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
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT)
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 2124 GMT (0524 HKT)
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 2350 GMT (0750 HKT)
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2031 GMT (0431 HKT)
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT