Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Not easy at all

The supposed racist KFC ad:

On the one hand, it seems pretty bad on first look, at least to someone brought up with an American perspective on what seems like a straightforward racial issue. On the other hand, the criticism that since this involves Australia and the West Indies, American intuitions do not apply. I have two problems with it though:

KFC is an US company. I find it hard to believe that there would be no knowledge of the potential appearance of the spot. I would think that KFC would constantly be on the lookout for racial interpretations like this. They're a US fried chicken company.

The other problem I have has to do with this response: "This ad was shown during cricket matches between Australia and the West Indies. If England had been playing at the time, the ad would have shown the bloke feeding chicken to the Barmy Army to make them sit down and shut up." I'm not sure about this. Watching the commercial, the Australian dude says he's in an awkward situation. I don't know anything about cricket but I don't see how his situation could be interpreted as particularly awkward. They're not all wearing West Indies jerseys so you can't suggest that they are all West Indies fans. (Unless you want to suppose that there are no black people in Australia or at least none that could be rooting for the Australian team.) And no one is hostile in any way. In fact, it's a bloody party atmosphere. Where's the awkwardness?

Of course, I'm don't know much about cricket fans. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Take a commercial for KyoChon, a Korean chicken chain that suckles from the teat of racism, considering it has close to zero black customers:

But I think the Australian one is harmless and shows the crowd doing nothing that an Indian or English wouldn't do and, unless KFC's marketers are stupid, KFC would loathe to air a commercial meant to appeal to a customer base.

Anduril Elessar said...

I remember there was some controversy about a genuinely offensive "blackface" schtick that was done recently (i.e. in the past couple of years), in Australia. The people who did it were all doctors and so on--who would have known better here, in North America. What was interesting was that they seemed genuinely surprised, when it went viral, that this was in any way upsetting to watch--as did other Aussie viewers and commentators. It kind of fascinated me that such a thing was not on the radar at all, and it was only when, in some comment thread, someone asked if they'd find it offensive if it had been a schtick with the indigenous peoples of Australia, and *that* reframed it appropriately.

But I agree, KFC, with its origins in Kentucky (I know the fought for the north, and it's where Lincoln was born, but still--"Old Kentucky Home" plantation stuff, anyone?) should know better!

Anduril Elessar said...

Ha ha--just double checked my facts. I had always considered it a southern state, culturally. And indeed, it is. But it didn't secede (which is why I had lumped it with the North--when we went through KY this past summer, many of the sites we stopped at, esp. Lincoln-related, emphasized the Northern connection). But we also saw what is claimed to be the "old Kentucky home"--and my, those original lyrics are so, so problematic today....