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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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58 Responses

  1. chipchop
    chipchop January 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm |

    I agree that it’s racist even if you replace the chicken with something else.

    I’m not Australian, but I have a HUGE problem with the “Oh, well it’s not racist here, so whatevs” thing. The same thing happened with that blackface performance on Australian TV a while ago. Part of what makes me uncomfortable about that excuse (and there’s a lot) is that it assumes that countries are completely closed off from each other, and that, for example, no Americans (including black Americans) live in Australia.

  2. Cruella
    Cruella January 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm |

    Brilliantly the advert – for me at least – doesn’t even work as an ad. The music the crowd are playing sounds much nicer than the drone of some dull sports match…

  3. one jewish dyke
    one jewish dyke January 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm |

    Why couldn’t KFC have made the commercial with a group of people of varied ethnicity making sport-inappropriate noise? If the point is that fried chicken is a crowd-pleaser, you want to serve it to as wide an audience as possible. Have kids screaming, adults talking loudly, teenagers playing music and dancing, girls doing hand-slapping games and singing (girls of different ethnic backgrounds actually do this even though it’s portrayed in movies and perhaps originated with black girls).

  4. m
    m January 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm |

    American living in the UK here. I’ve been told it wouldn’t be offensive here to flat out say “black people love chicken”, which I don’t understand.

    For those who aren’t fans of cricket, West Indies fans will often bring steel drums and horns into matches and are well known for their boisterous dancing in the stands. None of which justifies this racist ad.

  5. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes January 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    I think the message is supposed to be about being surrounded by supporters of the opposing team, and needing a way to escape that situation, rather than about the noise per se. Australia played West Indies fairly recently, and the West Indies supporters around the world are renowned for their noisy support (it caused quite a lot of upset in racist Britain in previous decades when the West Indies team played at Lord’s, for example), so I can see what they thought they were doing. (FYI, the white dude in the advert is wearing an Australian limited-overs cricket team replica shirt, meaning he is just as much a cricket fan as the people partying around him.)

    It doesn’t change the racist nature of the ad, though: PR people, including ad producers, really need to be aware of the problems of putting a white dude surrounded by non-white folks and looking frightened, nervous or similar!

    (I also wonder whether a similarly racist advert has run during the current tour by Pakistan?)

    In short, while I can see that their intentions may have been innocent, all that does is make them ignorant, incompetent and White-privileged.

  6. Alex
    Alex January 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    “American living in the UK here. I’ve been told it wouldn’t be offensive here to flat out say “black people love chicken”, which I don’t understand.”

    Uh, who told you that? Because whilst it’s true we don’t have that stereotype, most people know enough of the States through cultural osmosis to be aware of its offensiveness, and you know the fact that attributing one characteristic to black brits is racist anyway.

    As for the advert, if it was a reference to the West Indies team it seems like they were going to lose whichever way they went with this. Had they portrayed the fans as a multicultural audience it both would have killed the reference, and they would have caught flak for whitewashing the audience.

  7. Chally
    Chally January 7, 2010 at 2:14 pm |

    Well, I remember encountering black people associated with fried chicken a few times through American popular culture, but I only became aware of that as a a big racist stereotype, along with watermelon, probably last year or the year before. So it doesn’t really feature here to the best of my knowledge, but definitely some people would be aware of it, if that helps any non-Aussie readers.

    Yeah, of course it’s racist. And Australia is one of those countries where lots and lots of white people like to say, ‘we’re not racist! We’re past that! We’re multicultural and stuff!’ But seriously? So far from being there. I read the other day that people are thinking that the dynamic here is being uncomfortable around supporters of a different team, but even if that’s what they were trying to do, it’s still a white guy uncomfortable within the scary dark horde, you know?

    The other things that I’ve actually been noticing a lot, particularly recently, is that extremely few advertisements here feature non-white people, or people who look so at any rate. So this ad really stands out.

    I’ve actually only heard about this ad on the Internet; I’ve seen one or two of these KFC’s Cricket Survival Guide ads recently, but not this one. I wonder if that means it was only aired in certain parts of the country or it was pulled off the air really quickly.

  8. P.T. Smith
    P.T. Smith January 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm |

    “Why couldn’t KFC have made the commercial with a group of people of varied ethnicity making sport-inappropriate noise? If the point is that fried chicken is a crowd-pleaser, you want to serve it to as wide an audience as possible.”

    Because the ad aired during a West Indies v Australia match. Because the West Indies isn’t exactly full of “varied ethnicity.” Because the joke is about the awkwardness of being stuck in a crowd of opposing supporters, specifically, because of the match it was aired during, an Australian supporter surrounded by West Indies supporters.

  9. Roy
    Roy January 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm |

    My first instinct is that it’s racist too, but, then, I’m coming from an American perspective where the “blacks love fried chicken” meme is still well understood. I don’t really know whether that’s something that translates culturally, but I suspect it isn’t. If there’s some kind of rivalry between the West Indies team and the Australian team, I can see where the commercial might be going–I’m imagining a commercial with a Yankees fan sitting alone in the middle of a group of Red Sox fans, and offering them some product/food that pacifies them and makes them like him. On the other hand, nothing in the commercial really seems to justify the discomfort he’s feeling–the West Indies fans don’t seem to be targeting him or even aware of his being there.

