Burger King chickens out on Mary J. Blige


Over the weekend there were disappointed comments all over the Twitterverse about the travesty of Mary J. Blige’s new commercial for Burger King. I bet the ad would have been unremarkable had the R&B diva been hawking Double Whoppers with cheese. But she was singing about chicken. And let me tell you, there are two things African Americans don’t want to see another African American do in public: eat watermelon and literally sing the praises of chicken.

I didn’t see the Blige commercial until I read the Huffington Post story today about Burger King pulling the spot “because of a licensing concern.” And what I saw had me laughing — in that “oh no she didn’t” kind of way.

I couldn’t tell whether Blige and Burger King were spoofing themselves or being serious. After all, they have a spot up now with David Beckham dining out on his good looks to sell smoothies. So, what’s the harm in Blige using her considerable vocal prowess to belt out a ditty about “crispy chicken wrapped up in a double tortilla”? Well, a lot.

“Mary J has always presented herself as a special artist and been received as such,” culture critic and observer Toure told me in an e-mail. “She’s the Queen. She seems to represent the people. To hear her sing the praises of fried chicken is a bit jarring because it’s such a stereotype-heavy food.” Renay Alize at Madame Noire slammed the commercial as “buffoonish” and wondered why Blige would “stoop to portraying a stereotype.”

The blacks-love-fried-chicken stereotype was lampooned to great effect in the funny 2002 movie “Undercover Brother” It’s about how “The Man” keeps a Colin Powell-esque general from running for president by hypnotizing him to instead open up a chain of fried chicken joints. What the nation thought was going to be a historic announcement of the first viable African American candidate for president turned into the unveiling of his commercial for “General’s Fried Chicken.”

Look, what red-blooded American doesn’t like fried chicken? It’s delicious. That’s why you might find me at Hank’s Oyster Bar on a Sunday night. It’s fried chicken night. Add to that a martini and the New York Times crossword and you have the makings of a great dinner. You just won’t hear me singing out loud about it.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.

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