Controlling Images


By Josh Befort

The picture above is from the 2013 Super Bowl that took place on February third. The commercial featured actress Amy Poehler, the customer, and an Asian Best Buy “employee.”  In this commercial Poehler walks around the Best Buy store asking the employee various questions about the various technological items in the store. The questions were comical in nature some examples of this include “Does this read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in a sexy voice?” Poehler asks referring to an e-reader. “No,” the Blue Shirt said. “Will you?” Poehler asks suggestively.

This ad in my opinion was a very successful at portraying Asians in a positive manner. A lot of in class discussions has been centered on the idea that historically Asian males are portrayed as effeminate and undesirable in nature. Not only this but the controlling image of media tends to cast them in a forever foreigner light by having them assume roles of implicit yellow face. However in this role the Asian Best Buy employee had no accent, was smart, and was attractive enough to draw the attention of a white women in this case Amy Pohler. Which historically has been a major issue, and it is good to see the idea that racial miscegenation has gone from being utterly unacceptable in the early 1900’s to being a part of the 2013 Super Bowl ad that was seen by millions of people. 106.6 million to be exact according to the Huffington Post.

This brings me to the stage of representation that this ad is at, which in my opinion is the recognition stage. Why you ask not a stage of respect? The fact that this ad is a Best Buy ad is in a sense slightly stereotypical. Best Buy is known as a major electronics supplier.  Many people tend to make a connection between Asians and technological awareness that comes along with being Asian. If this had been an ad for another store that was not specifically an electronics store this ad would have been very much in a stage of respect. Having said this how did America receive this ad? USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter, which measures audience response, ranked Best Buy’s spot 14th out of 55 commercials. So pretty good, maybe America is ready for this type of Asian American roll, and maybe, just maybe, this ad might give rise to more rolls and positive positions in media spotlight.


One thought on “Controlling Images

  1. Very balanced analysis–you provide a compelling argument for this representation being at the “recognition” stage (which, I would argue, reflects AA representations in popular TV). I wonder how much discussion there was of who would be cast opposite Amy Poehler?

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