What’s So Funny About Chicago-Lake Liquors Ads?

By Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

According to Macon D at Stuff White People Do and Craig Brimm at Kiss My Black Ads (Both wonderful blogs that you should be reading on the regular), a Minneapolis-based retailer, Chicago-Lake Liquors, has launched a new ad campaign that depicts middle class white folks acting “black” (or rather the minstrelized version of blackness popularized by BET).


Funny or offensive?

I vote for the latter. What at first may elicit a snicker becomes troubling when pulled apart. (Some folks say you can’t analyze comedy, but I maintain that good comedy can indeed be weighed and turned over and still be funny.) When I’m faced with something allegedly comedic that rings my “racially offensive” bells, I try to ask myself “What’s so funny?” I mean, what about the situation in question is supposed to make me laugh?

In this case, I think the funny is supposed to come from two things: the “black” street slang (Those black folks sure do talk funny!) and the notion that good, middle class, white people (read: normal people) would adopt such behaviors as their own.

Macon D wonders:

Are these ads racist? Or are they making fun of racist white people? And if they’re “only” doing the latter, does that really make the contemporary blackface here any more acceptable?

I don’t think the ads are making fun of the dominant culture, though it seems so at first. The ads are making fun of behaviors and language deemed “black” by showing white people indulging in them. They are highlighting “otherness” using the mainstream as a backdrop. If you think the joke is not about blackness, but about poking fun at urban, street lingo and style, consider why none of the ads feature a straight-laced, middle class, black guy. Why? Because all black men are expected by the dominant culture to talk jive. It’s not funny when a black person says “pimp tight” and sports gold fronts, cause you know, that’s just what we do.

I am stymied by what message these ads are trying to send. The prices at Chicago-Lake Liquors are so low that they make even good, white folks indulge in coonery? I suspect there is no message; this is one of those aggravating campaigns that seek to raise awareness of a brand through nonsensical, “edgy” ads that draw a lot of heat for a moment in time. The flash point? Race. I have no doubt some hipsters in a Twin Cities ad agency are sitting around right now, fist bumping and congratulating themselves on a job well done. “We rock, yo!”