For the past few weeks, the St. Hubert restaurant chain has been running a commercial where the owner of a Chinese restaurant discovers St. Hubert has a $7.95 meal deal. Both of the actors are Chinese and speak in Cantonese with either English or French subtitles. The complaint is that the commercial is demeaning and offensive. It has drawn criticism and comments on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sparked a national dialogue on the stereotyping of Chinese-Canadians.
Do I think the St. Hubert commercial is stereotyping Chinese people? Yes, but not in a negative way. Is it demeaning? I don’t think so.
Television has not done a good job of depicting Chinese people. I watched the TV series Bonanza when I was growing up and found the character of the Chinese cook, Hopsing, kind of…confusing. My father and none of the Chinese men I knew had a long braid or behaved in a subservient way. Then there was the practice of casting Caucasian actors in Chinese roles, such as Charlie Chan who was played by three Caucasian actors and the TV series Kung Fu where David Carradine was chosen over Bruce Lee to play the lead role. There are a handful of Asians on prime time shows now, but basically unless there is a scene that takes place in Chinatown, it’s rare to see a Chinese person on TV.