We've seen plenty, and we do mean plenty, of bad lawyer commercials, from rapping attorneys to two guys stuck in a 90s music video. This one, however, just took the title of worst, and it's not just bad, it's actually offensive.
How does one outdo every bad lawyer commercial ever made? Meet Mr. Wong Fong Shu.
Thanks to the Angry Asian Man blog (we share the sentiment), we learned about this ridiculous piece of "advertising:"
Warning: if the preview image of a white guy dressed in fake presumably-Chinese attire offends you, his horrid racist accent and impersonation makes it much worse once you hit play.
Now, to be clear, the law firm advertised in the commercial, McCutcheon & Hammer, P.C. of Alabama, didn't self-produce the YouTube spot. They hired Definitive Television to do so. DT has its own YouTube channel full of painfully bad impersonations, all done by Jim DeBerry, who has confirmed on his Twitter account that he is the man in the videos.
@khayters I appreciate your viewing but to the contrary, I'm not a racist. I have many friends of various races and a top minority employer.-- Jim DeBerry (@RealJimDeBerry) November 25, 2013
And yes, unfortunately, Mr. Wong Fong Shu makes appearances in multiple DT videos, including one where he outlines how much it costs for the racist caricature to appear as your brand ambassador. Of course, DeBerry's not a racist, as he has "many friends of various races and [is] a top minority employer."
On a third Wong Fong Shu video, the creators addressed the criticisms of the character:
"In the world of politically incorrectness and the client's 1st amendment right, we created this satire comedy video. Keep in mind, we live in the world of Black Comedians playing White Chicks (Waynes brothers), men playing women such has Dennis Hoffman, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry, and even others playing other races, this video was shot in the same comedic satire vein." [sic, sic and more sic]
Let's be clear: this is blackface, except Asian. Blackface is not okay. Wong Fong Shu is not okay. The Wayans brothers? Nothing they've done has been okay (or funny) since they had a television show in the 90s. And while racist speech may be protected in part or full under the First Amendment's banner, constitutional does not equate to "not racist," funny, or even borderline acceptable.
Now, it might be tempting to lay the blame entirely on the production company, or Mr. DeBerry himself. In fact, that's not a bad way to go: they did, after all, create the caricature. However, they did note, on one of the videos, that the ad copy is written by the clients (here, the law firm).
Our only words? What in the heck were you thinking?
That old trope about no publicity is bad publicity? It doesn't apply when you're trying to attract clients. Human decency, respect for other cultures, First Amendment rights, and political correctness are not the issue -- your firm's business is.
Your firm's name is now permanently associated with an insanely racist commercial. Every person who searches the Internet for your firm in the future is likely to stumble upon the ad, which ensures that a large part of your customer base will head elsewhere.
Or maybe, we're just overreacting. Readers, if you don't mind, share your thoughts with us on Facebook.
November 26, 2014 Editor's Note: This note was posted by the firm of McCutcheon & Hamner on November 25. We don't know exactly what it means, but wanted to include it for your information:
Attn: Our YouTube has been hacked. Our firm did not discuss any advertising with this company that posted the latest commercial.
December 3, 2013 Editor's Note: According to a post on Above the Law, a statement from McCutcheon & Hamner vehemently denies they paid for any such ad from Definitive Television and Jim DeBerry. The firm "disavows" the video and have issued a cease and desist letter to Mr. DeBerry and DTV.