They’ve done it again: Yet another chicken-related commercial featuring a prominent black celebrity or character.
But this time was different — at least for me. I thought this one was a joke. Some hoax commercial created for a laugh or two.
Sadly, it isn’t.
This particular Burger King commercial features music sensation Mary J. Blige, answering a hungry, conservatively dressed customer’s question: What’s in those new chicken snack wraps?
In the commercial, the fast food joint suddenly becomes a club, where Blige sings about the ingredients in a catchy ditty reminiscent of a song she might include on an album, as diners, including the geeky customer who initially prompted the performance, dance along.
My immediate reaction to this was laughter, then an undeniable side eye.
Mary, I just can’t. I’m usually the biggest chatterbox in the office, but at this point, I’m almost at a loss for words.
As with anyone who has a brand to build— and protect— I question the motive behind a move that is both comical, stereotypical and just plain wack.
This is the same Mary I grew up with, who cried with me after break ups in songs like I’m Going Down and Be Happy, and gave me empowerment through hits like No More Drama, Just Fine, and Family Affair. The same platinum-selling, street-glammed, Grammy award-winning Mary who always kept it real, kept it authentic and stayed true to her roots in her climb to success. She took the issues of urban women mainstream, breaking barriers in the music industry with her gritty voice and passion for strength in femininity. She’d escaped many stereotypes, coming from a broken, abusive home in the projects to the heights of million-dollar success in the entertainment industry. She’s even ventured into business with her own HSN fragrance and eyewear line, Melodies by MJB.
She now joins the Side-eye Roster of neck-rolling, Mammy-type choir sisters singing praises to the poultry gods; the white Australian who thought it cool to diffuse an “awkward situation” by giving a crowd of mostly black cricket fans a bucket of chicken; a dancing MC Hammer, prompted to bust a move after tasting popcorn chicken; and the lovely couple who sang their love for one another over a fresh carton of chicken nuggets.
True, stereotypes do exist in the world, and those stereotypes can sometimes drive the business decisions of advertisers who surmise that including black people in a commercial for a product that— let’s just be real—many of us enjoy, is the smart business move.
But for Mary J. Blige, it’s just not a good look. After seeing that Burger King commercial, I feel like I just saw my best friend, a professional woman climbing the ranks of entrepreneurship and life coaching, booty shaking in the latest Waka Flaka video. (Not knocking video vixens, but again, we’re talking professional branding here.)
Maybe I’m being a little too sensitive, but at this point in her career, I think there are plenty of other products Mary could endorse that not only align with the brand we know and love, but help to enhance its reach and ensure its longevity with an audience that has been loyal to her from the beginning.