Ninjas (Japanese) making kung fu sounds (Chinese) used for Google Nexus One commercial

Is it just me, or is it irritating to have some white guy co-opting Asian iconography for a TV commercial and combining two different cultures? Sure, it’s a cool idea, and certainly well-executed production-wise. But this stop-action video made to pimp Google’s new Nexus One “super-phone” (their description, not mine) bugs me. The animated miniature ninjas — of non-specific, though presumably Asian origin — make the long-stereotyped high-pitched screams and yowls that Westerners imitate when they make Bruce Lee moves. To me, that’s like a TV commercial showing someone making French pastries with an Italian accent.

I love kung fu movies, and especially adore Bruce Lee. I’m old enough to have been fascinated by Kato in “Green Hornet” and seen his kung fu movies when they were first released. I also grew up loving the mythology of ninjas. And I know the difference between the two: Kung fu is a Chinese tradition (check out the documentary “The Real Shaolin” for a primer — I’ll be writing more about the film in a bit), and ninjas are Japanese (even if Hollywood had a Korean star in “Ninja Assassin“).

I mean, helloooo, ninjas don’t make any noises when they do their butt-kicking and killing stuff. They’re “silent assassins,” remember? That’s the whole deal with ninjas.

To me, it’s a sign of ignorance and disrespect to blend the two together for no purpose other than to evoke the essence of Orientalism. Maybe Patrick Boivin, the commercial’s creator, was being ironic and culturally astute when he combined the cultures. But I’ll bet dollars that more likely, he simply grew up seeing lots of kung fu and ninja movies and Power Rangers and Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV, and it’s all one undistinguishable blur of Asian-ness to him.

Culturally, that’s the same reason all Asians are taunted by “ching-chong” sounds from childhood to adulthood — non-Asians think we’re all alike and and look alike and we all sound like that. And fight like that.

Phooey on this commercial. I’m sure I’ll lust after a Google phone someday, but not because of this cheesy shill.

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One Response to Ninjas (Japanese) making kung fu sounds (Chinese) used for Google Nexus One commercial

  1. George Niles says:

    …it’s just plain baka. 🙂

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