Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The good monkey

Stopped by Taco John's. It appears they have a new mascot, a nameless sombrero-donned monkey. I couldn't help but think of Taco Bell's ridiculously successful, much-maligned chihuahua mascot of a few years ago. TB eventually dropped the dog partially over complaints from some members of the hispanic community that the chihuahua--whose catchphrase was a heavily accented "Yo quiero Taco Bell"--was a racial stereotype. Taco John's, obviously wanting to avoid such a charge, chose...a monkey. The black guy behind the counter, noticing me staring at the monkey, said with a grin, "Isn't he cute?"

I couldn't help but wonder how cute he would find le monkey if it were being used to sell, say, fried chicken, with a word balloon coming out of his mouth saying, "Come 'n' git yo'self some Kentucky Friiiiied Chick'n!" No doubt something would be said about that! How about a chihuahua selling fried chicken? That would probably be ok, if a bit odd (though no more odd than using a monkey to hawk tacos). I guess it all comes down to context. Associating a monkey with tacos does not invoke the racial stereotype that would come from associating a monkey with fried chicken or watermelon. A chihuahua is a stereotype when it is associated with tacos, but not fried chicken. So, in a nutshell: chihuahua + tacos = bad, monkey + tacos = good, monkey + fried chicken = bad, chihuahua + fried chicken = good. However, one constant exists across all examples: food from any of those places = bad.


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