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Controversy over Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad: is it racist? (video)

Feb 1, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT


If creating buzz for your Super Bowl commercial was your game all along, Coca-Cola, then, well played. The president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee had roundly criticized an ad (seen below) which depicts an Arab walking through the desert with camels, craving a frosty bottle of Coke. Reuters, via NBC News:

“Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers?” said Warren David, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC.

And Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, said:

“The Coke commercial for the Super Ball is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world.”

And all of this is a reaction to a teaser commercial, mind you: Coke hasn’t released the full version of the ad, which will run during the Super Bowl.

The premise is that several groups of people will race across the desert for the Coke — among them the Arab character, a bus full of Las Vegas showgirls, some cowboys and a group of Mad Max-style desperadoes. Coke asks viewers to vote online to decide which characters win the race, and that ending will be shown during the Super Bowl.

But, the online site does not allow a vote for the Arab character.

“What message is Coke sending with this?” asked Abed Ayoub, ADC’s director of legal and policy affairs. “By not including the Arab in the race, it is clear that the Arab is held to a different standard when compared to the other characters in the commercial,” he said.

So, Arab-American groups are angry at the way the Arab is depicted in the ad, but even angrier that the Arab will not win the race?

This is a commercial full of stereotypes: it’s the shorthand that directors and filmmakers have used for a hundred years to get their characters sketched out in the audience mind in the shortest amount of time. That’s why is every Spielberg movie, the lawyer is bald and the bad guy is either fat, or French.

Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lauren Thompson:

“Coca-Cola is an inclusive brand enjoyed by all demographics,” she said in an email. “We illustrate our core values, from fun and refreshment to happiness, inspiration and optimism across all of our marketing communications.”

Look, as long as we have an NFL team called the Washington Redskins, this commercial is the least of our problems as far as distasteful stereotypes go.

  1. skids003 - Feb 1, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    It is racist towards women in Las Vegas, they aren’t all showgirls!!