So, for the twelve or so 8Asians.com readers who haven’t arrived here from Germany, I’ll give you a brief overview as to what’s been happening the past week or so:
- Around three months ago, I write a post called Mister Wong, Offensive Social Bookmarking Portal. It gets a healthy dosage of debate, but not too much.
- A week or so ago, the site gets linked to from a comment from mashable.com, a popular Web 2.0 blog.
- The CEO decides to remove the mascot, resulting in many responses from Germans and floods this site with comments as to the loss of their mascot.
- Der Spiegel online writes about the situation, which results in even more responses.
[sigh] Okay, then.
Rather than constantly defend myself, I’m simply going to re-post a comment that I made on Mister-Wong.com’s blog. The point being this: I find the mascot less objectionable now, but only because I discussed this at length with some people closer to the situation and understand the context behind it. That being said, Mister-Wong.com had a mascot which was objectionable to many Americans, not just me. The executive team at Mister-Wong.com had a choice whether or not to change their branding, and they did so – not because they were buckling to what many German’s see as “american pc bullshit,” but because they have full intentions to expand their business to America, and this is just good business sense.
Incidentally, after reading Google Blogoscoped’s article on the matter, I did NOT accuse Mister-Wong.com of racism; I accused them of having an inappropriate logo. There’s a difference.
The full comment is after the jump.
As the author who wrote a blog entry criticizing mister-wong.com’s mascot, I’ve received a lot of… passionate debate on the matter. Some of it extremely vitriolic and obscene, but that’s not the reason why I’m writing this comment.
After talking with many people with a variety of opinions about the subject, I don’t believe that the staff chose the logo with malice, and I emphasize with the team and the user of mister-wong.com that a piece of important branding was taken away by what many people see as an interest group. Many people have asked what I personally found upsetting about the mascot, and Akyrpti, a fellow writer of one of the blogs I post on, as written a more eloquent post that I wouldn’t be able to write as well. The post is here:
You can come up with your own conclusions – while other commenters interpret the mascot as “warm and whimsical,” I (and MANY other Americans, not just Asian-Americans) interpret as offensive and reminiscing of darker times.
Does that mean Americans are overly race-sensitive and politically correct? Perhaps. Overly so? Is it justified? That’s up for debate, but because there is racism and discrimination, both subtle and overt, in the United States (actually, EVERYWHERE) there needs to be methods and practices addressing this.
And it boils down to the following: If Mister-wong.com wants to make an international presence in the United States, it must be mindful of the cultural norms in the country they are releasing a product to; it just makes good business sense.
That’s why the website exists, right? Which is why, as both an Asian-American and as someone working in the Internet industry, I appreciate Kai and his team listening and acting on decisions such as this. The executive team could have looked the other way and shrug this off as American PC group-think; but it would have made for dreadful business sense.
PS: To the Jewish woman who comments above saying that a “Mister Jew” character wouldn’t be offended because the best way to combat stereotypes is through humor, believe it or not, I actually agree with that, and good for her. Unfortunately, I don’t trust the rest of humanity to do the same. And from a business point of view, that battle shouldn’t be waged on a social bookmarking engine, but I could be wrong.