Burger King recently launched a major rebranding campaign with commercials starring celebrities like David Beckham, Jay Leno, Selma Hayek, and Mary J. Blige. But soon after the ads were posted to the restaurant chain's YouTube account, the Blige ad — which features the R&B star crooning the ingredients of the new chicken snack wrap at a random BK — was pulled from the internet. Why? Maybe because some people found the image of a black woman singing about how great fried chicken is to be an unintentionally uncomfortable sight at best and a perpetuation of a racist trope at worst. As Janelle Hazelwood of Black Enterprise wrote,
The television spot… had many reactions — mostly negative — from raised eyebrows to utter disgust, and reminded many of us that stereotypes of dancing, singing, and chicken-loving black people still remain prevalent in the hearts and minds of advertisers.
Of course, once something appears on the web, it can never truly be pulled, and you can still watch the ad in question at numerous places. Like right here:
For its part, Burger King says the ad was taken down not because of the criticism it's received, but because of a licensing issue, and that it expects to have ads starring Blige back on the air soon.
Some people will undoubtedly say that whatever controversy this ad has stirred up is ridiculous, because obviously Burger King didn't mean to make a racist commercial. And they're probably right about one thing: I doubt BK was courting such reactions. But at the end of the day, it's… still an ad with a black woman singing about fried chicken. That's a racially charged image no matter the intent and there will be people who find the image troubling; honestly, Burger King should have realized this long before the ad went up. (Or even into to production.) Would it have killed them to have her sing about the BLT Garden Fresh Salad?