chinese will think this kind of ‘beauty’ is attractive,” another added.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times said on Tuesday that the hashtag that translates to “Mercedes-Benz model’s makeup is controversial” had gained over 170 million views on Weibo.

“The premise is that Chinese cannot let the West shape our aesthetics,” wrote one critic, per Global Times. “For those malicious slanderers, we should maintain sufficient vigilance and counter-attack.”

The Post has reached out to Mercedes-Benz to confirm reports.

The commercial was meant to promote Mercedes’ CLS luxury sedan.

The luxury carmaker is one of the latest in a spate of controversies to take over Chinese social media, as critics lash out against Western brands for promoting Chinese beauty stereotypes in their ads. Earlier this week, Gucci was similarly called out for a new handbag ad that uses “discriminatory” Chinese features.

Mercedes-Benz ad
The ad was originally published on the official Weibo account for Mercedes-Benz, before it was reportedly removed due to backlash

Communication-law professor Zhu Wei, of the state’s China University of Political Science and Law, said in a statement to the Global Times regarding Gucci’s ad, “This is extremely disrespectful to our culture. The disgust and revulsion expressed by the whole society toward this kind of insult should be heard.”

Cai Niang Niang in Three Squirrels ad
Cai Niang Niang featured in Three Squirrels snack company ad.
Three Squirrels

Fellow couturier Dior apologized in November following uproar over a handbag advertisement. Beijing-based photographer Chen Man admitted his “immaturity and ignorance” by “perpetuating racial stereotypes” for the shoot, while the fashion house responded by saying that it “respects the feelings of the Chinese people.”

It’s not just the upmarket brands who are said to be out of touch. Last week, a model for Chinese snack brand Three Squirrels stood up against the brand’s detractors, asking, “Am I not Chinese?” Consumers had bristled over an unearthed ad campaign from 2019 featuring model Cai Niang Niang, who some said was played up in the ad for her “overly slanted eyes” and posed with her hair in braids, all of which plays into 19th-century Western stereotypes of Chinese people.

She wrote on Weibo on Sunday, according to the South China Morning Post, “With small eyes, am I not Chinese? I totally agree with patriotism. However, creating big problems out of normal matters has become a morbid obsession. I hope everybody can have a healthy mindset.”