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TV Commercial Sparks Debate Over Violence in Trinidad & Tobago

A KFC commercial in Trinidad & Tobago has drawn criticism for what some consider to be the portrayal of violence, particularly on the heels of the recent killing of a teenaged boy over a common love interest. Although the advertisement was on the air prior to the incident, some netizens felt that the storyline (two rivals for a woman's affection get into a scuffle) hit too close to home:

The recently formed Anti-Bullying Association of Trinidad & Tobago released a statement condemning the ad and called for KFC to remove it. It was deemed particularly insensitive after news broke about the stabbing:

The ABATT rejects outright all forms of violence, particularly in the face of the spiraling crime situation in our country. Further, in the wake of the recent youth ‘love triangle’ fracas, which led to the death of a 14 year old teenager, it is imprudent for such a commercial to be aired on television. Corporate Trinidad & Tobago has a critical role to play in shaping our society and our nation's youth and as such it is imperative that all exercise proactive rather than reactive measures.

Judica McSween thought that ABATT was making more of the issue than was necessary:

Just wondering.. if the young man didn't loose (sic) his life would there be a problem with the ad.. Bullying was present in schools long before that incident, there have been numerous stabbing (sic) and violence in school before this as well as countless ads and t.v. shows depicting violence so why pick on Prestige Holdings [the company that owns the local KFC franchise] now, I think you all are really being petty and ‘nitpicking'.

Krstyal Ghisyawan felt that those who were just concerned with the ad were missing the larger point:

The issue is not the ad in itself, and obviously it is unrealistic to expect all ads and tv shows depicting violence to be taken off the television. The point is that message being sent through the ad condones and trivializes violence in a society where violence is already an enormous problem. The appeal to stop reproducing the ad, asks each person and each corporation to be aware of the messages being sent and the audience that will be internalizing these messages. Violence occurring in the household, on the streets, in the media, etc, depending on the manner of depiction actually instructs others on the ‘acceptable’ uses of violence. Responsible television viewing and internet usage etc, is a must, but we cannot deny that children learn through mimicry and social practice.

Nicole Anatol said that while she personally didn't see anything wrong with the ad, she understood the sentiments behind the call for a ban:

I saw the ad and really, as a parent I see no problem with it. I don't see violence being depicted or even glamorized, it has a playful spirit and is mildly amusing. But what is sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander and other parents may disagree. WE need to be the ultimate censor for our own children and communicate with them on what is appropriate and why. At the same time however, I do appreciate the stance of the Anti-Bullying Association and commend them for it. It's nice to see a change from the usual apathy.

Mr. Live Wire at Wired868 felt that ABATT was overreacting:

Quick question: What is one major similarity and difference between ‘Twilight', ‘The Great Gatsby', ‘The Miller’s Tale', ‘Popeye’ and the KFC ‘Double Sweet and Fire’ advertisement?

Answer: All revolve around a love triangle that goes wrong; but only KFC is trying to sell you a chicken sandwich.

He continued:

Exactly why the Anti-Bullying Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ABATT) and other bloggers believe that a 30-second advertisement in which two men playfully joust for a women’s attentions while she eats a chicken sandwich is ‘troubling, irresponsible and reckless‘ is beyond me. Particularly as all three leave arm-in-arm without so much as a scratch and, unlike Twilight or the Great Gatsby, no one is mutilated or shot.

In response to Mr. Live Wire, Philip Edward Alexander supported ABATT's calls for the ad to be pulled:

There is no escaping the fact that we live in extremely violent times and, while no one raindrop can or should be blamed for causing the flood, it is extremely irresponsible of the local franchise holders of KFC to attempt to justify adding even the remotest hint of support for violence whether it be tongue in cheek or otherwise when we should all be working together as a nation to promote non-violence as a means to stemming the tide.

Alexander added that while parenting has a greater impact on children than the television, not all children have the benefit of adequate supervision:

The argument that parents and not television are supposed to raise children is the ideal, but sadly the reality does not bear out the ideal and has not for quite some time. Most organizations that deal with this fall out lament the lack of parental supervision in the home which has been dwindling for some time but has fallen off drastically in the last twenty years. The impact of this – the absentee parent from single parent homes or situations where both parents are working leaves many children to have their values set by mass media, and it is in this knowledge we must all be guided. None of us will be safe from the after effects of our actions and ‘for profit’ corporations more than most have a vested interest in the same society's long term survival.

On Friday ABATT announced that KFC- which had initially defended the ad- had temporarily taken the ad off the air and edited out the fighting scenes:

BREAKING NEWS: KFC has ‘pulled’ the offensive violence supporting ad and has re-edited and re-released it minus the fake violence and they must be applauded for demonstrating sound reasoning here. Thank you.

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