When can you make fun of a girl wearing dental braces?

When can you make fun of a girl wearing dental braces? South Africa’s advertising watchdog has ruled that it’s okay if enough people get the joke.

In a ruling this week‚ the Advertising Standards Authority found that MTN had not crossed any boundaries with a TV advert that used a series of photos of a girl in braces with captions that played on her speech impediment.

Television viewer Michael Biribauer complained to the ASA that the ad mocked white people as disabled people. In fact it was all a joke‚ the ASA ruled‚ and was based on a widespread social media phenomenon.

In 2012‚ a photo of an awkward 12-year-old with crooked pigtails and dental braces went viral‚ with internet users turning it into a meme by adding humorous speech bubbles of mangled words. She became known as the “Ermahgerd girl”.

The MTN ad shows a girl playing with a yellow orb which releases a slew of captioned photos of the “Ermahgerd girl” with her patterned vest and wacky expression.

Saying that it regarded racial stereotyping and racism as serious issues‚ the ASA said the complainant appeared “to have read more into the commercial than was there”.

“The entire execution of the commercial is based in the trending ‘Ermahgerd’ phenomenon‚” the authority said in its ruling.

“There is nothing in the commercial that can reasonably be interpreted as ridiculing people with disabilities or implying all white people are disabled.”