    I don’t know either way, but it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  10. Jenga
    Jenga January 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm |

    I’ve seen many many discussion about this commercial. And I’m on the side of the ad, honestly. The commercial was aired during the Australia – West Indies cricket match. And the intent was “stuck with fans of the other team in the bleachers” NOT “white dude stuck with scary non-whites.” Secondly, this is also a series of commercials where another one is “In-laws,” so I’m much more forgiving of it.

    If they did the ad for an american audience, and switch cricket for basketball or something, then yes it would have been racist. But the stereotype of “blacks LOVE fried chicken” just isn’t in existence in Australia. This whole commercial would be a non-issue if it was McDonald’s and the guy was offering everyone fries. But it’s KFC so we in the US, with the “fried chicken” conditioning instantly see that issue, and not what they were discussing. I’d put this right up there with calling cigarettes “fags.” It’s cultural difference with us projecting our problems on to them.

    This post is NOT to say that Australia is the magic happy land free from racism. But that this is just a complete difference of cultural standards.

  11. Chally
    Chally January 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm |

    ‘And the intent was “stuck with fans of the other team in the bleachers” NOT “white dude stuck with scary non-whites.”’

    Yeah, but intent doesn’t determine whether something is racist or not, you know? And why can’t those two things operate concurrently?

  12. Sarah
    Sarah January 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=55497
    Here’s a pretty good discussion on the ad in question, with perspectives from people all over the world. The “black people love friend chicken” stereotype is pretty much exclusively American, although some individuals may be aware of it. It’s not part of their history.

    The black people in the ad aren’t African Americans. They’re West Indians. The “awkward situation” is being the lone supporter of one cricket team in a crowd of supporters of the opposing team.

    There is really no racist intent here, and the Australian target audience certainly wouldn’t view it as racist.

    That being said, it isn’t surprising that so many people have viewed it as being a racist ad. It’s interesting to see how our different cultural stereotypes shape the way we see things.

  13. Sarah
    Sarah January 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    Some individuals in other countries, I mean.

  14. Roula
    Roula January 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm |

    Um, you guys, why does “Australian” = “white”? The comments saying that this ad isn’t problematic, OR saying it’s problematic merely because they show a white guy looking unnerved by people of color, are overlooking the fact that an Australian cricket fan, even one born-and-bred in Australia, could be of any color. If you keep that in mine, then the ad very clearly appears to be using “white” to convey either “Australian person” or “fan of Australia’s cricket team”, both of which only work if you (the viewer, or the ad creators) consider white to be the default person-color in that country. Right?

  15. Roula
    Roula January 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    sorry, meant “keep that in mind” obviously – not in mine!
    And after writing so much, the word “Australian” looks like a Dr. Who far-space name to me.

  16. ACG
    ACG January 7, 2010 at 4:37 pm |

    Roula – It is true that the guy is white, but what’s distinguishing him as Australian is the fact that he’s wearing an Australian cricket jersey. In that sense, it’s like a guy in a Vikings jersey surrounded by a bunch of rowdy cheeseheads or a guy in a Cowboys jersey surrounded by guys wearing dresses and pig noses. After that point, the question is about casting – was it a wise move for the ad agency to cast a white man in that role, would they have been better off with a man of a different race, or would it have had little significance to the target audience?

    All available information seems to indicate that this ad was made to run during an Australia vs. West Indies cricket match, which means the target audience would be the people most likely to interpret it as “fan of one team stuck among fans of another team, but food brings them together.” I can’t say whether or not any West Indies cricket fans would be insulted by that characterization of their fans, but going back to the American football reference above, I know most Redskins fans would be able to watch the Hogs and laugh.

    I’m not saying that the ad is or is not racist, because I don’t think that’s mine to say. But my impression is that this is an ad designed for an audience with certain associations and in-jokes and sensitivities, and it wasn’t intended or expected to be viewed by an entirely different audience with different associations and in-jokes and sensitivities. It would be like an American ad agency scouring its own ads for anything that might carry a different meaning in Korea, Brazil, or France because the ad might make it onto the Internet.

  17. Josh
    Josh January 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm |

    Roula: The fact is, most Australians *are* white. I don’t think KFC should have been under any greater or lesser obligation to cast someone non-white in this commercial than any other company would for any other commercial that would be airing in Australia.

    If an Australian went to watch a cricket match against the West Indies team on the West Indies’ home turf (which is what the ad is depicting), it’s rather likely s/he would be a white person surrounded by many non-whites. Them’s just the facts.

  18. Skreebs
    Skreebs January 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm |

    I’m Australian and I agree that the “black people love fried chicken” stereotype doesn’t exist in Oz. I’ve personally been aware of it for a few years now, but only through reading feminist/womanist blogs that are based in North America.

    I also get that the ad was run while the Aussies were playing the West Indies in the cricket and it’s poking fun at West Indies supporters.

    However, I still think the ad is racist. It’s a white guy rolling his eyes at the way those barbaric blacks support their cricket team. “Why can’t they just show support like us civilised (white) Aussies? Then I wouldn’t have to shut them up with a bucket of chicken.”

