LZ Granderson checked out the Mountain Dew ad everybody says is racist
He doesn't get why it's offensive, he said; it's just silly and absurd and not serious
Comedians like Dave Chappelle push racial boundaries all the time, LZ says
He writes that it's sad it's come to this: Laughing at a talking goat is unacceptable
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.
I went online this morning to see the Mountain Dew ad – the one some are calling the most racist in history – expecting to see some really offensive stuff. Instead, I saw some really silly stuff.
The goat’s funny.
The names of some of the black men in the lineup are hilarious.
The premise: ridiculous.
And I would think that’s the point of a commercial with a talking goat. It’s meant to be ridiculous and not taken seriously. It’s comedy of the absurd, along the lines of Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives,” Jerry Seinfeld’s parents on “Seinfeld” or “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
Does it play on stereotypical imagery?
Yes, and because of that, I can see how some could be a bit put off by a police lineup featuring all black men before a frightened white woman. But come on, one of the suspects’ names is “Beyonte.”
The circumstances surrounding the scene in the commercial are so outrageously over the top, I found myself snickering more than anything. Similar to the way I snickered during a skit featuring Dave Chappelle, who was making fun of racism with the creation of his character Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist in the South.
And he’s black.
“You’ve never left this property, have you, Mr. Bigsby?”
“No, sir, not in many years.”
“What if I were to tell you that you are an African-American?”
“Sir! Listen! I’m gonna make this clear. I am in no way, shape or form involved in any n***erdom!”
The Mountain Dew commercials’ brand of frat-boy physical humor isn’t everyone’s thing. It could be seen as callous or making light of battered women. For me, though, the presence of a talking goat put me in a different “South Park”-ish mindset. There’s a reason “South Park” remains a high-rated show, why “The Simpsons” is the longest-running sitcom in history, why a third installment of “The Hangover” is being released: A lot of people like dumb, frat-boy humor draped in fantasy.
And I’m not trying to say Tyler, the Creator (whose real name is Tyler Okonma) scripted a commercial that is as brilliant as anything we’ve seen on the “Chappelle Show.” And because of the rape fantasies in his music and liberal use of homophobic slurs on Twitter, I question why the advertising executives at Mountain Dew thought it was a good idea to partner with him in the first place. But with all of that being said, I doubt his intent behind the commercial was to demonize black men.
And that’s the difference: intent.
A commercial that uses stereotypes has the potential to make any minority group featured in it uncomfortable, but is the Mountain Dew commercial really on par with, say, “Birth of a Nation,” a film that blatantly uses disparaging caricatures of black men to slander and promote fear? No, it isn’t, so can we please step back from the ledge?
In fact, I would dare say the images of black men in many of Tyler Perry’s movies, which are widely supported by the black community, are far more offensive than what I saw in that commercial.
Why? Because in Perry’s films, the dramatization is intended to be based in reality, while a thirsty gangsta goat by the name of Felicia is not.
Thus I find the controversy to be as laughable as the Rev. Jerry Falwell saying the Teletubbies were bad for children because the purple one was gay.
You know, sometimes images in pop culture are obviously insensitive or offensive, such as Lil Wayne usurping the murder of Emmett Till to make a vulgar reference about sex. And sometimes it’s all one giant inkblot, like a Rorschach test. No right or wrong answers, just a peek inside the skull of the people who consume pop culture.
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.
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The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.