Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Star, foreigner, and McyD's

There is an ad being overplayed on Taiwanese television for Big Macs. It starts with one of the entirely replaceable male Taiwanese "stars" about to enjoy a hearty bite of his hamburger goodness. I have actually seen this particular star live at a New Year's Eve concert (western New Year's Eve).
I have noticed that Taiwan does a lot of the stuff Americans do, but does it even bigger and better. America illogically worships and peruses a random group of "stars" for a fairly narrow band of perceived talent. Taiwan stalks to obsession there stars, openly and aggressively, yet does not seem to know why. The most read news paper here is probably the Apple Daily, a trash rag filled with violence and star stalking. The paparazzi in America seems to be a faceless unstoppable force. But here, the paparazzi is blatantly major media outlets. It would be like if USA Today focused on horrific traffic accidents, complicated suicides, and dirty things done by American idols.
This specific star (who's name I don't know, and don't necessarily care to find out), is arguably one of the best examples. He is a baby face with over choreographed dance moves, virtually no singing talent (even his The Music Man style "talk-singing" is not especially good), and laughable acting (though I should not his eyes get mighty big for that Big Mac). Yet, at the New Year's Eve party, everyone seemed to be glad he was there, doing his thing. No one seemed to especially like him. No one had his album or seemed to have real feelings about him, but they all seemed to take his fame for granted. The papers publish every breakup and new relationship, and everyone reads it, but reads it while saying they don't care.
Anyway, here is the commercial if you only notice the long cuts (rather than trying to activly track the short cuts). Baby face man-boy is taking an exaggerated bite out of his whooper of a Big Mac. His bag is sitting on the edge of the railing next to him, but falls off. A business man sees the liter fall in front of him and pauses for a second (his thoughts: "should I stop, and pick it up or allow the dwindling social capital of my society continue to plummet?"). A little school girl then suddenly goes into a soccer defensive position (business man's thoughts: "screw it, I will try to pop the bag into that little girl's head!"), so he boots the bag across a busy Taipei pedestrian area. And then the fun breaks out! Everyone is knocking it around, and soccer is a goin' wild.
Having originally not given a shit that he had littered on the people that somehow made his blank face in "hip hop" clothing a star, superstar runs down the stairs to join the fun! In the end, he boots the bag, through the grasp of a "goalie," and into the closing doors of a bus. Its made clear that this is a goal, all celebrate, and they surround the hole of a man to tell him how much they love him and his Big Mac stuffed face.
This is to remind people that McDonald's is paying a lot of money to make the World Cup remind them that McDonald's is paying the World Cup a lot of money. Also, there is Snoopy...and buttons...and buttons with Snoopy. These nationalistic buttons, other than being a rip off of the 7-11 Hello Kitty national flower pins, each symbolize McDonald's bloody reign over the world's most oppressed arteries.
So that is the commercial, and I have seen it many, many times. They have the station showing NBA games locked down, so let me emphasize, I have seen it many, many times. I have seen it three times since starting this blog in fact (not too odd, as I am now watching the same commercial I saw literally a minute and a half ago).
Before I started writing this, I saw the long version, and watched it with a bit more care. To be honest, this care was simply because I like how the schoolgirl drops into defensive position (the best actor in the bit, she looks truly prepared) and I wanted to see if she fielded the "ball." It was not her in fact, it was some woman, who then kicks it, to another guy, who kicks it again, its in the air, and then its headed by a white bike helme...This is where my mind went screech.
I collect mental instances of foreigners on Taiwanese television. For a country that loves Western culture, the appearances are shockingly rare. The few exceptions tend to be commercials in fact. Today I saw a commercial where a tea compared its refreshing goodness to a hot Taiwanese girl going through a car wash in a top down VW bug convertible, filled with blond Germanesque young people, while they are ogled by 台各 workers (think the Taiwanese equivalent of trailer trash). Other than that, TV foreigners are mostly limited to teaching English (only one of which regularly speaks Chinese), a few music videos with black dancers, and a few appearances on the Japanese channel.
So where we left was the bag hitting a white helmet. To any familiar with this island, they already know where this is going. The bag was headed by a Mormon missionary on his bike. They really nailed it too, white shirts, white safety helmets, black pants, and partnered by a nearly identical Mormon buddy. The image was strikingly correct, I saw it and thought, "that is what foreigners look like." I actually assume they were filming in some place in Taipei and grabbed a couple of missionaries right off of the street.
One thing that struck me is that the people in this spontaneous soccer game were all "stereotypical." There was the stereotypical school girl, the stereotypical business man, and so on. The missionaries were the stereotypical foreigners. I have heard such sentiments before, I have heard friend say that they thought most foreigners were missionaries. Some have assumed I knew local missionaries (which actually is the case sometimes).
I don't mind the missionaries here. They are the only white people I have ran into here without expecting at least the possibility of the laowai death stare. They are kind, and they don't seem to put on an elitist attitude compared to many of the other foreigners who speak Chinese, or even compared to missionaries in other countries. That said, them being my representative made me oddly feel a little stereotype.
What strikes me is that it is not unfair. They probably grabbed some real foreigners and made the commercial. But I can't help but laugh that a western company, advertising their love of a tournament being played in the west, with an alliance to a western cartoon dog, represents the west with the ultimate foreigner symbol in Taiwan, funny looking guys in white shirts wearing white bike helmets.

PS - the photo is a McDonald's in a hospital, enjoy!
PPS - I am in a mission publishing this, long story, will tell you later.


Old Math said...

Your spelling has gotten a lot better. What is up with that?

Anonymous said...

Yay for Mormons!

Smiranda said...

He's just trying to impress the ladies. :)

I like these new blog posts. The pictures with them appeal to my love for multimedia.

Jenn said...

Hey! I just heard about NYU, congrats! It's good to know I'll have company in law/debt next year. Miss you bunches! Jenn