Arby’s to the Irish: can’t you take a joke?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

This Arby’s commercial is making some Irish-Americans really angry. Check out this recent letter to the editor of Irish America magazine (hat tip HighJive):

A television commercial currently aired by Arby’s restaurants features a group of laboratory chimpanzees so happy to have sampled Arby’s product that they break into a traditional Irish step dance. Rather than elicit my normal belly laugh, I was immediately reminded of the horrendous Punch and [Thomas] Nast political cartoons that lampooned our people in the past. The sting was immediate, taking my breath away.

This web site has some examples of the way Irish people were regularly depicted with simian features as “hot-headed, old-fashioned, and drunkards” and as “uncivilized, unskilled and impoverished.” Let’s not forget that not too long ago, the Irish weren’t regarded as white.

So what was Arby’s response? Well, typical, really:

We’re sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction with our current advertising.

Many times we choose to use tongue-in-cheek humor and satire in our commercials in an effort to communicate information about the Arby’s menu in an engaging and entertaining manner.