Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Not From Where I Stand

There's an ad that they run during the cricket. Our protagonist Mick is sitting in the crowd, surrounded by opposition supporters who are generally carrying on. He turns to camera and says "Having difficulty stuck in an awkward situation? Too easy," and proceeds to hand out some of the advertiser's product to the opposition supporters, thus getting them onside.

About the third or fourth time I saw it, I realised that if the ad ever got aired in America it would probably get pulled within about ten seconds. The product in question is KFC, the opposition are the West Indies, and Mick is a typical Strayan. So, if you were to restate the ad, a white guy gives a bunch of black guys fried chicken to calm them down. You can see it here under 'Backyard Buckets - How to silence a noisy crowd'. To be clear, I don't think the ad is offensive at all and I don't think you'd find any Australian, or probably West Indian, who would.

It got me thinking about what combination of viewer, place of viewing and origin would make this offensive. American ad aired in America? Racist. But would it be offensive if it had been created in America but only for airing in Australia? What about if an African American saw it in Australia, would they be allowed to be offended? Contextual racism is weird.

update: apparently a few news outlets have picked up on this (thanks Anders for the heads up). To restate what a few commenters have said in those articles: it is an Australian ad, aired in Australia produced (I assume) by an Australian advertiser. The West Indies were the touring team, if the English had been touring, it would have been an English crowd. Fried chicken and black people is not an Australian stereotype at all. We have our own problems with racism, but those problems have nothing to do with fried chicken, confusing West Indians with African Americans or imposing our cultural sensitivities onto foreign countries.

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