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Zagar the Horrible

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

On the July 29th broadcast of Saturday Night Live I saw two Bud Light commercials featuring "Zagar and Steve." I quickly posted the following blog entries:

Racist ads feature ignorant Indian
Odd couple of advertising
That wacky Zagar

The links within these entries no longer work, but here's how a "neutral" publication introduced the ad campaign:

Bud Light Shines Light on Odd Couple

July 28, 2006

By Aaron Baar, Adweek

CHICAGO – The latest TV effort for Bud Light—an odd pairing of a primitive tribesman and a modern American as roommates—was born out of a real-life experience. Sort of.

"[Copywriter] Jeb [Quaid] had a really bad roommate in college," said Mark Gross, the DDB Chicago group creative director who oversaw the campaign. "We thought, wouldn't it be funny if we paired up a bad roommate with someone, and that the only thing about him was that he liked Bud Light."

And so was born Zagar, a primitive tribesman, and his roommate Steve. In the campaign, TV spots show Zagar trying to adapt to American culture, shooting arrows at the cat, trying to light a fire under Steve's bath and playing a particularly aggressive game of basketball. "But he's worked out as a roommate for one reason: We both love Bud Light," Steve says in a voiceover.

"It's a classic odd couple story," Gross said.

The TV campaign is supported by a Web site, www.zagarandsteve.com, where Steve maintains a blog about his new roommate and the story of Zagar's birth in an undisclosed primitive land.

The campaign was born in a pitch session last fall that also saw the birth of another character, Ted Ferguson, who performs feats of daring (like staying in the office past 5 p.m.) for a Bud Light. "[Anheuser-Busch] likes characters and things that can be extended," Gross said. "It gives us a great on-premise opportunity."

While Ferguson has been making the rounds in bars across the country (and new television spots are coming soon), Gross suggested similar possibilities for Zagar. One idea was to have him wander New York City in his primitive garb.

"We're going to focus on the Web site now, like updating Steve's blog and perhaps create some Zagar Webisodes," Gross said.

Zagar the vanishing Indian
Perhaps because of embarrassment, Anheuser-Busch eventually removed its "Zagar and Steve" website, including the ads, Zagar's phony history, and Steve's fabricated blog entries about his roommate. Next it removed the videos from sites such as YouTube. But here are most of the invented blog entries:


July 28, 2006
Well, At Least The Double Date Wasn't Awkward.

So, I decided to set Zagar up with Kate's best friend Rachael on a double date. I thought they might have a connection. I mean, maybe not "sparks right off the bat," but eventually, a connection. I thought, what's a simple place to go that would prevent Zag and Rachael from having to communicate much? Bowling. Hey, genius call, right?

I know she screamed and everything but I think deep down Rachel thought it was cute when Zagar ran down the lane and attacked the ball with a spear. And after he threw his bowling ball at that dude who was talking to Rachael… well there was no question that Zagar was into her, you know? But in the end I think they decided just to be friends. The right woman for Zagar is out there. It might not have been Rachael but somewhere, she's out there.

July 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 26, 2006

After the game was all said and done, I think Tom appreciated Zagar's competitive spirit. He adds a whole new element to the game. You know the, "will I live or die" element. I'll tell you, our weekly pickup game has never been so exciting. At first Pete was a little miffed about getting shot with the blowgun. But look at it from Zagar's side…I mean, Zagar really wanted to…well, you know, it's not easy to see it from his side.

But I can understand his confusion about why you're not supposed to foul all the time. Your opponent's not gonna make many free throws after losing consciousness like that no matter how many shots they get. So in the end Zagar's defense was actually really effective.

I think looking back all the guys agreed that Zagar made a great 6th man for our pickup game. Afterwards we all went to have a few Bud Lights and laugh about the game and they got a chance to see that Zagar's really just a normal, laid-back dude.

July 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 24, 2006
You Try Getting This Guy To Pay His Half Of The Cable Bill…

How do you get a loincloth-wearing Chieftain to pay the cable bill? … Waiting for the punch line? Oh this is no joke. He simply can't grasp the monetary system. Last time I checked Comcast isn't accepting 3 squirrel pelts for the basic cable package.

Maybe it's time I get this guy a job. Hmm…He does have an incredible work ethic. I once saw him construct an entire village in my backyard using only the materials from my neighbor's garage… I wonder what ever happened to that guy, he moved out of the neighborhood around that time.

The other thing about Zagar, he's amazingly punctual. The guy can look at the Sun and be like, "3:37 PM." I mean, that's what I assume he's saying. You know, actually, I'm sure there's some manager out there looking for someone just like Zagar.

July 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 21, 2006

So online dating… I'll admit I used to think it was a little strange, but it's getting more popular. So I thought, what better way to get Zagar out into the dating scene? Signed him up for a profile on Match.com. Got him all set up.