    The thing is that if it was just an Aussie supporter surrounded by West Indies supporters, without the racial/cultural overtones, the ad wouldn’t work. I think that illuminates the racism question pretty nicely.

  19. Josh
    Josh January 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    Skreebs: I disagree. I think if the ad ran using any two rival sports team’s fans, without different races, it would work fine. And maybe even better because (in most cases) there would be no ambiguity about the meaning.

    If I saw an ad like this, with a mixed-race or uniform audience all in Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys, along with one Montreal Canadiens fan in the middle and the ad played out in exactly the same way, it would absolutely work. Same thing with Man U and Arsenal supporters, Yankees and Red Sox fans, or whatever your local equivalent to these rivalries is.

    I disagree strongly that the ad wouldn’t work without ‘racial/cultural overtones’.

  20. PharaohKatt
    PharaohKatt January 7, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    I think it’s unfortunate that they chose the West Indies-Australia match for their first permutation of this ad (I’ve no doubt they planned on doing more). If they had aired it during an Australia-England match, with a bunch of England supporters decked out in colours and cheering loudly, the same meaning could be shown without the ambiguity.
    I should also point out that I’ve seen a version of this shown during footy season in WA. A Dockers supporter surrounded by Eagles supporters and vice-versa.

    I find the idea that he wanted to hear the game really funny, though. You don’t hear cricket, you make a bunch of noise and pretend to pay attention :P (or, if you actually want to pay attention, you listen on the radio or watch the tv)

  21. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 7, 2010 at 6:40 pm |

    Is the message the progressive community really wants to send to mainstream marketers “Cast fewer black people, and never mention cross-racial cultural differences?”

  22. Melanie
    Melanie January 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm |

    Skreebs:

    However, I still think the ad is racist. It’s a white guy rolling his eyes at the way those barbaric blacks support their cricket team. “Why can’t they just show support like us civilised (white) Aussies? Then I wouldn’t have to shut them up with a bucket of chicken.”

    I’m also Australian and I agree with Skreebs. Regardless of whether the ad was intended to show West Indes cricket supporters or not, the effect of a white guy surrounded by noisy black people that he has to ‘shut up’ with chicken is very, very racist.

  23. skinner
    skinner January 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm |

    This Australian mostly seems to be confused by the ad, but also points out:

    there are no other primarily white countries that are good at cricket. Australia is it. England likes to think they are good, but they are not. There are a lot of primarily black countries that are good at cricket, though! Also some of the Asian/Middle Eastern countries are getting to be really good! And the West Indies recently kicked our asses all over the pitch, which is probably why they are being used in this ad! In fact I am pretty sure this ad was aired specifically during the match in which they did this! I do not know if that makes this less racist, or more racist, but it is a contributing factor

  24. Hannah Ballou
    Hannah Ballou January 7, 2010 at 7:16 pm |

    Oh, dear. And KFC wins… because you’re all talking about it.

  25. eli
    eli January 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm |

    I agree with you, Skreebs. Take away the “black people love chicken” stereotype, and the whole scenario is still racially icky and problematic.

    The actor does stand up and I can’t wait to see if he brings this whole thing up at a comedy night.

  26. bai li
    bai li January 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm |

    @hannah
    KFC is not making profits off of being controversial. I can see people not wanting to go there anymore and I can see other people… not caring. It’s not like that latter group is going to eat more KFC because they supported some dumb ad… Anyway, back on topic, I found the remark “too easy” kind of racist in that context, i.e. easy to tame these barbaric non-humans. That may be his catchphrase or something, seeing as this is a series of ads, and that would drain the meaning out of it.

  27. Chally
    Chally January 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm |

    I can’t recall if it’s in the other ads in this series, but it’s a pretty common phrase in Australia if that helps.

  28. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes January 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm |

    Skinner:

    To whoever said “there are no other primarily white countries that are good at cricket. Australia is it. England likes to think they are good, but they are not” I would just like to point out (as an England cricket supporter ;-) ) that England won the Ashes series last time around, so England are looking better than Australia right now!

    Skreebs just said what I tried to get across in my first comment, only much better.

  29. lilacsigil
    lilacsigil January 7, 2010 at 10:36 pm |

    I think it’s unfortunate that they chose the West Indies-Australia match for their first permutation of this ad

    The first permutation was some white people with a big sign and noise-makers. I’d never heard the “black people love chicken” stereotype until I got into American fandoms. Those people are West Indian, not African American. “Too easy” is indeed a common catchphrase.

    Unfortunately, none of these are really mitigating factors – you’ve still got a white male on his home turf (a colonialist nation) making black people shut up. No reason why you couldn’t have had a Koori cricket fan offering the chicken. Or had a mixed group of non-Australian fans? Or getting them to do something other than shut up (maybe crowd-surf the Aussie across to his own supporters or something)?

  30. goldnsilver
    goldnsilver January 8, 2010 at 12:21 am |

    I don’t doubt that Australia has a different context for this ad than the United States does, but I have a hard time believing that it would only be considered racist over in my corner of the world. Aussie readers, am I wrong?

