A McDonald’s radio ad that began airing Febraury 3, 2012 in a small part of the United States has animal lovers, particularly pit bull fans, fired up. The ad is intended to encourage people to try their new “chicken bites” menu item, and it does so by naming things that are riskier than their fast food. One line says, “You know what’s risky? Petting a stray pit bull.” Pit bull advocates saw this as part of the framing of pit bulls as dangerous that often lead to societal fear, increased insurance premiums, and breed specific legislation (BSL).*
In an obvious nod to the Occupy Wall Street/99%Movement’s images of individuals holding signs telling their stories of frustration with inequality, facebook was flooded with similar images by pit bull advocates the very day the ad first aired. These signs became common that Friday afternoon on websites and social media sites of rescue group, in particular those that advocate on behalf of pit bulls (also referred to as American bull dogs, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and affectionately known as pibbles). Bad Rap, which gained fame by rehabilitating many of Michael Vic’s dogs, regularly portrays pit bulls as good with children and other animals, and tells the stories of pit bull ambassadors who have been certified as hospital therapy dogs, canine good citizen (including saving families from fires!), and involved in children’s reading programs. The signs picutred here come from the Bad Rap Facebook page and demonstrated how these image narratives continued this framing. Beyond these images, pit bull advocates also took to the internet crafting petitions to McDonalds, and sent boycott emails, faxes, and calls to McDonald’s corporate office. By later that same day McDonald’s tweeted an apology, “We apologize for running a local ad insensitive in its mention of pit bulls. We didn’t mean to offend anyone and the ad is being pulled.”
Gender and trans activists could have also gotten upset over this ad’s line “Naming your son “Sue”? Super risky.” However, I have yet to see these activists adopt a campaign of sign-holding imagery where people explain the social construction of gender and problems with our gender dichotomy. Maybe that is not a place where this tactic would spillover or perhaps the success in this case should encourage trans activists to consider the image storytelling a useful way to inform the public about the complexity of gender.
Have you noticed other examples of tactical spillover from Occupy Wall Street beyond the use of occupy as a ubitquitious name for political action and these sign narratives?
* BSL can include locality regulations that direct community shelters to immediately euthanize this type of stray and can prohibit or regulate the ownership of these in some communities.