In response to the public outrage and condemnation of the recent Mountain Dew commercial, CNN decided to post a commentary defending the commercial, saying, “The ad was pulled. I can’t help but feel it’s a sad, sad day when the policing of comedy gets to the point where we can’t even laugh at a talking goat.”
After watching the video, described by some as the “most racist commercial in history,” I would like to ask LZ Granderson, the CNN contributor who wrote the story, this:
Which is more sad, the day the ad was pulled or the day that PepsiCo gave it a go for an ad that put four black men side by side with an animal who has beaten a white woman and is threatening her not to tell? Which is more sad, the day the ad was pulled or the day a black rapper, Tyler the Creator, produced an ad in which a beaten woman who is too terrified to report the perpetrator is supposed to be hilarious? Which is more sad, the day the ad was pulled or the day that CNN posted a commentary that defends such an ad?
Granderson makes a point that the commercial is to be taken as ridiculous, and playing with stereotypes might make some people uncomfortable but makes good comedy, like Dave Chappelle’s Clayton Bigsby, “a blind white supremacist in the South.” Humor is a powerful weapon against hate and prejudice, and comedy should push boundaries and challenge the status quo in our culture. However, there are two problems with his argument in defense of the commercial.
First, the Mountain Dew ad with the talking goat was just NOT funny! Where are we supposed to laugh, where the goat whispers, “Keep your mouth shut. I’mma get outta here and I’mma do you up,” or when the frightened woman shrieks and runs away? This commercial is neither clever nor silly, but just offensive. Second, great comic sketches like Clayton Bigsby do use racial stereotypes and slurs, but in a smart, ironic way that points out the very absurdity of holding on to such stereotypes.
For example, Clayton Bigsby speaks at a white supremacist gathering, condemning black people, Asians, Mexicans, homosexuals, and all the other victims of hatred, and people cheer him up. In the heat of praise, he takes off his KKK mask and people gasp. When you hate black people and love white people who hate black people, what are you supposed to do with a black man who hates black people? Now, that’s a comedy that is both hilarious and smart.
Comedies are supposed to make you uncomfortable, asking the unasked and challenging the unchallenged, but sometimes the line should be drawn. Especially, when they are not funny.