    I’m an aussie, and as other aussie readers have commented previously, the ‘fried chicken and black people’ racial cliche doesn’t exist out here. I had to explain to a couple of my friends how the add was even considered racist, because they weren’t aware of this particular aspect of American history.

    I don’t think this add is racist. In the context it was shown, it is not. West Indian teams are renowned for their noisy and vibrant crowd tactics. Most West Indian cricket supporters are black. Most Australian cricket supporters are white. The black/white aspect of the add is there for those two reasons.

    I can understand how if it were shown in America the meaning would be different.

    In a way, I think that this reaction by the American press is reflective of American culture and shows a subtle form of ignorance, if not a hint of racism. Americans assume that just because a West Indian has dark skin that they have a similar culture and similar sensitivities as black Americans.

    It is similar to the ‘all asians are similar’ assumption, or assuming that all white people are like Americans, without noticing the large differences in culture between England, France, Aus, Canada, Scandinavia, Germant etc

    (However, I would like to point out that Australia does indeed have racism, as someone mentioned before. We are not the happy land of acceptance unfortunately)

  31. goldnsilver
    goldnsilver January 8, 2010 at 12:25 am |

    Also, I’d like to mention that this add also had beginning section that wasn’t shown.

    The same white male is shown. He is watching cricket on TV and his best mate and girlfriend come in. They start chatting noisily. To get them to be quiet, so he can concentrate on cricket, he gets them KFC, which they munch away at.

    Then the west indies add comes on, where he employs the same tactic.

    So he did the ‘bucket of chicken’ thing on a white male, white female and the black crowd.

  32. Ariane
    Ariane January 8, 2010 at 12:34 am |

    I agree that there was no racist intent, for all the reasons people have mentioned already regarding different memes in different places. “Too easy” is, as a few people have mentioned, an extremely common phrase, just about over taking “no worries” in some demographics.

    But I also agree that white person looking uncomfortable surrounded by black people is problematic. I can understand why it wasn’t obvious to the ad-makers, because they knew what their intent was, and it was all about cricket. Similar ads have shown the same discomfort being surrounded by white fans of other teams. They just added the current team’s supporters. It is telling that the ad-makers are lucky enough to not realise the set-up (unintentionally) echoes racist norms. I’m guessing none of them have ever been regarded as threatening on the basis of their skin colour.

    I also think the context of the rest of the series of ads makes it clear that he’s not uncomfortable because the people around him are black, but since that context is not guaranteed, some tweaking to make that unmistakable for the standalone ad would have been a good plan. And mostly, just stepping back when you are depicting groups you don’t belong to and checking that you haven’t just implied something you never meant to imply is a very good idea.

  33. Ishtar
    Ishtar January 8, 2010 at 2:17 am |

    My first thought on watching it was that he was a lone Aussie supporter in a crowd of West Indian supporters, most likely at an away game (away for Australians, that is to say). Also, the previous ad we didn’t see (as pointed out by goldnsilver) makes me think that the Aussie cricket fan used KFC as a way to shut up anyone.

    Another thought I had was that Australians are also known to be very passionate and vocal in support of their teams so maybe it was also about an Australian supporter being on the receiving end for a change.

    The “Black people like chicken” meme is unknown here in South Africa so I doubt any South African watching this ad would think of that. I can understand, however, that an American would feel differently.

  34. southpaw
    southpaw January 8, 2010 at 3:03 am |

    The ad suggests that the confused man is surrounded by simple, unrefined people who he is able to easily and cheaply manipulate and control with a bucket of fried food. I’ve gotta think that’s offensive in and of itself and not because it refers to historical tropes of american racism.

  35. Roula
    Roula January 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm |

    simple, unrefined people who he is able to easily and cheaply manipulate
    exactly! It’s not all about “is x a specific stereotype in y country, or not”. I agree that agencies can’t be checking every ad for specific offensive stereotypes that might apply in various far-flung countries, but this still seems like a very insider/outsider storyline they set up.

  36. Tonya
    Tonya January 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm |

    I understand that the stereotype may not exist in Australia, however, the last time I checked, KFC is an AMERICAN company. So, I find it quite disturbing that KFC (who I HOPE wouldn’t run such an ad in the US/Canada) thought that they would run such an ad in Australia cause the stereotype doesn’t exist in Australia.

    I understand Australia might have their own KFC head offices, but I’m sure SOMEONE was aware that this could go over wrong if seen outside of Australia

    It’s almost like they chose to run a racist ad somewhere else to be able to get away with it and say “Well, it’s you guys that are racist OVER THERE”

    P.S. I love how the spokesperson pointed out that the ad was taken without the permission of KFC to be aired outside of Australia. It reminds me of the argument about privacy by a teenager whose parents find drugs in their room and the teenager turns around and says “Well, why were you in my room anyway!”

  37. P.T. Smith
    P.T. Smith January 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm |

    “simple, unrefined people who he is able to easily and cheaply manipulate”
    “exactly! It’s not all about “is x a specific stereotype in y country, or not”. I agree that agencies can’t be checking every ad for specific offensive stereotypes that might apply in various far-flung countries, but this still seems like a very insider/outsider storyline they set up.”

