Faux Pas: Jennifer Murphy

One year ago, I tried to put together a set of English-focused podcasts. By listening to this audio students would get real conversational vocabulary and phrases that they’d miss out on by only focusing on the news.

This year, I want to take another crack at it, but instead of English, I want to turn the focus towards speech in pop culture and media. This episode’s case study is Jennifer Murphy.


Jennifer Murphy is a former beauty pageant and former contestant on The Apprentice. These days she runs her own business selling murphy beds– supposedly it’s her dream come true.

What happened?

She’s come under fire for releasing the tune “I am Neenja”. The song itself doesn’t contain direct insults, but it includes a very over-the-top stereotypical Asian accent in the chorus– much like Michael Scott’s political incorrectness on The Office and that SalesGenie panda commercial. Except in The Office, it was more of a character showing the audience that’s not okay. Murphy’s song is more akin to the pandas.

Why is this a problem?

“Chop, chop, chop you down. Chop you down to Chinatown.” It’s not just the words, but the intonations she puts on them. It’s the kind of tone that’s “laugh at” and definitely not “laughing with”– despite her claims of this being “self-deprecating”.

In you want to play the card of being completely naive, you have to do a better job of owning your apology. You can “hide” behind not knowing, just as long as you can admit you were completely in the wrong– that there was no excuse.

But Murphy didn’t do that. She kept a theme of “how was I supposed to know?”. After all, all her friends thought it was funny. She goes on to say, “[I] didn’t understand that my attempt at humor would be seen as insensitive or mean-spirited.”

No real admission of fault. No explicit statement of being in the wrong. Not the best way to say “I’m sorry”. As Randy Pausch puts it, the best apology includes:

  1. Admission of wrongdoing (I was wrong)
  2. The actual apology (I’m sorry)
  3. The rectification (What can I do to make it better?)

Another note of interest, isn’t it weird that no one on the studio side bothered to stop and tell her this was a bad idea? If you have any insight of what’s actually involved in making a song, you know that it’s not a one take effort. You go back and re-record sections. Then, you layer on top.

For a tune that only lasts a few minutes, she put hours into doing those intonations, and not once did it cross her mind this might be too much.

That’s a whole lot of ignorance.

As always, the Speak Easy Podcast’s openening theme comes courtesy of DJi5Cream.

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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