The Other Massive Problem with the Mary J. Blige Chicken Commercial

April 4th, 2012

(Photo: Courtesy

So many (too many) are to blame for the travesty that is the Burger King Chicken Wraps commercial starring Mary J. Blige. A few of the worst offenders:

• The person who conceived the idea

• Any Black Burger King employee who heard about the idea and didn’t pipe up to say, “Hey guys, so…chicken…soulful singing…Black people, this isn’t a good idea. Maybe Mary can hawk that smoothie we have David Beckham talking about in his commercial.”

• The script writer—unless they are angling to get hired by Dave Chappelle, because the “What’s in that new chicken wraps!?” line is pure comedic genius.

• The casting person for thinking it would help sell chicken wraps by hiring  little white kids who look like they were plucked out of a poster for suburbia, sticking paper crowns on their heads and having them raise the roof as Blige croons about crispy chicken.

• The director. Why does Blige interrupt the store manager with her question about the contents of the chicken wraps? Why does she do it with a little bit of hostility? Is it because she’s been told to stand atop a table, with no explanation given for why she must tower over the customers-turned-concertgoers? Why does she answer her own question, proceeding to sing each ingredient in the same wrap that moments ago she didn’t know what it contained? Only the director knows the answer to these questions.

• Bilge’s vocal coach. We have all seen Mary jumping up and down in stilettos as she pulls at our heartstrings with soulful performances at award shows. And we have all witnessed the emotion in every note when she sings at telethons. But this is chicken, not Hurricane Katrina or the Grammys. Did she really have to feel it so much?

• The editor. If they were doing their job well, there wouldn’t be a phantom appearance at 6 seconds that looks like Blige is holding a rubber chicken or stuffed monkey. For anyone wondering what zoo animal is in her clutches, the answer is none. Turns out a person walks by, their head is captured on screen and no one edited it out. Fail.

• Mary herself. This extends to her manager, her besties and anyone else who heard she was being asked to sing for chicken and, ignoring that history has long stereotyped Black people and our hyperbolized love of of a greasy piece of fried chicken, said, “Go on, girl, do it! And make sure to sing it with your all!” This is the same kind of thinking that will land you as the spokesperson for the National Watermelon Society.
But there is one other person,who is either the great unsung hero of this fiasco or the worst offender of the bunch: Blige’s hairstylist. Let’s imagine they got the run through of the project so they could figure out how to style her hair. If they then thought, “let’s add some volume, twist it around in front and tuck it into a sloppy pompadour style because that’s the way to guarantee Mary looks hot,” then they are a foolish devil. By if instead they thought, “I will make her look like Foghorn Leghorn in the hair area because if you think  $2 million is enough to sell black people out, you deserve to look like the chicken you’re selling,” then they deserve a parade in their honor.

What have we learned from this, people? Don’t sing for chicken. And if you absolutely must, don’t do it while looking like the Looney Toons most famous rooster.

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