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Recently Steers launched their new Everyday Awesome Meal promotion, offering a a BBQ Mayo Beef Burger, small chips and a 330ml Coke for just R24.90, and while the special is great, the advert, in my opinion, is not.
The advert opens with Steer’s HooHah man standing next to the plated special, saying “The only time the Everyday Awesome Meal is not available, is when meneer Visagie learns the words to the National Anthem…” with a cut away to a forlorn looking stereotypical white male in a faded green and gold rugby jersey, standing with his hand on his chest listening to the anthem and shaking his head.
It then returns to the HooHah man, who states that the “Everyday Awesome meal is available all day, everyday.”
Before writing this opinion piece I expressed my dislike for the advert, as one does in this day and age, on Facebook and Twitter, where I was quickly accused of being overly sensitive, egotistical and lacking a sense of humour.
Suitably lambasted and now ashamed for having expressed my thoughts on the matter, I went back and thought about the ad some more and concluded that, perhaps, I was overreacting.
Just to be sure, I went and found the advert on Youtube (see above) and watched it again… and there it was again, that uneasy disquiet, that sense that “this is wrong.”
But why does this advert affect me so? Why does it cause such unease?
Well, perhaps it’s because the advert sets the white male apart, identifying him as the “other” who could never truly be a part of the new society.
How do I get that from a comic skit promoting a burger, you ask?
The ad states, quite irrevocably, that the special will not be available when meneer Visagie learns the anthem, and that the special is available all day everyday, which leaves one to conclude that meneer Visagie will NEVER learn the anthem.
And what could be more symbolic of a person’s patriotism – a word by definition the love of and devotion to one’s country – than the ability to sing the national anthem? So Steers is telling us that meneer Visagie will never learn to love or show devotion to the new South Africa.
Sure, you say, but it’s only Meneer Visagie. It’s not saying all white men are like that… just like the racist joke about Sipho is only about Sipho and doesn’t reflect on any other black man, right?
But it is an advert and we laugh. Because it’s funny.
But it’s not.
It’s not funny because it further perpetuates a discourse of hatred and resentment towards whites that has been steadily growing in the fabric of our society. A discourse wherein whites have no place in South African society, where they are still deemed the oppressors despite the fall of apartheid over two decades ago.
Yes penance must be made for the wrongs done during apartheid, but many of the ills we face as a country today have nothing to do with race. They are a burden we bare as a result of blatant fraud, corruption and incompetence.
In the 1930’s Nazis went around drawing pictures of Jews with big noses and placing them in newspapers. They slowly portrayed Jews as the “other” and identified them as having no place in German occupied territories.
And people laughed, because it was funny.