Burger King's much-ballyhooed rebranding — part of an attempt to stop a steep slide in sales — is getting off to a rocky start. The company dropped its new ad featuring hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige after it was assailed by fans for being "racist," "scary," and unintentionally "hilarious." (Watch below.) Burger King insists that the spot was scrubbed for unspecified "licensing issues," but that didn't douse suspicions that the negative response forced the burger chain to backtrack. Here, a guide to the controversy:
What's in the ad?
The clip features Blige standing on a table in a Burger King restaurant surrounded by flashing disco lights singing about its new chicken wraps, which are part of a healthier new menu the chain is rolling out. Adapting her popular song "Don't Mind" to new lyrics, she belts out the wrap's ingredients: "Crispy chicken, fresh lettuce, three cheeses, ranch dressing wrapped in a tasty, flour tortilla."
How is that racist?
The product at the center of the clip — fried chicken — "comes peppered and seasoned with all sorts of racist connotations," says Kenneth Partridge at TheBoomBox. And even if the connection was unintentional, the sight of a "black woman espousing the virtues of fried chicken is never a pleasant thing to behold," says Rich Juzwiak at Gawker.
What else are fans saying?
Aside from being offensive, the ad is easily the most "clownable 30-second clip of all time," says Rembert Browne at Grantland. Fans are also "shocked that Mary would lend her name (and voice) to a sandwich," and are accusing her of "selling out," says Sowmya Krishnamurthy at MTV.
Is the ad gone for good?
Burger King says ads with Blige will be "back on the air soon," though the company didn't specify whether they'd bring back the poorly received one. But Blige reportedly received $2 million for her endorsement, which means she'll probably continue "indulging in unsavory behavior for the sake of savory chicken sandwiches," says Juzwiak. See for yourself:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- Fall film guide: All the movies you should see in October
- Why you probably don't have Ebola — even if you shook hands with America's 'patient zero'
Subscribe to the Week