Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

What's racist about a talking goat?

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
May 3, 2013 -- Updated 1546 GMT (2346 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson checked out the Mountain Dew ad everybody says is racist
  • He doesn't get why it's offensive, he said; it's just silly and absurd and not serious
  • Comedians like Dave Chappelle push racial boundaries all the time, LZ says
  • He writes that it's sad it's come to this: Laughing at a talking goat is unacceptable

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- I went online this morning to see the Mountain Dew ad -- the one some are calling the most racist in history -- expecting to see some really offensive stuff. Instead, I saw some really silly stuff.

The goat's funny.

The names of some of the black men in the lineup are hilarious.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

The premise: ridiculous.

And I would think that's the point of a commercial with a talking goat. It's meant to be ridiculous and not taken seriously. It's comedy of the absurd, along the lines of Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," Jerry Seinfeld's parents on "Seinfeld" or "Dude, Where's My Car?"

The most racist commercial in history?
Edgy advertisements angering consumers

Does it play on stereotypical imagery?

Yes, and because of that, I can see how some could be a bit put off by a police lineup featuring all black men before a frightened white woman. But come on, one of the suspects' names is "Beyonte."

The circumstances surrounding the scene in the commercial are so outrageously over the top, I found myself snickering more than anything. Similar to the way I snickered during a skit featuring Dave Chappelle, who was making fun of racism with the creation of his character Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist in the South.

And he's black.

"You've never left this property, have you, Mr. Bigsby?"

"No, sir, not in many years."

"What if I were to tell you that you are an African-American?"

"Sir! Listen! I'm gonna make this clear. I am in no way, shape or form involved in any n***erdom!"

Classic Chappelle.

Thus I find the controversy to be as laughable as the Rev. Jerry Falwell saying the Teletubbies were bad for children because the purple one was gay.
LZ Granderson

The Mountain Dew commercials' brand of frat-boy physical humor isn't everyone's thing. It could be seen as callous or making light of battered women. For me, though, the presence of a talking goat put me in a different "South Park"-ish mindset. There's a reason "South Park" remains a high-rated show, why "The Simpsons" is the longest-running sitcom in history, why a third installment of "The Hangover" is being released: A lot of people like dumb, frat-boy humor draped in fantasy.

And I'm not trying to say Tyler, the Creator (whose real name is Tyler Okonma) scripted a commercial that is as brilliant as anything we've seen on the "Chappelle Show." And because of the rape fantasies in his music and liberal use of homophobic slurs on Twitter, I question why the advertising executives at Mountain Dew thought it was a good idea to partner with him in the first place. But with all of that being said, I doubt his intent behind the commercial was to demonize black men.

And that's the difference: intent.

A commercial that uses stereotypes has the potential to make any minority group featured in it uncomfortable, but is the Mountain Dew commercial really on par with, say, "Birth of a Nation," a film that blatantly uses disparaging caricatures of black men to slander and promote fear? No, it isn't, so can we please step back from the ledge?

In fact, I would dare say the images of black men in many of Tyler Perry's movies, which are widely supported by the black community, are far more offensive than what I saw in that commercial.

Why? Because in Perry's films, the dramatization is intended to be based in reality, while a thirsty gangsta goat by the name of Felicia is not.

Thus I find the controversy to be as laughable as the Rev. Jerry Falwell saying the Teletubbies were bad for children because the purple one was gay.

You know, sometimes images in pop culture are obviously insensitive or offensive, such as Lil Wayne usurping the murder of Emmett Till to make a vulgar reference about sex. And sometimes it's all one giant inkblot, like a Rorschach test. No right or wrong answers, just a peek inside the skull of the people who consume pop culture.

The ad was pulled. I can't help but feel it's a sad, sad day when the policing of comedy gets to the point where we can't even laugh at a talking goat.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT