Mercedes-Benz latest to spark outrage in China for featuring model with ‘slanted eyes’

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

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