Pete Jenson: It is Alf Garnett humour, and Spanish still think it's funny

It's Benny Hill with a play on the fact that Reina's name means queen in Spanish

Barcelona

In 2004, when Spanish club Getafe's supporters were accused of racist abuse, their president, Angel Torres, offered to make his players black up for a game to prove the club was not racist. He was being serious.

It should be pointed out that Torres also proposed that any supporter found making racially abusive comments be banned for life. His intentions were good but, seen through the eyes of people with a different cultural and socio-political history, his idea was hideous.

Pepe Reina's advert for insurance is the kind of thing that would have been screened on British television about 20 years ago, probably while the Alf Garnett series In Sickness and In Health was airing on the other channel. Today anyone coming up with the idea at a brainstorming session would have been getting their coat before you could say "crude racial stereotype".

The question is: should the Spanish be allowed to define and redefine their own perimeters of what is and is not acceptable, taking on board the opinions and complaints of their own ethnic minorities, or do groups from outside the country's borders have a duty to tell them what is and is not acceptable?

In the advert the Liverpool goalkeeper Reina is introduced to the king of an African tribe. The person presenting him to the king says: "Great white man – Pepe Reina." Then the king says something which is translated to Reina as: "The boss says 'you Reina [meaning queen in Spanish], he Rey'" (king in Spanish). The king then says something else and when Reina asks: "And what does that mean?" the interpreter shakes his head worryingly and a spearholding tribesman puts a crown on to Reina's head and shuffles him forward towards the king – the inference being that he will have to marry the king. Reina utters the advert's catchphrase: "Me siento seguro", which translates as: "I feel secure".' The word seguro also means insurance.

Whether the ad for the multi-national insurance firm Groupama really depicts black people as "animalistic homosexuals", as Operation Black Vote suggests, is highly debatable. It's Benny Hill humour with a silly play on the fact that Reina's name means queen in Spanish. The tribal king is the fool in the story – in another of the adverts from the same series the joke is on the Spanish, with Reina sat on a coach being asked for his autograph by a fan, who turns out to be the coach driver who has left his mother at the wheel – Reina utters his "I feel secure" catchphrase as the coach veers across the road. Women drivers could take offence at that one.

Of course, women drivers have never been enslaved and persecuted, and that maybe is the part that Spanish culture still does not get. Should Reina have got it, with his years of playing in England? The behind-the-scenes shots of him filming the advert have him joking with the black actors as he struggles to say his lines without laughing. He will be as surprised as the Spanish TV audience that the commercial has caused so much outrage beyond the country's borders.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'