And take an extra minute to appreciate the picture. It took me half the day to get him to stand still long enough to take it… Man, that flash freaked him out… Did you know if you throw it hard enough a camera'll make a hole clear through a retaining wall? So now I'm searching the web for a new one. I've been meaning to get a new camera anyway. J&R's a nice site that's treated me good in the past. Anyway, after we got the picture thing ironed out the rest was a piece of cake.

Check him out and tell all your single lady friends… maybe your sister's on the market? He's a freaking Chieftain for god sakes. Who's not going to jump on that?

July 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 20, 2006
Hey Mikey, I think he likes it.

I came home yesterday to watch the baseball game. I figured Zagar might be down, so I brought him a Bud Light and asked him to join me. And this time instead of playfully chucking a spear at my head he actually came out of his room. He looked pretty excited.

We watched the whole game together. I guess some things are truly universal. It may take a few, let's say… decades, to explain the infield fly rule to him, but the guy sure can heckle an umpire. And he LOVES Bud Light. I think this might be the start of a beautiful friendship.

July 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2006
We're no Bradjelina, but we have a stalker.

Wow. Well, Kate came over last night. I told her I was gonna cook dinner. I had the candles lit, Al Green on rotation, signs were pointing to – this was the night. So we're eating dinner and, well there was an indigenous tribesman with a spear staring at us… 3 feet away. Not regular spying, I'm talking "body painted like the wallpaper, standing motionless 3 feet away from us" spying. Kate seems cool, so I thought she would understand. Um, yea, not so much. Let's just say, romance is not in the air when there's a warlord in a loincloth stalking you. I tried to explain to Zagar later about "1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Home Base." He didn't grasp it.

July 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 14, 2006
My fault for letting my guard down.

Took a nap today. Mistake. It wasn't so much that when I woke up Zagar was standing there staring at me… in a loincloth… holding a spear... wearing my lampshade as a hat. Maybe I just failed to appreciate the ritual he was performing. I still say it's tough to appreciate rituals when you wake up paralyzed from the neck down. Not sure what kind of dart it was he used but that thing was potent. I was a little mad at first but it wore off after a few hours. That Zagar, what a prankster.

July 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2006
Ever wake up to the sound of a chicken beheading?

Day two. Apparently Zagar's an early riser. Not sure if his internal clock's screwed up cause of jet lag. But since I'm pretty sure he's never ridden on anything more complicated than a donkey (much less an airplane.) I'm going to prepare myself for this happening every morning.

I'm not exactly a light sleeper. But the sounds coming from Zagar's room sounded like the Terminator and Guerillas in the Mist got accidentally mixed up in the editing room.

At least he's not one of those roommates who lie around all day doing nothing. One thing I can say for Zagar he seems… active. Five hours of non-stop chanting kind of active.

Side note: I'm pretty sure he thinks of my cat as a kind of livestock.

July 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 09, 2006
Meet Zagar.

I just met my new roommate…and his name's Zagar. My buddy told me to go with something like roommates.com or roommatenation or even easyroomate.com. But nooo. I decided to go a different route. You ever gotten a roommate through potluck? Let's just say there are upsides and downsides. One upside would be that I don't have to pay as much rent each month. A downside would be he doesn't speak a word of English and he performs ritual sacrifices in his room.

When he first got here I found him out front eating out of an anthill and I got the feeling he just might be a little different… That roommate finder service really knocked it out of the park. Right away he made himself at home, you know, the normal stuff. Hanging his favorite pelts on the wall, pinning up his goats in the backyard, setting up his alter. I won't even tell you how he "claimed" his room.

Seems like today everybody's got a blog. So why am I writing this one? Well if the first few hours were any indication living with Zagar's gonna be worth documenting.

July 09, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Rob replies
On August 24, Indian Country Today published my response to this ad campaign:

Schmidt:  Racist ads feature ignorant Indian

Journalist Kara Briggs, who works with Indian Country Today, consulted on my article. She asked an obvious question: What made me think Zagar was an Indian? My response:


Here are some of the likenesses that led me to conclude Zagar was an Amazon Indian:

Yanomami with bowl-style haircut and dots on face
Yanomami wearing red loincloth (third image from top)
Two images of Yanomami with the haircuts and dots (at bottom)

The breastplate doesn't fit the Amazon profile, but it is a classic American Indian symbol. To me it reinforces the idea that Zagar is an Indian, not just a generic primitive tribesman.

I look forward to working with you on this article.


More on Zagar
Zagar to surf the Net
Followup on Zagar
Criticism of Zagar mounts

Related links
Indiana Jones and the stereotypes of doom
Uncivilized Indians
Savage Indians

Readers respond
"No one said it was not a stereotypical representation. But the origins of human ritualized violence and male-bonding behavior could not be indicated otherwise."
"You could go down to the Amazon and actually find a guy like that."
"Why do you look so hard for rascism or stereotypes especially when its not there?"

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