Tuesday, February 9, 2010

One Superbowl Ad that Made Me Cringe: The Black Single Mother Doritos Superbowl Ad

Do you remember this Superbowl ad? Did you find it particularly funny? When it played on Sunday night, I did titter just a bit, uncomfortably though. However, my brother-in-law found it uproariously hilarious. So much so that he got bar-b-q sauce on my new oxford button-down. That stain is not coming out.

However, for some reason, the commercial did not sit well with me. It was just something about it that put me ill at ease. So, yesterday when I should have been grading student papers, I wasted a few minutes (or hours) critiquing Superbowl ads.

Could it be the fact that the commercial featured an African American woman who just happened to be a single mother? Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong or pathological about single motherhood. And it could be just coincidental that the ad company producing the ad chose to cast African Americans.

However, in the same instance, when played before a mainstream audience, the commercial draws upon and plays into a certain narrative of hatred and disdain directed toward black single mothers.

And what about a child, a little black boy child, slapping an adult in the face? Am I wrong to find that offensive? It certainly ain't cute. Am I wrong to believe that act to be just a continuation and adjunct to the narrative mentioned above, one that posits the notion that because young black males are being raised by single mothers they must be naturally aggressive and undisciplined.

But think about it. If your child, black or otherwise, slapped an adult in the face, would you find it particularly funny? Furthermore, if that child is so utterly audacious as to slap an adult in the face at that age, what does his future look like? What else is in his bag of tricks?

I don’t know. Maybe I am reading too much into this whole thing. Maybe I am just still peeved that that loud, country Negro got that greasy sauce stain down the front of my new shirt. What kind of person waves a rib around all willy-nilly in a room full of people anyway?

Or perhaps I am simply too sensitive of the narratives about black people that are posited within the mainstream and also, the way we are portrayed across the various mediums. Going back through my blog archives, I see that this is a theme I have rehearsed and revisited many times. And my wife always tells me that I am prone to overanalyzing things. Could this be it? However, I should also add that she found it even less appealing than I did.

But whatever it may be, I still cannot bring myself to like this commercial, and I am surprised that more people have not objected to it as well. What do you think?

Suggested reading:

Feministe, “Reconsidering the Black Single Mother Argument.”

Polifact.com, “Statistics Don’t Lie.”


12kyle said...

I think you and I are twins b/c I thought the EXACT same thing when I saw it. I think it feeds into stereotypes and it was just plain bad. There weren't many commercials on Sunday when black folks were playing the lead role. And in this one, the dude is caught staring at a woman's butt and then gets slapped by her son. I find no humor in that. And neither did the experts who gave it a failing grade.

I don't know what was worse...the commercial or the reaction from black folks who found it funny.

Good post!

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

I think your take on the ad was spot on,I believe we as black folks have completly forgotten our history in this country.Now that we have both a Visa and a Mastercard we feel everything for us is equal here in the land of america.Not! If anything we should be on guard and careful of all media images.

Ann Brock said...

I found NOTHING cute nor funny about the ad...Max, I read a comment were
someone said that this young black boy (future black man) is standing up for his mother? Making sure she gets the respect she deserves...PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

While I did see the context and understand the cringe factor of it all it just didn't ring my alarm as something to feel upset about.

I understand our images in media are limited so a negative image of us carries more potential harm than for a white person (the norm).

And maybe this isn't the ad to bring this up but I feel some black folks, in an effort to push back against the negative, want to whitewash us.

The way I see black TV is how I see all TV - good, bad and mediocre. Black folks lump the mediocre with bad, therefore we get good or bad. Most TV, despite the race of the cast, is mediocre. White people allow their mediocre to be just that, but we rage against ours. Again, I think it goes back to the little face time we see of ourselves in media.

So while it didn't really bother me I completely respect (and get) why you feel this way Max.

Anonymous said...

It was very stereotypical. Even the Mom wearing a jean miniskirt, what kind of message is that? It almost says she was looking for some action instead of being a responsible parent. I just don't get it. Is it just me but does it seem like society is trying to figure out how to appeal to black people but they don't know how unless they play upon stereotypes?

Kim said...


I'm in agreement with you..Didn't bother me one bit, but I knew it would bother some, more so than anything that should really make folks black folks angry.

