First it was a Volkswagen ad being called “racist,” then a Taco Bell ad was pulled from the Super Bowl line-up because it portrayed vegetables in a negative light, and now a Coca-Cola spot destined for the Big Game on Sunday is embroiled in the latest advertising controversy.
The ad in question is a classic Super Bowl-style epic tale with an interactive social media component. Three groups are seen racing across the desert in search of the big prize—a giant bottle of Coca-Cola. The three groups are “Showgirls”—looking like the drag queens in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Mad Max-style “Badlanders” and “Cowboys” straight from Blazing Saddles. All three groups are clearly represent archetypes from old movies, using a "cinematic" approach—with no racism intended.
But it is a fourth group that is raising the ire of Arab-American groups who have sharply criticized the ad for depicting an Arab walking through the desert with a camel—a character who is not even in the race.
"The Coke commercial for the Super Bowl is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world," according to Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies.
You see, the issue is not only about Arabs being seen as “Camel Jockeys” but it is that Coke’s contest—"You Decide the Ending" vote does not include the Arabs and camels.
We say that suggests that the camels and their jockeys are the smartest team in the competition. Who needs to kill themselves for a Coke?
For their part, the director of legal and policy affairs at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Abed Ayoub reportedly wants Coke to edit the ad before it airs on Super Bowl Sunday and is seen by a potential audience of 100 million Americans. "What message is Coke sending with this?" He added: "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."
We’re waiting for the anti-doping association to determine whether the showgirls have been juicing to prepare for the race.
"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.
No word yet from any advocates for drag queens, Las Vegas showgirls, motley crews of marauding badlanders, or cowboys.
We’ll leave it to you to decide who should win this controversy.