Pushback on 'Helen Keller Brand' Sunglasses

I mentioned this morning an ad in China Daily for "Helen Keller brand" sunglasses.

A reader with a Chinese name thinks my amusement about the ad was unfair.

Your latest post at the Atlantic includes a comment of a friend of yours who is 'in China' on an ad of Hellen Keller glasses, in which you quote your friend - "If they only used Google [eg, to research possible brand names], they would know, but instead, they use Baidu so they end up with this."

It seems to me that you share his/her perspective that whoever came up with the idea has no idea who Hellen Keller is - which amuses me and I do very much wonder if the intention of this content is indeed to expose/ridicule this seeming ignorance.

Does your friend know that Hellen Keller is a junior high school text book figure for Chinese students? - I personally once had to recite three paragraphs from an excerpt of her The Story of My Life as an assignment for my Chinese class.

Hellen Keller as a brand for whoever (a Chinese person) hasn't heard of the woman doesn't carry more meaning than of a foreign female name representing some exotic Westerness, in contrast, for people who do know about her (that would be a hell lot of Chinese people who've had a reasonable education), I imagine, this ad could have conveyed a good deal of tension - thinking of glasses and the blindness of the woman - as well as a wicked sense of humour, hence making a successful advertising strategy.

Apparently not for your friend, though, whose first reaction is to assume 'Chinese state media' - or perhaps a much wider range of Chinese people - is too dumb to be reasonably informed, far more surprising for me - as an avid reader of yours - that you consider it worthy of a no small space in your column.

True that "a self-proclaimed China hand never disappoint". :)

I didn't know that Hel[l]en Keller was a familiar figure to Chinese school children. Now I do! The person who wrote in sent a link to a Chinese third-grade textbook story about her. And if Helen Keller Sunglasses is meant as an intentionally cheeky brand, in the spirit of "Franklin Roosevelt's School of Ballroom Dance," then I need to view it in a different light, so to speak.

It's still a little strange, though. Among other things, Helen Keller wasn't typically seen or depicted wearing sunglasses. Maybe "Ray Charles brand" is what we're looking for? Or Stevie Wonder?

For what it's worth, the person who sent in the item is ethnically Chinese as well, though not raised on the mainland

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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