Kim said...

@Toya.. "Looking for some action"? Wow that a little disturbing to read.

There was a story about underage girls who are being called "superbowl sex slaves" Apparently the superbowl is a very profitable event for this sickness. How that tragedy was overlooked over a commercial is beyond me. Child sex trafficking is serious,or so I thought.

Anna Renee said...

I laughed at the silly funny black stereotype because it was just that, a silly funny stereotype! It doesn't make or break us as black folks. Let's not be fearful that we can't be ourselves! This reminds me of another post you wrote Soulbrother about blacks acting more reserved around white folks, and being more real amongst themselves! Come'on, that slap was funny!! OK, If the folks were white, would it be funny? YES!!
Everybody already knows that we ain't perfect and have issues!
Just like everyone else. I'm just saying.

Denisha said...

Honestly, when I first saw the commercial, I thought it was funny so when I saw your tweet I had to read this post and see your angle on it. Considering the race & sex of the child (which I didn't pay any attention to at the time) I can see your point.

I'm a single mom (divorcee) but I know so many non-black single moms that I don't think it's a serious issue. My little boy has been called my "bodyguard" when a guy comes over which I thought was funny when I saw this commercial. No, my son has never hit a guy (and he never will) and he is not overly agressive since his father does not live in the home. He is the exact opposite.

I guess if those things held true in my situation then I'd be concerned. Aired during the Superbowl is a valid reason to be worried but we can't always control the media. I laughed at several commercials without noticing any racial assumptions or hidden agendas...I just enjoyed the marketing ads, however, I do see your point.

Emerge Peoria said...

Why is that every commercial that a black person is in must be politically correct all the way around?

All commercials have a level of ridiculousness about them. Of course it is not acceptable for a child to slap an adult.

All of the Doritios commercials were equally silly. They sure did make white guys look like idiots. To me that's a stereotype, because I have a base believe that all white guys are idiots. So were the commercials with the goofy white guys wrong too?

I see your point, but if we over analyze every commercial use of African Americans does it not make us appear insecure in our blackness?

Max Reddick said...

Okay, I have read through the comments, and I am yet convinced that I am right in being a little disturbed by this.

@Anna Renee, I can see what you saying. Just because others are looking on, does that mean we have to change the way we act, manage every little thing we do so as to prove to others we are not the stereotype? And @Emerge Peoria, I take to heart the whole insecure in our blackness thing because often I believe that because of this security, many of us overreact at the least thing.

But I do believe when we are being natural, we are being ourselves, we should not worry about what others think. Sometimes when I am out in public, I talk just a little too loud. I smile just a little too broadly. And other times I engage a bit in what might be termed "coonery." But in the process, I am just being myself, acting as I do when I am with family and friends having a good time.

But I cannot understand anything "natural" about this commercial. It may be "natural" for a young man to be protective of his mother. But the stereotypes seem simply overwhelming. The dependence on an overplayed narrative is too great.

And it is not a case of trying to whitewash black folk. I think it is a simple case of what is acceptable portrayals. Would we have laughed if the little boy was white? I don't think white people would have even been cast in a commercial such as this one because it would not have fit in the prevailing paradigm thus not even believable for some.

Unknown said...

This is my first time seeing this commercial (I somehow missed it during the game the other night) but I am NOT digging this at all.

Although I can pretty much find humor in anything and can actually see the intended humor in this advertisement, our families and communities are entirely too fragile to make light of such relationships on such a large scale as the Superbowl.

The thing is, we see things that tear down our communities daily, the key is that WE, the ones with strong family values (and common sense) need to continue communicating with our young people letting them know what's right, what's wrong and what's important and what's not.

I could truly go on and on about this subject but, this isn't my blog!

Kim said...

@Emerge Peoria

I think it's because a lot has been thrown at black folks, the problem with that his WE feel we must not only catch the the things thrown at us, but we must carry it around with us, that equal a heavy load. It disturbs me when blacks say, well white folks wouldn't do this or that...lol I didn't know white folks were some kind of bar..honestly I didn't. And why are folk looking for television to uphold anything moral, a non-stereotype.

Again...if only we were outraged by the Larger things ,but again that would take courage and disturbing our comfortable environment.

