Heineken: Multiculturalism and the ‘White Male’s Buffet’

I’ve seen this Heineken ad on TV many times and it’s always bugged me, although it’s been difficult to pinpoint why.

The ad is basically a well dressed (white) European looking man taking an ethnically ambiguous woman out on the ‘perfect’ date. It’s this weird hodgepodge of ‘cultural’ elements, where they run through a kitchen staffed by Chinese chefs, are chased by a dragon, and rip through rice paper to… dance to a 1960s Bollywood song. Along the way you see people who are portrayed as oddities.

This commercial is basically a hipster’s wet dream. You get to go out on a date with an exotic racially ambiguous woman, wear a cravat ironically, dance to music you don’t understand, and sip on crappy beer. It’s the modernized take on the multicultural ‘buffet’ ideology espoused in the 1980s. Take a little this, a little that, and become more cultured! The problem with the ‘diverse’ and ‘multicultural’ society is that often the purveyors of these cultures are seen as simply givers and providers of cultures to those who consume them.

The Heineken ad traverses the line between fantasy and the grotesque. The grotesque is a show provided by the (nonwhite) side characters and the fantasy belongs to the connoisseur beer drinker. It’s the old dressed up as the new. The tag line ‘Open Your World’ – whose world? Clearly not the waiter who was serving the Heineken.

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