A Sony PSP ad promoting the new Ceramic White model of the system in the Netherlands is causing an international stir. Gaming Web sites and message boards have lit up with debate over the ad this week after a picture went up on digitalbattle.com, and now California Assemblyman Leland Yee and the San Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have made their feelings on the issue known.
In a statement titled "Sony stoops to new low with racially charged ad," Yee said he was "deeply disappointed" in the publisher's decision to run the ad, which features a white woman holding a black woman by the jaw in a threatening manner. Sony has said the ad, one in a series that features the white woman promoting the system in a variety of ways, was designed to show the contrast between the colors of the new and old PSPs, and has "no other message or purpose."
"Whether in the US or abroad, using differences in skin color to articulate the fact that your video game console now comes in white can be interpreted as insensitive at best and racist at worst," Yee said.
Rick Callender, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP, echoed Yee's displeasure.
"The days of blacks being portrayed in minstrel shows are long gone, and with good reason," Callender said. "The minstrel show was an awful chapter in history and this ad smacks of that age and time. It is even further unacceptable that some corporations still think it is ok to use racially charged media images. The latest Sony ad conjures up bad memories of when stereotypical and offensive images of people of color were accepted means of selling a product. Sony should immediately apologize and discontinue these archaic advertising tactics."
This is not the first time Yee has taken exception to actions in the gaming industry. He authored California's violent game restriction law (currently being challenged in the courts), and was among the first to call for a rerating of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as a result of the Hot Coffee scandal.