Anonymous said...

If Bernie Mac, Chris Rock, or numerous other black comedians had done a skit in front of a black audience some (and I said SOME not all) of the people who are offended now would be laughing over the idea of this child.

To me its as if some of the apprehension regarding our images in media boils down to "What would white folks think"

If a white person thinks something another black person does is indicative of my behavior then I, nor the "trifling" black person for that matter, is the problem. And that includes stereotypes as well.

The real problem is the ignorant white person and I am not going to tap dance for the acceptance of ignorant people.

Often we hold white behavior as acceptable behavior instead of the reality that some white people engage in acceptable behavior.

And I know, we don't care about white folks but allow me this. White people are subject to many stereotypes. The bumbling, stumbling, moron husband who is detached from punishing kids and nourishing them emotionally that his wife might as well be a single mom and he one of the kids. That is a sitcom staple and I find it offensive and not funny at all.

Rich white people who only see their kids as accessories and never seem to truly love them or care. They just let them run wild just as long as they stay out of their hair. This is a Law & Order bread winner.

The fact that there are other images of white people on TV that may be more positive doesn't keep people who are prone to judging based on media images from seeing these stereotypes.

I can understand the uneasiness of the ad I just hope too much isn't spent on it.

And Max I do think there is some whitewashing and switching up the message to an extreme. Like I said, some of my comments go beyond this ad.

Look at black women, they couldn't stop talking about how they couldn't find suitable mates, damaged beyond repair black men and how their good genes and values would die out because there was no one to procreate with.

It was cool to discuss right up until the specials, news features and articles started coming out and then they flipped the script and complained that this is MSM's conspiracy of telling them to settle and that they are nothing without a man.

The same black blogs that spend 3/4 of their time talking about black pathology get upset about MSM's portrayal of black pathology. When a commenter tells these bloggers and their followers "I don't know people like that" they respond with "Just because you dont doesn't mean this dysfunction is not out there."

But when MSM portrays the same thing the first thing they say is "We're more than that. I don't know anyone like that. Why aren't they showing the black middle class?"

I'm all over the place so I should end it here. Thanks for letting me scribble all over your blog!

Andre said...

Max, you're not getting carried away at all with your assessment.

(1) Broken black families put on display. Did this REALLY have to involve a single, black, mother?

(2) There was definitely something unnerving in watching the mainstream validation (and, apparently, condoning) of violence with Black youth, especially given the intersections with masculinity and power relations toward women.

(3) Speaking of violence with Black youth, the idea that kids are slapping grown men...or doing ANYTHING adult has always been troubling to me. When I see people finding humor in children swearing, slapping, making mature comments/gestures, etc., I cringe. Mostly, I fear for those children when they get older and the society of which they'll be a menace.

Kristen Howerton said...

I found it bothersome, for all the reasons you mentioned. I didn't think it through that much (was distracted by screaming children), but my initial reaction was annoyance.

md20737 said...

Yeah it wasnt funny. I saw so many tweets saying how funny it was. But I dont know ppl thought it was so funny. I was aggravatingly stereotypical. Sad part is seems like black ppl dont know when we are being laughed at, instead of laughed with.

Cocoa Fly said...

I thought it was funny. It didn't offend me.

Anna Renee said...

@Kim-I'm feeling you on this! We black folks don't have to catch all the S&^t that's thrown at us! Dag!
@Andre-Broken? Must we define ourselves this way? If we accept these definitions of ourselves, we have already lost, and the analysis is moot!

@md20737-that's why it's funny! Because it's an exagerated stereotype!

OK.I get why we are so uber sensitive! But does our uber-sensitivity change racist ideas? Because we sulk about stuff doesn't change a racists' ideology--because, as Symphony points out, the problem of the racist is not in me as a black person, whether I'm on welfare, wearing short skirts, live in the ghetto, whatever. If they choose to define
everything about me negatively, then who am I? Broken? I choose to define myself, therefore I remain
in control maintain my sanity!

Anna Renee said...

Oh, and by the way, Max, excellent post, as always!

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I hate that ad. I hated it when I first saw it, deeply and from the gut. It's some racist bullshit that they would have never thought to use with whites or any other race, and it demonizes blacks on so many levels from parenting to absent fathers.