    And that is what most every single ad ever made does. I mean, the basis of an ad is that we are stupid and easily manipulated. Some ads treat the characters in the ad that way, others don’t – others pretend that people are smart, hoping we all fall for the flattery, becasue we are dumb.

    Also, as has been pointed out, this is part of a series, where indeed, everyone can be shut up with KFC.

    “I understand that the stereotype may not exist in Australia, however, the last time I checked, KFC is an AMERICAN company. So, I find it quite disturbing that KFC (who I HOPE wouldn’t run such an ad in the US/Canada) thought that they would run such an ad in Australia cause the stereotype doesn’t exist in Australia.”

    YES! Everyone must respect and respond to American culture! Forget that every multinational company markets their products in cultural specific ways to each culture. If we Americans are offended by it, them damn well everyone else should be. Because, yes, Australians are teenagers compared to us parental figures.

    This form of progressive American cultural imperialism is honestly pretty frightening.

  38. Tonya
    Tonya January 8, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    Um. P.T. Smith….newsflash, I’m NOT American. So, um…… I really don’t care if Australians don’t apparently adhere to “American ways”. The ad was a white guy feeling uncomfortable around rowdy black people. No matter what “cultural appropriation” you want to say it’s under, it’s offensive.

    My comparison to teenagers was in response to the spokesperson focusing on the fact that the ad was taken without permission as opposed to just focusing on the ad itself. Kind of like a teenager focusing on the fact that their privacy was invaded instead of focusing on the fact that there were drugs in their room. Seems like a reasonable comparison to me. Furthermore, I’m sure with your wonderful reading skills, you’re aware that I’m referring to the SPOKESPERSON, not all Australians. Please do not misrepresent my comments or chop them up to your liking to form your argument. Thanks.

  39. P.T. Smith
    P.T. Smith January 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm |

    “Um. P.T. Smith….newsflash, I’m NOT American. So, um…… I really don’t care if Australians don’t apparently adhere to “American ways”. ”

    Great! You’re still asking for American standards of racism to be applied. You’re asking for things that have a history of racism to have a history of racism in a country where they don’t.

    The ad was a white guy feeling uncomfortable around rowdy black people. No matter what “cultural appropriation” you want to say it’s under, it’s offensive.”

    As long as we’re insulting each other’s reading skills, might I point out that many people have already pointed that that is NOT what the guy is feeling uncomfortable about? Because it’s not. I mean, you can go ahead and choose to see only that, to ignore the context of the ad, and the context of the images in the ad, but that’s silly, this whole choosing to see racism bit.

    “My comparison to teenagers was in response to the spokesperson focusing on the fact that the ad was taken without permission as opposed to just focusing on the ad itself. Kind of like a teenager focusing on the fact that their privacy was invaded instead of focusing on the fact that there were drugs in their room. Seems like a reasonable comparison to me.”

    Except the complaint is way more about removing from context. So it’s much more like someone removing drugs from a context where they were legal, into a place where they are illegal, and then losing their shit over the breaking of the law.

    “Furthermore, I’m sure with your wonderful reading skills, you’re aware that I’m referring to the SPOKESPERSON, not all Australians. Please do not misrepresent my comments or chop them up to your liking to form your argument. Thanks.”

    Wow. Topping me for condescension. Color me impressed. Also, you’re being sloppy with your argument. Your comment about the spokesman wasn’t somehow magically removed from the rest of your comment just because it was a PS. When you are trying to argue a point, then throw in casually at the end a specified representation, guess what? That’s a representation. You only mention the spokesman, but what? Is that suddenly all you care about, rather than the whole larger picture of racism? No, no it’s not.

    Don’t accuse me of misrepresenting an arugment to fit my needs, that’s about my biggest pet peeve and it’s not something I do, unless some specific point is made by someone that they clearly plan on defending as unrelated, or as only pertaining to one thing, when if it isn’t called out, actually says a lot more.

    And as for chopping up? You’ve removed the ad from ALL context in order to see it as racist. That’s chopping up.

  40. P.T. Smith
    P.T. Smith January 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm |

    Also, it should be pointed out that the argument that this ad is racist is also making the argument that West Indies cricket fans should be EXCLUDED from this whole series of ads of quieting people down with KFC because INCLUDING them is racist.

    That’s a little bit funky.

  41. Renee
    Renee January 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm |

    Did it even occur to anyone that it might be racist to the West Indian people featured in the commercial itself. I am of West Indian heritage though I was born in Canada and I can tell you for a fact, that they/we are well aware of the black people love chicken meme. It is offensive. It has it roots in slavery and blacks always being offered the cheapest forms of food. Since the islands continue to be poor today for some people KFC is considered a luxury item. This ad is so offensive on so many levels I can barely be coherent in registering my complaints.

  42. Tonya
    Tonya January 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm |

    I’m also of West Indian descent, Renee and Canadian. I agree, it IS offensive, but apparently since it’s just being taken out of context because it’s set in Australia, it’s not offensive. *rolls eyes*

  43. Tonya
    Tonya January 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    PT,

    First of all, Australia has its own history of racism, just like many colonized nations. They DO have a history of racism, look it up. It might not be the type of racism and the EXACT same stereotypes of American racism, but there’s racism. Pretending that the US is the only place with racism and that Australians apparently don’t know what racism is is ridiculous.

