Friday, April 17, 2009
Women are not pieces of meat!
Usually I am not one to join a rising outcry against something intended for children. Invariably, outraged parents or just those “concerned” for children will advocate censorship, something I am dead set against, in an effort to “protect” our children. From what? I always ask the same question. From what are we protecting our children? Because many families don’t have the same filters on their own behaviours as they want controlling television, film, music, video games, the magazine covers in grocery stores, advertising, music videos, Facebook, and on and on. However, just because, usually, I will not unite with wolf criers over questions of morality or the issues of sheltering children from things that are an integral part of life (usually sex and violence), this does not mean that when I encounter something truly nauseating I will keep quiet and not attack the product with criticism.
The latest product of Madison Avenue advertising “acumen” is the new Burger King commercial made in partnership with Nickelodeon to unload Spongebob Squarepants toys in kids meals. The commercial features a re-mix of Sir Mix-a-lot’s 1992 hit “Baby Got Back,” which back then, a more conservative MTV only aired at night.
Here in the Burger King commercial “I like big butts” is changed to “I like square butts” as reference to the Spongebob character and his “square” pants (which in the show is both metaphor– he’s a “square”–and a literal description–he’s a kitchen scrub sponge, square and thick).
Now, Sir Mix-a-Lot reviving his long inert career huckstering kids meals for Burger King would be barely a blip on the old media criticism radar except for the content of the commercial. If Mix-a-lot were rapping about Spongebob with shots of the scary, masked Burger King (like some horror show ventriloquist dummy if you ask me) and the beloved characters from the Nickelodeon cartoon, then there would be no need for criticism. But that’s not what we have here. WATCH THE VIDEO!!
The horror show Burger King appears to be rapping about not just Spongebob’s square butt but women’s square butts, lots of them. There are far more women in this video with phone books stuffed in their skirts than there are shots of Spongebob or his friends. There are four dancing girls in gym socks, a mermaid, and a vampy woman in a red dress. Later, one of the dancers gets her square butt measured with a right triangle. But if that was not nauseating enough, and worthy of some serious media criticism, the video ends with Mix-a-lot flanked by two women on a couch, and he says “booty is booty.” HUH?? What does he mean by that?
The connection here is obvious: women = meat. Booty = burgers. This is disgusting.
Like I shared previously, I don’t usually like to argue for “protecting” children from anything, and I am certainly never fond of censorship, but when are any of these companies who violate our airspace with their infotoxins and destructive memes going to be brought to heel for their flagrant disregard of women as individual human beings. Now Burger King, a company that has generally attempted to avoid using sex to sell its meat, has created a version of the famous “woman through a meat grinder” Hustler magazine ad for kids. It’s vile.
What is the Burger King corporation thinking? Do they think that linking sex and meat will sell more burgers to pre-pubescent children? Do we need to have our kids meals at Burger King so sexualized?
Sometimes I think that corporations like Burger King see falling sales, and they want to stir the pot, and so they purposefully put out a product that will get a lot of attention by generating controversy. This commercial may not be making a big enough splash in the national news, (yet... many parenting groups are fomenting rebellion), but it seems to me to be a risky venture on Burger King’s part if controversy generation is its intent. Will sparking a morality/sexism controversy really sell more burgers?
I think not is the answer to all of the rhetorical questions above.
A couple of final thoughts: both Burger King and Nickelodeon claim the commercial is aimed at adults. Seriously? Is this an ad for parents who buy kids meals who grew up in the 1990s and will appreciate the nostalgia of Mix-a-lot’s revival? It’s not like the ad airs on stations watched exclusively by adults. It’s on Nickelodeon, which, last time I checked, has a primary audience of children (though plenty of adults get stuck watching it, too).
Also, does Burger King really want to promote the usual hip-hop mantra that the end goal of everyone in America is status, bling, ka-ching, and the booty that comes with it? In this short commercial, Mix-a-lot raps that “Spongebob is making me richer.” Oh, Spongey, beloved cartoon, really? Must you sink so low?
A couple of links:
My choice to blog about this commercial was totally inspired and must be attributed completely to my brilliant and amazing friend Zahkia, who is a perspicacious writer. So here's the link to her blog, which inspired me. Thank you Zahkia!