This ad for a wearable translation gadget that shows an Englishman chatting up Japanese girls has gone viral, with social media users accusing the self-proclaimed ‘pick-up artist’ of sexual harassment.
The advert, which features ‘Dean’, a British man, using the wearable translator to try and get unsuspecting Japanese women to kiss him has been watched over five million times since social media users started reeling about the need to respect women’s personal space.
In reaction to the huge backlash, Logbar, the Japanese technology company behind the product have released a statement claiming ‘the women in the video are all actresses; no one was forced to act against their will in any way.’ Yet even now claims of sexual harassment have been pacified, there is still something exceedingly uncomfortable about watching a white man harass these timid looking Asian girls. It’s as if in an effort to remove language barriers the Japanese company has managed to highlight cultural differences.
The video, named ‘Kisses in Tokyo,’ sees a white man approaching various young Japanese girls, using the device to translate some controversial pick-up lines, including ‘I know this is sudden, but can I try to kiss you?’ The poor girls looked doubly stunned: equally by the effectiveness of the device as the ballsiness of the man holding it.
The sleazy Brit claims kissing strangers is ‘very normal in the UK,’ only to be met by a young woman’s gobsmacked expressed she tells him ‘No! This is Japan, Japan Japan!’ As the video unfolds, he then continues to chase a woman through a park, and even gets hit by a women’s purse as she storms away from him, humiliated.
Not one to be defeated, Dean whips out some cringeworthy chat-up lines; our personal favourite being ‘I should thank your parents for producing such a beautiful girl on this Earth.’ Whilst the girls’ blushing and embarrassed expression clearly demonstrate the efficiency of the device, the whole sexist Englishman hits on unsuspecting Japanese women element just personifies the idea of cultural differences in sexual openness.
Twitter and Facebook users have branded the vid ‘misogynistic,’ with one user tweeting ‘Fantastic! Now you don't need to learn another language in order to sexually harass strangers in other countries.’ Another commenter questioned ‘Why force the girls to kiss you. Can't see their body language says no!’
The other problem is how much the advert plays on seuxal stereotypes - Japanese women are stereotyped as being shy and private, while the stereotype for an English guy abroad is often someone who's bawdy and let’s be honest, a teeny bit culturally disrespectful (hey! Just like this guy!). No matter how accurate these cultural preconceptions actually are, playing up to them in the advert makes the whole thing even more uncomfortable to watch.
The irony is that the video ends with the caption ‘Say goodbye to all language barriers.' Yet by staging the whole situation, from the culturally ignorant Englishman to the dumbfounded girls, the picture painted by the ad is that the term ‘language barrier’ refers to so much more than the language itself.
Essentially, it suggests that translation technology, no matter how effective, falls short on reading body language and understanding cultural etiquette. Maybe that’s why, even in the safe knowledge that the whole scene is staged, we still don’t like it.
Sorry, Dean, but we’re with the girl who hit you with her purse. There’s no need to reinforce the ‘Brit’s abroad’ cliché thank you.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.