    I don’t care if people pointed out that the ad was simply some dude uncomfortable among fans that all happen to be black. The ad made it out of Australia and the American based KFC has to understand that people will feel offended and have the right to feel that way. Just because people are offended by something (which happens to do with race) doesn’t mean that they must be taking it in the wrong way everytime and “looking for racism”.

    Please know, I am not trying to impress you, so get over yourself.

    I didn’t only suddenly mention the spokesperson, that was the only person I mentioned throughout my few posts. I NEVER spoke about all Australians being like teenagers. I just clarified for you what exactly was meant by that comparison. As well, please do not tell me what I care and don’t care about. I care about the fact that some dumb ass spokesperson focused on the idea of how the ad got out as opposed to the ad itself. Period.

    Also, again, I am not “looking for racism”, the ad is racist. I am tired of overt or covert conservatives/republicans accusing everyone of “looking for racism”.

    That is all.

  44. lilacsigil
    lilacsigil January 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm |

    You’re asking for things that have a history of racism to have a history of racism in a country where they don’t.

    White people making black people shut up has no history in Australia, hey? Interesting viewpoint there. I agree that we don’t need to necessarily have a deep understanding of American racism – e.g. the fried chicken – but understanding our own racism would be a really good start.

  45. Fine
    Fine January 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm |

    Another Aussie here. I agree that the stereotype of black people liking fried chicken doesn’t apply here and that the ad is supposed to be about an Australian team supporter sitting in a crowd full of opposition supporters, it still gestures toward a history of racism which is just as prevalent here as in the USA.

    But it is important that the supporters aren’t simply ‘non-white’, but specifically West Indian and that’s the point of the ad. It’s very interesting to see how this gets read in different countries. It’s also interesting that cricket is a sport in which racial insecurities and histories are often played out, as the opposing teams are always racially marked.

  46. Mike
    Mike January 8, 2010 at 10:21 pm |

    I’m a Canadian, but some of my best friends are Aussies. And Kiwis. Really. Anyways, they seem to be remarkably naive about some racial issues – for example, one guy is totally unaware of the racist background of the Obama Birthers.

    I’d tend to give this a path; racial politics in Australia do not resemble those of North America.

  47. Sacha
    Sacha January 9, 2010 at 4:04 am |

    I think the most interesting part of the debate surrounding this advert is the imperialist attitude of the Americans complaining about it. The racist stereotype “Black people love fried chicken” is an American stereotype, not widely known in Australian. The Americans complaining about the advert are assuming their cultural values are held universally, which simply isn’t true.

    Personally, I don’t think that the advert is racist. The rivalry between the Australian and West Indian cricket teams would be well understood in Australia, and the setting recognisable to a cricket fan. The idea of the advert is that KFC is an internationally recognised brand, and the sharing of the brand knowledge provides a starting point for cross cultural relations.

    This advert began airing around a game between the Australian and West Indian teams, and the idea would work equally well if the supporters had been replaced by any other major rival team, regardless of the ethnicity of the supporters.

    I accept that in real life, the ethnic makeup of the supporters on both sides will be more varied than seen in the advert; although I would expect the majority of West Indian supporters to be black, and that replacing them with a majority of supporters from other ethnic groups would be an inaccurate representation of reality.

  48. Nancy Green
    Nancy Green January 9, 2010 at 11:47 am |

    They pushed that ‘double-down’ sandwich in my neighborhood. Now they’re pushing their grilled chicken as health food. Yuck.

  49. rayna
    rayna January 10, 2010 at 4:26 am |

    Some responses here: Possibly not thorough, but I’m sure a lot has been covered, and I’m guilty of not having read all of them.

    “I’m not Australian, but I have a HUGE problem with the “Oh, well it’s not racist here, so whatevs” thing. The same thing happened with that blackface performance on Australian TV a while ago.”

    Except blackface is racist EVERYwhere. Even in countries where it might be unfamiliar, if you pointed out to someone why many people would understand. It’s a caricature of an entire ethnicity. It’s history might be geographically-placed, but in isolation the racism is still *inherent*.

    The chicken-stereotype I don’t understand, so I could be wrong – but in isolation, to me it seems like it could be genuinely not racist. If the association doesn’t exist in the culture (which it doesn’t, at all, in Australia) than any incidental combo of chicken and black people is just that. Shift it to another cultural context however and you have a whole lotta baggage. I’m Aussie (hangs head in shame) and I only found out recently (last couple of years?) about that association in American culture, from American friends.

