Dr. Jason Johnson, professor of Political Science at Hiram College and Chief Political Correspondent at Politic365.com discusses the controversy over diversity in President Barack Obama’s cabinet.
What is it about chicken that makes everyone get so political? No matter how many places across the world sell beef, lamb, pork or fish, it’s the chicken franchises that are always in the middle of some type of shenanigans. The Chinese just had to come up with Obama Fried Chicken and spark global controversy. The British send the entire European market into a frenzy by selling chicken with beef injections. And let’s not even talk about Mary J. Blige singing about Burger King chicken wraps in the United States.
That’s one of the reasons I like Nando’s Chicken. If they’re going to spark controversy at least they go all out. Unfortunately, their latest attempt has put them in hot chicken broth with the government of South Africa.
Nando’s Peri-Peri Chicken restaurants are like the Soccer of fast food franchises: Everyone else in the world loves them and knows about them except Americans. Started in South Africa in 1987 Nando’s operates in over 30 countries and on five continents, but there are only a few restaurants in the United States, all located in the D.C. metro area. The casual dining restaurant is famous for its signature Peri-Peri chicken which is a fusion of Portugeuse, Mozambiquan and South African spices. In addition to great food, Nando’s is the first restaurant franchise to move from the third world (South Africa) to the first world when usually it’s Americans forcing our Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s down everyone else’s throats.
What really makes Nando’s stand out though is their hilarious and risqué commercials. Nando’s ads regularly push the envelope making fun of the corrupt fat cats in South African politics, to showing how strippers need to feed their families, too. Their latest commercial however, has landed the company in hot chicken broth.
Over the last several years a wave of xenophobia has really gripped South African politics and popular culture. While pitching for the World Cup in 2010, politicians were still stirring up hatred by claiming that Angolan and Mozambican immigrants were taking good South African jobs, committing crimes and spreading HIV. So Nando’s, ever the chicken trouble-maker, ran a commercial recently called “Diversity” which points out just how ridiculous nativist claims are in a nation filled with people who came in through conquering and immigration anyway. Imagine if Wendy’s ran a commercial poking fun at anti-immigrant Republicans by showing a bunch of Pueblo Indians eating French fries and you get the general idea.
Well, the South African Broadcasting Company wasn’t having any of that and one by one the commercial has been banned from English speaking stations throughout the country. The commercial is in English and you can see it here:
The interesting thing to note that late last year another Nando’s commercial “Last Dictator Standing” was banned for being too politically provocative as well. The commercial features a lonely Robert Mugabe at Christmastime reminiscing over the days when he and other brutal dictators like Quadaffi, P.W. Both, and Saddam Hussein used to hang out and have the time of their lives. It’s the most ridiculously hilarious commercial I’ve seen in years (hint: Saddam Hussein and Snow Angels). Since Zimbabwe has dozens of Nando’s franchises making fun of their leader-for-life, it didn’t go over too well, but like the “Diversity” ad millions saw Nando’s message online despite the ban.
South Africa has their own issues with freedom of expression and the press right now, but I still think there is a lesson to be learned here for American corporations, now that Nando’s is comfortably planted on our shores.
American advertisers should stop shying away from real world issues and give us commercials we can connect to and laugh at as well. If Nando’s can run ads making fun of a corrupt South African president in a country that has only known democracy for 20 years why can’t we get similar ads here from Hardees, TGI-Friday’s and Applebee’s? The United States is in the midst of a 9 year war, an 8 year recession, and a crisis of confidence in government, but our commercials are full of conveniently multi-culti 20-somethings chowing down on overpriced, stale buffalo – wings. How about an ad featuring Romney and Obama look-alikes arguing over how they should share 20 piece nuggets (Romney would want the top 1% of nuggets off the top).
Even better, I would love it if Applebee’s just got honest in a commercial and renamed their “Two for 20” deal into the “Dating During a Recession Deal”. It wouldn’t make the food taste any better, but it would be funny and be a lot more reflective of how we’re actually living than anything running on the air right now.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.