An Egyptian ad campaign for the Panda cheese company has gone
internationally viral for its quirky and bizarre humor. In the ads, a
man in a panda suit physically intimidates and threatens various
Egyptian men in apparent retaliation for their refusal to eat
Panda-brand cheese, while Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways" plays in the background. "Never say no to Panda," the ad tagline declares.
But like so many moments of pop culture cross-overs, the Panda ads are rife with cultural significance. New America Foundation President Steve Clemons mused, "There are so many layers of geostrategic humor in this clip. Watch -- and just think about it. Not gonna say more at the moment." Egyptian blogger "The Arabist" Issandr El Amrani found the connotations so obvious he could only sigh, "A menacing Chinese Panda forcing consumption, a metaphor for the way the US likes to force things down Arab throats, etc."
Americans, struggling economically as China rises, might see a similar metaphor, but with the panda taking its more traditional symbolic role as a stand-in for China. Whoever represents whom in the ad, perhaps Americans, for their part either resisting or indulging a rising tide of Islamophobia, will see something familiar and not-so-alien in these depiction of Egyptian society. Anyone can relate to a man working at his desk, a father taking his son grocery shopping, and of course the universal human idea that out-of-control men in panda suits are scary.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.