    Not to say there aren’t other issues. The ‘awkward’ is supposed to be about him sitting in the middle of the opposing team’s fanbase. Big match with West Indies, yada yada. So yeah, they happen to be from the West Indies. Some people have talked about why the fans would be racially homogenous, cricket fans have said in other forums that’s not untypical. Although yes, it would be less extreme in reality. Also, Roula said “the ad very clearly appears to be using “white” to convey either “Australian person” or “fan of Australia’s cricket team”, both of which only work if you (the viewer, or the ad creators) consider white to be the default person-color in that country.” Yep. Australia’s pretty racist, and for all our rhetoric of ‘melting-pot multiculturalism’, the default colour in advertising and all mainstream media is white. I’d *like* to say he just happened to be white, but even without the chicken problem, it was naive of the ad agency to not think there might be some buttons pushed by the dynamic here?

    Also, the awkward again – I would like to say it’s nothing to do with noise…”Oh jeez, this white guy is surrounded by loud-ass black people but if he gives them something nice they will calm down and not be so noisy!”

    But I have seen other Aussies defending it on the basis of this argument. Which is bizarre, and really racist – more so than the ad itself, cos I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s being implied. I agree with other commenters up-thread about the team rivalry stuff. But I still find this perception interesting – because people on both sides seem to be talking about West Indies supporters like they’re noisy. My response is – wtf aren’t ALL fans noisy? But I’m cricket-ignorant. And someone upthread pointed out in our *more* racist past this was a genuine accusation white teams/fans made.

    I do believe offering food around wasn’t supposed to be about this. But I might be alone, because other Australians, even while making arguments defending the ad I’d agree with, seemed to think it was. Which is so racist.

    I’ve never defended a product around which this kind of controversy has occurred. Because, when something’s racist, it’s racist. I’m trying to make an articulate argument of how, the particular combination of signifiers in this ad are incidental (West Indies fans are black because they’re from the West Indies, KFC chicken cos it’s KFC ad, offered to rival team because… writers trying to play on rivalry as… I don’t effin know, it’s stupid). This combination is, in context, not racist. But those meanings shift completely in another cultural context, and unfortunately, are completely racist.

    I hope to distinguish this from the general ‘it wasn’t racist here so get over it’ arguments. In this case the meanings shift completely. I believe many racist tropes are universal, despite being historically placed. A lot of ignorant Australians have defended things on the basis of… fuck knows. Blackface is always racist. It’s a trope that has spread I think – besides which, as I said before, regardless of context the racism is somewhat inherent. But the chicken thing is so completely unknown here. Altho since this furore I’ve since found that’s not the case for the UK, which is interesting. How did it skip us? So it’s completely understandable for people to think it should be an issue here. (Altho obvs West Indies people do not equal African American people. I can’t even unpack that one).

    I know Australia is a racist country. I feel bad that any defense I try to make of this ad will be tarred with the same brush as those made of other, deeply offensive, instances. I also know this ad is racist in other cultural contexts. This is the only instance where I have felt ‘it was made for a specific audience’ argument was pertinent, even if people say that when something is genuinely racist. But – I’m not going to try and undermine other perceptions. The cultural shift makes the meanings very different and hence the reaction it’s had. And it’s a valid reaction. There’s a certain amount of cultural imperialism in assuming we/the agency should have known or cleared it to make sure other cultures give it the go-ahead, as if all nations need to be aware of the particular tropes and dynamics of American culture (and not the other way around?). But the reaction is valid. I wanted to explain just to show how a complete shift in meanings has occurred across cultures in this case. Hopefully it will give some context, and not detract from other discussions when another furore inevitably erupts cos something stupid happened on our tv.

    PS – for stupid racist/classist/sexist shit on our tv, you can check out Media Watch, available online. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/

  50. Kai
    Kai January 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm |

    All else aside, I just want to point out that there seems to be a pervasive lack of awareness in this thread that the West Indies is actually quite diverse. There are lots of Chinese and Indian (South Asian) folks, mostly descended from laborers who were brought to work the sugarcane fields (“coolies”) toward the end of the African slave trade era. There are also more recent migrations of Syrian and Lebanese folks. Drive around Trinidad and Tobago, where the national staple is roti (Indian bread) and the most popular restaurants are Chinese-run. Just sayin.

  51. Dennis
    Dennis January 11, 2010 at 12:49 am |

    I’m an American who spent about a month in Adelaide, Australia a few years ago, and from the limited exposure I had, there’s no way I would have said Australia is free of racial politics and race-based issues. Different ones than the US, for sure, but the dynamic of lighter skin = better was pretty prevalent in what I saw. So yeah, I’d say Australia has its own racist past and issues to deal with, and is still doing so.

  52. Fine
    Fine January 11, 2010 at 1:55 am |

    “I’m a Canadian, but some of my best friends are Aussies. And Kiwis. Really. Anyways, they seem to be remarkably naive about some racial issues – for example, one guy is totally unaware of the racist background of the Obama Birthers.”

    Mike, could that be because ‘Obama Birthers’ not a huge issue in Australia? I think there’s a bit of cultural imperialism going on. Australia is a racist country, but the issues here aren’t identical to those of the USA and it seems to me a bit presumptuous to think that Australians should be aware of that specific controversy and that being unaware is somehow ‘naive’. It’s not something which is played out here. It’s no wonder that people might be unaware.

  53. chibik629
    chibik629 January 12, 2010 at 6:54 pm |

    @ P.T. Smith
    Because the West Indies isn’t exactly full of “varied ethnicity.”

