Was Zaxby’s promoting bullying?

I’m putting my Controversy Hat on again. I usually leave it in the box because it helps the box keep its hat shape, but I’m tired of being a quiet-mouth about these ads for a popular fast-food chicken finger chain. Plus, I think the commercial run is nearly over, or over because I saw a new “fan special” commercial not related to this series, so it’s the perfect time to go all ranty on them.

Zaxby’s*. It’s chicken fingers and fries, bread and a tiny little cup of cole slaw, with chain stores located throughout the Southeast U.S. I live in Atlanta, Georgia and they’re fucking everywhere. Not everywhere everywhere like McDonald’s, but it’s not hard to be close to one when you’re in the mood to declare war on your intestines by dropping a carb bomb.

I’ve been through a few drive-thrus, but not since last October. Since then I’ve become less inclined to eat there any time soon. I don’t know how long I’ll hold out against The Chicken, but I doubt it’ll be as long as I’ve held out against Hardee’s. I haven’t eaten at Hardee’s in I don’t know how long, since they started with their guy-centric line of commercials. There was that commercial with the guy who couldn’t open a box of cereal, “without us, some guys would starve” was the line I laughed at. Kind of me, I know. But then they went all might as well be naked women and I stopped eating there.

There are three commercials to the Fan Special meal promotion, a limited-time offer during college football and basketball seasons. Mostly football, I think. The campaign also includes a social media competition for the most dedicated Zaxby’s fan, and it’s all a tongue-in-cheek farce. It’s clever, but I think the commercials missed the mark, the entire target really, and instead of laughing at the lengths sports fans will go to by switching it up to people going to all lengths for fast food, they are instead making a mockery of bullying.


Video One – “Cheer”

Video Two – “Ink”

Video Three – “Foam”

The gatekeeper to the fast food meal is one man. He alone gives permission to eat the Fan Special Meal, and co-workers must prove to him they are worthy of the high-calorie, low-nutrition food product on a plate before they are allowed to join him in indulging.

One man has the power to decide who may eat and controls access to the food. When the participant fails in the judge’s eyes, they are denied. There is no, “I’m still a fan” and pan-out to participant eating a Zaxby’s lunch. It begins and ends with one man.

The fan special may be a culinary satire on the over-enthusiastic sports fan, but the commercials are glorifying a work-place bully.

Andy, in “Cheer”, has to wear a cheerleader uniform to the office lunchroom. He has to subject himself to public humiliation in order to eat lunch with the keeper of the chicken. When Andy enters the lunchroom he is clearly uncomfortable, and Gatekeeper furthers the shame by adding a bit of sexual harassment when he asks Andy to “give us a twirl”. Andy got his lunch because he reduced himself at the request of another in order to gain entry into an exclusive group.

Tom, in “Ink”, has the logo inked across his abdomen and back. When Tom comes in view, he has the chain name and signature chicken splayed on his stomach. When he stands to join the other two men and turns to grab his shirt, a Zaxby’s chick tramp-stamp boggles the mind. Tom went to extremes to prove to his co-workers that he deserved to join their Zaxby’s click and go out to eat.

The woman, in “Foam”, has to successfully eat a chicken finger with foam fingers on her hands.  When she fails, Gatekeeper takes the plate away and deems her unworthy. Funny the woman is the only one who didn’t earn her food, or get a name, but this isn’t about that.

As a trio, it sends a message. Each commercial is mostly benign as a stand-alone, but grouped together they demonstrate the pattern, the cycle, of bullying and abusive behavior. One. Single. White. Man. holding the power and control over the lessor group.  As a commercial group, it condones this behavior as acceptable – acceptable to the participants (victims), to the leader (bully), and to the observers (society) participating in the background, remaining silent to growing power of one man over the group’s ability to lunch with absolute choice.

Bullying, and the tolerance to it, is no longer acceptable. Only the bully is happy with his position as a bully, not victims and society is getting there, so why sit around and laugh at a bully as a promotion for a fast-food restaurant?

As we fight to end bullying, and domestic violence as its sister, commercials like these also become no longer acceptable. There are so many ways, so many, to show the absurdity of the zealous fan. Are you fucking kidding me? Watch the Rose Bowl or the Super Bowl.

*”Zaxby’s” is a registered trademark of Zaxby’s Franchising, Inc
**Featured Image: Wikipedia, Cculber007 at en.wikipedia, (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

13 thoughts on “Was Zaxby’s promoting bullying?

    • Yes. The BCS game. The last one, ever.
      It wasn’t until the last one came out, and then I saw the cheerleader one again, that I saw what was happening.


  1. This is absurd and one of the reasons I am so thankful I don’t watch TV. I can’t say our ads are any better in Australia but this seems to be a common thing in the US with fast food companies promoting sexism and other terrible themes through their commercials.


    • I don’t watch a whole lot of t.v., but probably more than I should. When I do, I fast forward or do things during commercials. Obviously they still get through. These got my attention, but not because I suddenly wanted chicken.


    • That twirl was really creepy, and with the role-reversal, that really did show how bad that is to do to someone. Thanks for reading 🙂


    • Oh I haven’t seen those yet. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll have to keep my eyes and ears out for those. I have noticed these commercials are on less, and the new family on game-day oriented series for the Fan Special is taking over.


    • U said it sister! I’m done with both dd, and zaxbys. Why couldn’t they be satisfied with the millions of crap they have their greedy fingers in! So fed up!


  2. I find the commercials appalling precisely because of the one jerk who “controls access to the food.” But wouldn’t you say what’s going on is hazing rather than bullying, since the participants are willing? I don’t agree with hazing any more than bullying, but it’s important to distinguish between the willing participant and those on whom abuse is forced. Either way, it’s atrocious to appeal to the basest, most sadistic aspects of the supposed target consumer, when there are infinite other ways to market gross greasy chicken.


    • I see what you’re saying about willing. They do know ahead of time what they are getting into and it seems they are able to make the choice to allow themselves to be publicly embarrassed, (where as a middle-school kid getting picked on because his jeans are too big has no choice in the matter). A bully uses force to dominate. The force is thinly veiled as forewarning. They all still have to please him to get the meal. I do have to agree, there’s a line between hazing and bullying. They’re both bad, though I think hazing isn’t that far off from bullying.


  3. Oh my gosh, I’m begging you to stop the commercials with the Duck Dynasty wives! They are horribly annoying! I was a fan of the show since it began, but since the terrible ,awful miserable cast, mainly the wives I don’t. Even want to hear the horrible “acting”, and I use that term so very insincere. I am a proper southern woman from Georgia, so its not their accent, its just a horrible to have these women represent your company. I love zaxbys, but I won’t be back there until there are no more awful, awful DD cast doing commercials.


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