Came across this 2009 post from What Would Thembi Do? and thought it was worth sharing an edited excerpt.
A few of you have asked me to comment on the latest Popeyes ad featuring “Annie The Chicken Queen,” and the ad is finally on YouTube so I shall. I have to break down this amazingly disturbingly delineative and demonstrative character name, almost Linnean, name first:
1. Annie: the diminutive form of a traditional English name as though she were a slave with no surname
2. The Chicken: self-explanatory
3. Queen: this is what we word nerds call a contronym, or a word with two meanings that are opposites. Sure, if you’re British royalty you are a “Queen,” but the name “Queen” or “Queenie” is also a typical slave name — a pet name that no white people had, but implied that this slave was ‘special,’ so basically not a queen at all and in fact merely property not a ruler. Thank you, Alex Haley, for telling that history with the book Queen, and thank you, Halle Berry, for such a woeful performance in said miniseries, which further proves that no good can come from this nomenclature.
Kudos to Popeyes for putting forth such an immense level of effort to create a fictitious character with a name so descriptive and classifying that it rivals Linnean taxonomy and is almost an onomatopoeia for the sound of clanging shackles. “Annie The Chicken Queen” is jam-packed with so many antebellum stereotypes about black people that the commercial itself could never be a disappointment.
I am so tired of feisty black women who speak the truth and call you “honey” in advertising, but I’ve given up on fighting that aspect of the stereotype. What I want to know is, why did this women touch her ‘kitchen’ while she was talking about chicken unless that was some covert call to action for the black community and I didn’t get the memo? Why does she reference Popeyes chicken as “my chicken,” when it’s fried and sold everywhere from St. Louis to Seoul, Korea? I thought Popeye was the one frying it up back there, and even then isn’t the internationally standard recipe a corporate secret? Oh wait, I get it, food is somehow better when it’s prepared by a black women whose self-worth depends on how good her fried foods taste! Popeyes, as a company, should be ashamed, but they’ve already released a typical statement filled with “oh um, that’s offensive? really? we’re lovin’ it, though!” type of language. I will be following up on this disgusting campaign here at WWTD and in the meantime continuing not to eat at Popeyes.