KUALA LUMPUR — A viral video featuring a woman wearing “blackface” that caused an outcry on social media has been pulled by a popular retailer in Malaysia, with the firm apologising Thursday (June 8) for causing offence.
The 15-minute film on Watsons Malaysia’s Facebook page shows a nobleman holding an audition to track down a woman with an enchanting voice who has been in his dreams.
A woman appears at the audition, singing beautifully but with her face covered.
He recoils in disgust when she exposes her jet black face. “Oh my gosh! She is actually dark?” he exclaims.
She later re-emerges with fair skin, explaining she was wearing black make-up to test his sincerity.
“I am not dark. In fact, I am flawless,” she beams.
The promotional video was to celebrate the upcoming Muslim religious festival Eid al Fitr, but it provoked an online backlash with many saying it was racist and sexist.
“Being dark skinned is not a badge of shame. Being stupid is,” said one Twitter user.
Another said: “I am so shocked that Watsons crossed the line with blackface. This video is so racist, I am ashamed of buying face mask at Watsons.”
The video, featuring local celebrities, was taken down by the company on Wednesday.
The public backlash over the controversial video elicited mixed response from some of the local celebrities who starred in it.
While several expressed apology for the impressions they gave fans with their participation, some defended the Hari Raya campaign that was criticised for using blackface and allegedly sexist themes for merely being “humorous” and just “for fun”.
“The truth is people in this era are overly sensitive, on social media, on the road, public areas, government office even hospitals … that’s the fact,” said popular actress Raja Ilya in the Instagram comments section of ex-Miss Malaysia Thanuja Ananthan, who also joined the campaign.
“It’s clearly stated ‘humour’ means it’s humour and it’s a tale after all,” Raja Ilya said, claiming that the public should stop being sensitive over every single issue, while pointing to her own Indian heritage.
Nakanakanakanakkkk! .... Are you ready for Ghost Princess Nang Nak? Do not be fooled by the beautiful costume & this face! Nantikan esok 07/06/2017 Adakah anda sudah bersedia untuk Puteri Hantu Nang Nak? Jangan terpedaya dgn kostum cantik & muka ni! Nantikan esokkkk... 07/06/2017 #NangNak #GhostPrincess @watsonsmy #LegendaCun #DigitalMovie #HariRaya2017
Thanuja, an ethnic Indian TV presenter, explained that she joined the campaign because of its multiracial and multicultural aspect, saying it was “honestly done in good faith and spirit of fun based on traditional fairy tales”.
“The whole purpose of this video was to show love, respect and unity amongst our multicultural Malaysia. We all come from different backgrounds, colour and creed. But, we are all one. Blood runs red in each one of us,” said Thanuja.
Popular actress Ruhainies who put on the blackface to play her part beside Kamal has yet to respond publicly.
Day 28. The storm that was brewing since last night in Capetown seems to be brewing back home too. The voice of the people rings out loud and clear. For the record, I too have experienced unflattering comments made about my 'colour' even to this day. I have written about this before previously and those closest to me would know how sensitive I am in regards to any sort of discrimination towards another human being. I have been called names, have insults thrown at me and was alienated just because I didint 'fit in.' So I know how it feels to be ridiculed and believe me when I say, I would never dream of advocating such a thing in this lifetime of mine. In fact, after years of shaming, I turned the hurt into strength by accepting the fact I have always been different and shall remain to be. I embrace being the odd one out and have learnt to love myself for who I am. In this case though I will admit I did overlook the impact of such a sensitive issue and the ripple affect that it would have on other individuals. Everyone has a right to lash out and be upset as a result. The web movie has been taken down and an official apology has been made. To be honest I am not familiar with this particular local folklore and in all my naivety wasn't aware of what it entailed as I concentrated entirely on my role in the story. However, only when messages started coming in alerting me of the uproar this morning could I see that the damage had been done. Ive been told that other than an official apology, an official statement in regards to the execution of the movie was released to shed some light on the matter. Steps are being taken to try and relieve this matter to mend the rift caused as I am writing this. One hopes that we learn from such miscalculated oversights and genuine remorse is key. From my heart I can only hope this shows that I love everything and everyone and that's the truth and nothing but the truth. "We're all flawed. We all make mistakes daily. Yet His Mercy remains. So no matter how hard you stumble and fall, get up. Get back on track." - Motivational Moments by Mufti Menk. #DiaryOfASingleWorkingMum #Day158Of365DaysIn2017BySashaSaidin #CommittedToTheCelopians
Actress and model Sasha Saidin reflected on the backlash by relating her experience of being an outcast in Malaysian society, saying she had been insulted and alienated for being half-Caucasian.
“In this case though I will admit I did overlook the impact of such a sensitive issue and the ripple affect [sic] that it would have on other individuals. Everyone has a right to lash out and be upset as a result,” said Sasha.
“To be honest I am not familiar with this particular local folklore and in all my naivety wasn’t aware of what it entailed as I concentrated entirely on my role in the story. However, only when messages started coming in alerting me of the uproar this morning could I see that the damage had been done.”
Watsons Malaysia has removed the star-studded video of the “Legenda Cun” campaign for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration following public uproar over its use of blackface and allegedly sexist theme.
“Watsons Malaysia takes responsibility for the video and its content and is truly sorry that some elements have offended the general public,” the company said Thursday.
“It was our intention to convey concepts of inner and outer beauty, unfortunately the video instead offended many. “
The company said the video was based on an old Malay legend.
AFP was unable to immediately contact the company.
Watsons is a household name in Asia with over 4,000 personal care stores and 1,000 pharmacies in countries including China, Korea and the Ukraine.
Last year, a Malaysian TV show had to apologise over a comedy skit featuring an actor in “blackface” pretending to be US R&B star Usher. AGENCIES