The recent uproar about the Burger King commercial featuring Mary. J. Blige caused the spot to be pulled off of the air because it was called racist, but is it really? I read an interesting article by Aisha Harris from Slate.com discussing how the commercial was indeed ridiculous, but not racist. I had to agree and also wonder if Black people are just all but too eager to call something racist.
Race issues have always been a touchy topic with a thin line that advertisers have to try their hardest not to cross. In terms of the Burger King commercial, were we more upset about it being so called “racist” or about how it would make us look to a white audience?
Harris states in her piece that,
“It is short-sighted—and frankly, insulting to Blige—to attribute the Burger King spot to “coonery.” Burger King has been honing its cheesy advertising chops for years, most famously with their creepy corporeal version of the “King”; Blige is clearly in on the camp factor of the commercial. And other recent ads have far surpassed this one in ignorantly deploying racial stereotypes.
So why the uproar this time? Perhaps the answer has to do with the ad’s intended audience. Unlike the many fast-food commercials aimed specifically at black audiences, usually found on black-targeted networks like BET, the Blige ad features a mostly white supporting cast. It is meant to appeal to a “mainstream” (read: white) audience; some of the ad’s critics seem worried about the way it might make black people look to white people.”
This commercial was very stereotypical and just plain dumb. Like Harris points out, there have been numerous other commercials with Blacks singing happily about fried chicken, but they were reserved for Black television channels. If singing about fried chicken is racist than there should be protests about many other commercials and not just this one.
Calling something racist is very serious and the word shouldn’t be used lightly. This commercial was an embarrassment, much like Flavor Flav’s ads for his new fried chicken spot, but racist may be a bit far fetched.