Mercedes sparks fury in China over ad with models with 'slanted eyes'

Mercedes-Benz draws backlash in China over advert featuring models with ‘slanted eyes’ as automaker becomes latest Western brand accused of perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Asians

  • The German automaker was savaged on Chinese social media site Weibo
  • Advert featured models with ‘slanted eyes’ with exaggerated makeup 
  • Furious social media users said it reflects Western stereotypes about Asians
  • Mercedes latest brand to fall foul of sensitivities after Dior forced to apologise 

Mercedes-Benz has drawn backlash in China over claims that it used models in an advert whose appearance perpetuated harmful stereotypes about Asians.

The German automaker was savaged on Chinese social media site Weibo for using models with ‘slanted eyes’ in the commercial for its new CLS luxury sedan. 

The Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that there was fury because the models’ ‘makeup reflects Western stereotypes about Asian people.’

Mercedes is the latest Western brand to fall foul of the Chinese public after French fashion house Christian Dior sparked uproar with an art exhibition showing an Asian model with dark makeup clutching a handbag.

The German automaker was savaged on Chinese social media site Weibo for using models with ‘slanted eyes’ in the commercial for its new CLS luxury sedan.

The advert features models appearing on pages of a fashion magazine, while shots of the new CLS luxury sedan appear on the adjacent pages 

Weibo users complained the models (pictured above) have stereotypically ‘slanted eyes’

Beijing-based photographer Chen Man issued a grovelling apology for ‘immaturity and ignorance’ in ‘perpetuating racial stereotypes’ for the shoot.

Dior responded to the criticism by saying that it ‘respects the feelings of the Chinese people.’ 

The Mercedes advert still remains viewable on its Weibo social media page and the automaker has not yet addressed the backlash in China. 

Along with Mercedes, a local snack brand called Three Squirrels was also caught up in the fray this week.  

The Three Squirrels snack food brand was also caught up in the controversy this week for the above advert

Some complained that the food brand featured advertisements for noodle products on its Weibo microblogging account showing a Chinese model with eyes they said looked slanted. Critics accused the company of spreading Western stereotypes. 

Three Squirrels said in a post Saturday on its official Weibo account that it did not intend to portray a Chinese person in a bad light.

The advertisement was shot in 2019, the company said in a statement.

The model is Chinese and the makeup style was designed to suit her natural features, it said.

‘In response to the feedback from netizens that the model´s makeup does not conform to publicly-accepted aesthetics standards and caused discomfort, our company apologizes,’ the statement read.

‘The page has been replaced and arrangements have been made to check other company pages to ensure that this situation will not happen again.’

Online, Chinese internet users have criticized the selection of models and makeup styles to deliberately portray the ‘slanted eyes’ image.

One user with the handle MaoBuErXiong said that such slanted eyes imagery is derogatory and is deeply embedded in the fashion industry, with Asian models and their makeup styles often selected to fit a stereotype.

The model featured in the Three Squirrels advertisements has spoken out against the criticism.

A Chinese fashion photographer shot an image (pictured) showing an Asian woman who critics say was portrayed as having ‘sinister’ small eyes and a ‘gloomy face’ for the Lady Dior exhibition in Shanghai 

After furious backlash from internet users and Chinese publications, Beijing-based photographer Chen Man (pictured in 2014, left, and 2017, right) has ‘formally apologised’ for some of her ‘past works’

‘Just because my eyes are small, I’m not good enough to be a Chinese person? I don’t know what to say to these comments … I’m really helpless,’ the model said in a Weibo post under the handle Cai Niangniang.

‘As a professional model, what I need to do is be photographed accordingly to what the client wants, I don´t know how this became about me humiliating the Chinese people,’ she said.

The communist party newspaper Global Times said Cai’s response drew more than 330 million views.

‘I hope people online would stop messaging me with personal attacks. I´m not a supermodel nor am I a public figure, I´m just someone who loves my motherland and a law-abiding citizen.’

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