It has been the premise behind many poorly made porno movies since the 1970s. A sweaty handyman enters a room to tell an attractive single woman that he’s done working. She gestures seductively at him. They kiss. Then the cheesy porno music starts blaring. Although a Chinese laundry detergent advertisement starts in the same way, the overall arc of the commercial has people screaming racism.
Qiaobi Laundry Detergent, based in Shanghai and sporting an adorable dolphin logo, is arguing that there is nothing wrong with the commercial. Their official response is that they have no problem with people of color and that the negative attention is the result of foreign media sources being ‘too sensitive.’ We’ll let you be the judge of what some sources are calling ‘The Most Racist TV Commercial Ever Made.’
A sweaty, paint-covered black man emerges from a bedroom. He whistles and informs a young, beautiful Chinese woman that he’s finished painting. She gestures for him to approach, which he does. She leans in to kiss him, but then suddenly pops a pod of laundry detergent into his mouth and shoves him into the washing machine. For good measure, she hops on top of the machine with a big smile on her face.
When the washing machine completes its cycle, she happily lifts the lid. From the machine emerges a smiling, thin, light-skinned Asian man. The music switches to the sound of angels and bright lights illuminate him. He gives her a wink and holds up a second detergent pod, implying he plans to run her through the wash as well, in the hope that she’ll emerge lighter skinned.
The ad aired on TV, in movie theatres, and even on the social media messenger WeChat. At first, it did not raise much internal controversy. However, since airing abroad, where it has been summarily denounced, the laundry detergent commercial has been blasted on Chinese social media. It has quickly started trending on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter. Included in those domestic comments were many people hoping to ban the ad. Qiaobi has announced just that, stating they want people to move on and not have a negative association with the brand. As a result, they have removed the controversial ad from airing. According to cultural experts, the basis of the commercial is the belief held by many Chinese that darker skin is dirty and unattractive.