Now Watsons Apologises for Controversial Blackface Video

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The Legenda Cun Raya video was supposed to highlight the moral values of inner beauty and that true love exists – but it backfired, spectacularly.

  • Watsons initially defended video
  • Legend about a woman born cursed with black skin
  • Many offended by connotation that a dark-skinned woman was not beautiful or desired

Watsons Malaysia made an about-turn on their position over a controversial 15-minute Hari Raya video and apologised for releasing it.

The initial response from the company in a statement yesterday was to defend its video and explain the creative rationale and message of the video.

However, in a statement, today, general manager and country head Caryn Loh said though the intention was to convey the concepts of inner and outer beauty, the video had instead offended many.

“We deeply and sincerely apologise for our recent Legenda Cun Raya video which was released on social media in Malaysia. The 15-minute video was inspired by the Malay legend Dayang Senandong made popular in the 1965 movie Dayang Senandong.

“Regretfully, we acknowledge that the Legenda Cun Raya video is not in line with the values that we hold dearly in Malaysia,” Loh said.

“Following the feedback from the general public, Watsons has immediately removed the video and we appreciate your honest feedback especially leading into an important celebration like Hari Raya.”

On Tuesday, the Legenda Cun Raya video went viral and was immediately criticised by Malaysians who were unhappy over the message that a woman with dark skin was not beautiful nor desired.

The Malay folktale of Dayang Senandung is about a woman who was born cursed with black skin. According to Watsons, it was shot to highlight the legend’s moral values of inner beauty and that true love exists.

The company pulled the video following the public uproar over its use of a black face and allegedly sexist theme.

Featuring a star-studded line-up, some celebrities who starred in it also apologised for the impression they gave fans with their participation. However, some defended the Hari Raya campaign.

In the Instagram comments section of ex-Miss Malaysia Thanuja Ananthan, who also joined the campaign, actress Raja Ilya said: “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.”

“It’s clearly stated ‘humour’ means it’s humour and it’s a tale after all,” she said, claiming that the public should stop being sensitive over every single issue.

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.

As for actor Kamal Adli, who played the lead in the video, he said he was just following the script.

“It is for fun and following the legend. I wasn’t disparaging anyone,” he said on his own Instagram account, responding to criticisms from some fans.