Racism and Sexism always on the menu in fast food nation.

April 16, 2009

Some fervor in Ad Land over the latest Popeye’s commercial featuring “Annie, The Chicken Queen.” The controversy is two fold. First the obvious question: Is Annie a stereotype of black women? She’s in our face, shucking and jiving, yammering about fried chicken. So, yes, Annie is a stereotype. But what makes the bit even more controversial is the idea that a bunch of white guys in Texas created the commercial. Indeed, GSD&M is taken to task on Agency Spy. Perhaps with good reason. In the comments, a frustrated African American woman makes numerous good points, and not just to white America. The article and the spot are attached:

Agency Spy on Annie the Chicken Queen

The use of offensive stereotypes in popular culture is nothing new. But the amount of it in fast food advertising is acute. Twelve years ago Chiat Day and Taco Bell introduced a talking Chihuahua. “Yo Quiero Taco Bell!” I was so startled by this campaign I ended up satirizing it in my new novel, The Happy Soul Industry. A yapping Mexican Chihuahua? Hadn’t we been down this road before with the Frito Bandito (to say nothing of Speedy Gonzales)?

Apparently not. Yet another dubious Diablo inhabits Burger King’s recent commercial for the Texican Whopper. Here the height-challenged stereotype is a masked wrestler and he’s donning a Mexican flag for a cape. Aye Carumba. As of this writing BK’s agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky is reworking the spot to make it less offensive. The story and commercial are below.

AdAge on Burger King

And speaking of inappropriate behavior…Sexism reigns in recent campaigns for Hardees and Carl’s JR. In one, hottie chef, Padima makes love to a colossal stab of beef. In the other Paris Hilton tries to eat hers while having sex with a car.

What is it with fast food advertising and isms? I understand that young people and minorities eat junk food but pandering to these audiences with soft porn and stereotypes rankles. And besides aren’t Paris, Padima and Queen Annie all wrong anyway? It does seem like middle-aged white ad guys trying to be “dope” and, of course, failing.

And what to make of Burger King’s latest campaign, which mashes a bootylicious anthem and Spongebob Squarepants?! Not only is the ad sexist (joyfully so) but it’s presumably for children. Or is it? Adrants has more.

Adrants on Spongebob booty call.

Sigh…Almost makes one nostalgic for McDonald’s fake white America. Actually, we ought to give Mickey D’s props for getting pop culture right at least once. Last year’s “How Low Can You Go?” commercial seamlessly weaved hip-hop with middle America in a musical and visual treat for, of all things, Happy Meals. My kids liked it and so did I.

I’m taking on a lot here, I know. Look at the work. Besides creating a fast food nation is the Quick Serve industry (and its advertising partners) also committing more egregious fouls?


5 Responses to “Racism and Sexism always on the menu in fast food nation.”

  1. themackerman said

    Steffan, this is a lot to tackle.

    First, the Popeye’s spot. We mustn’t forget that, sometimes, stereotypes can be valid. Even positive. And I agree that the entirety of the controversy surrounding this spot stems from the fact that it was created by a bunch of white Texans. But let’s be honest. Popeye’s is rebranding itself as “Louisiana Chicken.” As a resident of the South, I can attest to the fact that people, regardless of race or creed, pride themselves on their fried chicken recipes. Her reaction to the pricepoint seems appropriate for someone so attached to the making of the product. To try to accuse this spot as being racist is really pushing it. What’s the acceptable alternative? A multinational team of Popeye’s employees each giving their opinion on the new low prices?

    I think the responses to the new BK spot are similarly over-exaggerated. They went for a quick visual read of both Mexican and Texan. Had they gone with a mariachi band, they would have gotten the same response. Either, though, is as stereotypically appropriate as showing a cowboy as a Texan. The Mexian flag cape, on the other hand…

    An attractive woman eating in slow motion does not an effective advertisement make. And though I’m going to cut myself off for fear of ranting, I have to add that if one were going to try the sexual hamburger vixen approach, one would be wise to use Padma Lakshmi.

  2. SRP said

    A great add to my post. I agree with all of it. If an African American agency did the Popeye’s commercial we aren’t having this conversation. And, yes, Padima is a lot hotter than that burger. My story was really a reaction to all the reactions. Lots of “isms” in advertising or finger pointing?

  3. adchick said

    Advertising people should use their powers for good, not evil. People continue to act stupidly and make stupid choices because it’s being sold to them. Anyway, my girlfriends and I concluded that as soon as she ate the burger, she raced upstairs to her apartment and threw it up. PLEEEEASE…. not everyone in the audience is a bumbling doof. If we stop talking to people like they ARE idiots, maybe we can push the needle up a little. OK…that’s naive, isn’t it? It’s really all about the money. Sorry. I lost my mind for a moment. As always, excellent post.

  4. JW said


    If a black firm had been responsible the ad would still be just as racist and would have left me and others asking how many times those idiots had been dropped on their collective heads as children.

  5. of course when you dont have time to cook, fastfoods would always be the best option “,’

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