I'll never eat another Dorito again, that's how much I hate that ad.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I just want add that context is everything. While this would or could have been funny in a black produced movie à la Bebe's Kids, in a tv commercial it insensitive at best and racist at worst.

MaryAnn said...

I did not care for that commercial AT ALL.
I personally felt many of the commercial this year were very sexist.
I would rather see NO images of self than to always see dysfunctional images.
At a time when OUR group has the highest single parent families along with all the stress, poverty, and dysfunction that experience brings I believe that we should not invest in perpetuating the cycle.

Mr. A said...

I'm a little torn on this one because I agree with both sides. I did find the slap funny ala Rick James, "What did the 5 fingers say to the face?" Now I know this slap was administered by a little boy and not a coked up singer (r.i.p.) but I don't find it too offensive because those type of slaps are usually administered by lil white boys to their sobbing mothers and showcased on Dr. Phil. A Black mother would have rendered that lil boy bottomless, no matter what his motive was. So that didn't offend me because it wasn't even depicting us (imo).

What did cause me a little concern was the initial feeling the commercial invoked in me towards single mothers. I was raised by a single mother but immediately I thought, "this is why you don't date women who have kids. I don't care how good BeBe looks in a skirt." And I know damn well it took TWO people to make that child. Plus, it looks to me that lil Jaylen could use a good role model in his life (and I am stereotypically assuming he doesn't have one, smh). With all of that social commentary aside, I was slightly ashamed at myself for having that initial feeling.

When I watch it again, I laugh at the slap even though in the grand scheme of things it's not as funny as intended (depending on the viewer).

practicetest said...

I didn't like the commercial. The slap was dumb. It was also dumb the way the dude looked at the mom all mmm mmmmmm like he was looking at a big bowl of campbells soup. The implication that the mom needs her 5-year-old to protect her is also offensive, as if she can't take care of herself.

md20737 said...

@annaRenee An exaggerated stereotype to me would be Clayton Bigsby from Dave Chapelle show the black white supremacist. He was black but the biggest racist against blacks. I get it haha funny. But there wasnt anything funny about the commercial. It wasnt slapstick funny, super corny funny, or dry humor funny. It wasnt well thought out or anything. Seemed liked they didnt even try it was just a mess.

Anna Renee said...

I guess there's just a difference of opinion among us, with those against it in the majority! I hate to get angry about these things because just as sure as I'm born, there will be another media uproar with blacks as the victim! That's why I posted that we ought to wean ourselves from the media--it's a hard deal right about now. black-folks.blogspot.com
Dave Chappelle is a beast--I love him!
I love you to Soulbrother!

RiPPa said...

Man please!!

Offensive? Not as I see it. Let's be real: many "brothers" I know, raised in single parent households or not, are protective of their mothers.

There are grown men who would get ugly at the mention of their mothers in a negative light albeit sexual. Now tell me or show me any black man who hasn't felt the need "check" the next man who comes around "courting" any female member of their immediate family.

Max, you have a daughter and I have four of them as you know. So you gotta understand what I'm saying, right?

Now, I understand how you view our "narrative" as displayed throughout the media. And yes, at times it makes you wonder. But I'm sorry my brother, this one isn't it in my book.

When are we gonna get off of internalizing what we see enough so to be compelled defend it as a representation of ourselves? I'm just sayin', I sincerely doubt whether white folks are of the opinion that little niggers run around disrespectfully slapping grown folks.

BTW: I co-sign Symphony's first comment like a mugg!

Anonymous said...

The commercial was funny as hell to me.

RainaHavock said...

I'm not going to lie. My dad, my college buds and I were laughing our behind off at this. It was the heat of the superbowl I wasn't thinking about anything else. I can see why people would be offend but eh..I don't know where I'm going with this.

Anonymous said...

Hello Max,


Shanti is honoring black men for Valentine. Come show her some love.


Reggie said...

I guess I was more disappointed in this more than anything else. At first I thought it was humorous, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was kinda disturbing. But hey, there are more single mothers out there now more than ever...white, black, Asian.

While the boy might have been looking out for the best interests of his Doritos and his mother....I hated that image and everything that it implied.

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