    The West Indies has plenty of varied ethnicity. I’m Trinidadian with a Chinese grandfather and a Hispanic last name and plenty of West Indian friends of East Indian descent. There is also the native Carib Indian population who I believe lived there originally so I’ve always seen the West Indies as ethnically diverse.

    But what I’d also like to say from having watched the commercial is that it’s really not about the chicken, as others have said. The man in the commercial calls the situation awkward but he’s clearly annoyed at the least to be sitting there. Also, the line he says and the way he hands them the bucket further implies that he didn’t have chicken on hand because he planned on eating it himself but rather that it’s his method of quieting the rowdy West Indians.

    I’ve had a little experience in film and editing and it makes me think even more that people haven’t gotten outraged by mistake. The people who created the concept for the commercial and shot it made it racist, despite what the intent was.

  54. etoile
    etoile January 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm |

    I’m an Australian, but some of my best friends are Canadians. And Americans. Really. Anyways, they seem to be remarkably naive about some racial issues – for example, one guy is totally unaware of the racist background of the Stolen Generation.

    “““““““““““`
    Mike, I’m not sure what your point is. I don’t think that many people in any country would be fully aware of all racism issues in another country; I wouldn’t call that naive.

    Regardless, the advertising agency should have thought a bit harder about the implications behind this ad. It doesn’t take an extensive knowledge of worldwide racism history to realise that such an ad would be problematic. But then, when has intelligent thought ever been behind advertising? They’re selling krappy food to the masses, it’s not that hard…

  55. Melissa Cook
    Melissa Cook January 12, 2010 at 7:38 pm |

    Look… I am as anti KFC as you can get but this is rediculous.
    The Australia Cricket team is playing a competition against the West Indies this summer.
    If they were playing against the English Cricket team the Aussie supporter would be handing the chicken to the Barmy Army (Englsh cricket fans)
    It would be like a lone Chicago Bear supporter in a crowd surrounded by Pittsburgh Steeler fans. He feels out of place so he shares his food to make friends.
    Come on… context!!!!
    Why are so many people in America making such a big deal out of this?
    This has nothing to with Americans it was never intended for an American audience & they are NOT African Americans they are West Indians!!!
    It’s got nothing to do with a white man in a black crowd it is an Aussie supporter surrounded by West Indies supporters… who mind you, do sing & dance & bang drums!! It is not a stereotype they love cricket as much as Aussies do.
    Why don’t you ask the West Indies if they think it is racist!
    They’ll laugh at you!!!
    If you are offended by a commerical that was made in Australia for Australians & only shown on Aussie tv then don’t go searching on the internet.
    I know race relations in America have a long long history but no offense… America is not the centre of the world. Your issues are your issues!
    Please just think about that.
    * I will never, ever, ever set foot in a KFC “restaurant” & I often protest outside them due to the cruelty of their practices but this is about calling Aussie’s racist & that’s not fair.
    They are your issues not ours
    :)
    x

  56. Trier
    Trier January 16, 2010 at 5:01 am |

    Americans, and the rest of the world have taken this commercial completely out of context. As an American who has been living in OZ for the past 2 1/2 years, I can honestly say that NO ONE here saw that ad as offensive. not at all. And I don’t think that this is a lack of sensitivity, but a cultural difference. I don’t think the West Indians would see it as a problem either.

    On a side note, “black people loving fried chicken” isn’t really a racist observation here. Australians don’t understand why Americans are getting so worked up about it…

    its really interesting watching both sides.

    cheers

  57. eli
    eli January 17, 2010 at 11:28 pm |

    Ah, the good old, “I don’t see it, so it doesn’t exist” trope. I love it. Except for how I don’t.

    It’s icky because of the chicken. But that’s merely an unfortunate coincidence (that someone in a multinational corporation should have picked up on).

    The issue is that some people seem to think it’s totally cool to shut black people up with food products. That is not cool. It could be chicken. It could be a pencil. It could be any freaking thing you want to imagine. But the idea of a white guy giving something to POC to shut them up?

    That’s offensive. Maybe it doesn’t offend you. But it is offensive. This is not up for debate.

    1. tigtog
      tigtog January 18, 2010 at 4:28 am | *

      eli, you are right. The ad, as executed, is offensive. It was particularly dense of the Aussie ad agency to not realise how the context would be seen overseas (and what about KFC’s own marketing people? how did this get past them?).

      I imagine that they had a whole series planned for all the cricket international matches for this year, whereby the lone Aussie supporter would be surrounded by supporters of the other teams according to whichever team was being played at the moment (Brits, South Africans, Indians, New Zealanders, Pakistanis, Srk Lankans AND West Indians) displaying their traditional form of team support and then he cleverly would soften their partisanship against him by offering them food so they could all enjoy the game together (offering the hospitality of food is one of the most traditional ways to indicate the wish for peaceful coexistence, after all).

      IF they had had the sense to introduce this concept with one of the other teams, especially with the Brits or Kiwis, and then to include the West Indian supporters as part of the series after it had already been seen in the context of several other teams, THEN they would have a better defence. But to lead the concept with the West Indian supporters shows all sorts of unthinking awareness-fail.

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