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
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT