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ARB has no sense of humour

A screenshot from Chicken Licken’s commercial for their Big John burger.
A screenshot from Chicken Licken’s commercial for their Big John burger.
Image: YouTube/Chicken Licken SA

The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) missed a trick when it banned a Chicken Licken advert that subverts the story of colonialism.

As we report elsewhere in this edition, the commercial is centred around a South African character named Mjohnana who lives the shores of this country in 1650 and "discovers" Europe and Europeans in 1651.

It is outrageously funny, over-the-top and takes a mickey out of the narrative that European settlers "discovered" our continent and its people. Yet it makes you think about the whole colonialism story and can be used in households to trigger a discussion with the young about our history.

It also turns the story of "African savages" with an "inferior civilisation" on its head, with the African able to travel across the seas using his own means of transport and tools.

Yet the ARB does not see the advert in this light. Instead, it wants it banned on the grounds that colonialism was "traumatic" and therefore "cannot be trivialised in any manner".

Colonialism and the enslavement of Africans were barbaric crimes that indeed should not be trivialised. But should we then ban creatives from imagining how things would have turned out had it been the Africans who travelled to Europe on their own will, and not the other way round?

We believe that the ARB's sense of humour failed here and, in the process, members of the board were blinded to the potential of this advert to educate our youth about our terrible past. South Africans love to laugh and over the years it has been proven that comedy is one of the best form of education, especially for our youth.

But if we are to be too sensitive, demanding that certain portions of our history cannot be subjects to interpretations that would get people laughing while they learn an important lesson, we will end up with an ignorant society.

As the fried chicken franchise says in its response to ARB's ruling, the underlying purpose of the advert is to "create a sense of pride and patriotism among South Africans". What could be more South African than using laughter to interrogate the past and paint a picture of what could have been? Hopefully, a sense of humour would soon return among board members.

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