If you were alive in the 1970s and watching TV, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen this commercial for Calgon Laundry Detergent:
Yup, this is where the whole “ancient Chinese secret” schtick originated from—with actors Calvin Jung and Anne Miyamoto portraying the Chinese American laundry owners who sure know how to get your laundry 30% cleaner.
While there may have been a number of pop culture tropes during that time that were blatantly offensive, I’m going to give this one a pass. Yes, the Chinese laundry stereotype may be in full effect here, but at least this ad is smart enough to poke fun at the stereotype—these are clearly Chinese Americans and, in the case of the husband, he’s pulling off the whole FOB act to solely to trick whitey to get her business and that’s alright by me.
Of course, what would have made it even better is if the husband had not been exposed by his wife and had successfully gotten away with fooling the white woman into thinking he had some magical Chinese laundry cleaning secret and she went and referred all her friends to their laundry and they referred their friends and so on and so on and so on…and the business became super successful all ‘cause these ignorant gwai lo are so stupid to figure out that they can get the same level of clean at home by paying a few bucks to buy a box of Calgon.