whopper freakout

If you can drag yourself away from the latest Britney Spears crisis, the Joey Buttafuoco sex tape, or whatever else it is that has you occupied at the moment, I’d like to ask for your help in analyzing the “Whopper Freakout.” I don’t have a lot of time right now, but my sense is that it can tell us quite a bit about the future of our rapidly disolving Republic.

I’m watching it over breakfast and I know that it’s a harbinger of very bad things, but I just can’t put my finger on what it is that I find so disturbing. It’s times like this that I wish that I’d stayed in school and gotten my PhD in American Studies. I’d love to have someone paying me to just sit and think about this… My analysis of this commercial, I’m almost certain, would be my ticket out of whatever shithole university had hired me out of grad school… Fuck. If I’d played things differently I could have been a professor at Yale. That’s one hell of a revelation to have over cereal.

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  1. Ed
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    And don’t forget the chapter on what it tells us about race in America:


  2. Ed
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    At least one professor is already involved:


  3. Ken
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I went to a Burger King here in Atlanta one
    time, and they told me they were out of hamburger
    meat and that I could only order things from the
    menu that had chicken.

    It never occurred to me that they may have been
    filming me for a commercial! (I did not freak out,
    though, I just went next door and got tacos).

  4. Mr. X
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    No doubt these people were equally as irate when they learn that there were no WMDs in Iraq.

  5. Ugh
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, that was seven minutes I’ll never get back.

    I kept hanging in there waiting for the punchline, thinking it would be some kind of comparison of people’s sense of loss over the Whopper and the proportionate grief we would (hopefully) feel if, say, polar bears were discontinued.

    It never occurred to me that it might actually be a commercial for Burger King. How could something that painful to watch sell products?

    For the record, the last time I ate at Burger King, I experienced a profound and excruciating sense of loss. I think it was the only time I’d experienced such loss from both ends at once.

  6. mike d
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see the big deal. The folks from the first part of the video seemed upset but none of them were irate. Some of them reminisced about family outings and rights of passage. I thought it was nice when one fella remembered that his father would help him finish a burger and he felt grown up after he could himself. Not the greatest eating habits maybe but pretty tame stuff.

    The only people who were irate were the ones who were given a completely different product and then basically called liars when they complained about it. Nobody likes being messed with and those folks knew they were being messed with.

    I don’t like rampant consumerism either but framing a silly commercial in the context of “our rapidly dissolving Republic” is just dripping with condescension for, as far as I can tell, no good reason.

  7. terrygilmer
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    This kinda reminds me of the movie Super Size Me and how regular fast food patrons (called “heavy users” by the industry) are like junkies who need their fix. It makes me wonder what people would do to get fast food if it were made illegal. Would a person turn tricks for curly fries? Maybe that’s just me.

  8. Beyond Hope
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Our culture, if you can call it that, is beyond saving. We had an amazing opportunity here in the United States (and on the earth generally) and this is what we’ve done with it. This, half a dozen years after 9-11, is how we’ve chosen to devote our resources. When I think of what we could have accomplished, I feel like throwing myself into the industrial meat grinder across the room from me.

  9. mark
    Posted January 10, 2008 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Of course my tone was condescending. Didn’t you read the part of the post where I said that my dream is to be an American Studies professor at Yale?

    I don’t try to hide my contempt for the American masses. At the same time, however, I don’t hide my own digressions when it comes to partaking in popular culture. In spite of all my posting about the evils of national chains, I do shop at Ikea and eat at Cracker Barrel. I don’t hide that. I also watch America’s Next Top Model. And, yes, I do this even though our country is at war and the sea levels are rising. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. That doesn’t mean I can’t comment when I see something that rolls together all the worst that our nation has to offer and uses it, somehow, to sell burgers.

    On one level, I concede, the commercial is kind of nice. As someone else said, it gives people an opportunity to reflect on their childhoods and the traditions of their families. That’s nice. Everyone knows, objectively speaking, however, that fast food burgers suck. If you had a side-by-side taste test in the middle of the arctic, completely removed from any cultural context, would it shock you at all if a native person spit the Whopper back in your face after having tasted a “real” burger? Of course not… We’ve been programmed like Pavlov’s dogs though. There was a study recently that showed kids found ordinary, non-fast food meals, to be more tasty if they were wrapped in fast food wrappers. So, on one hand there is a beauty in tradition, but then there’s also this underlying obsessive need driving it all. You can debate it all you like, but these people are addicts. (This video is more depressing than Train Spotting.)

    If I were really going to write about this, I’d need access to all the raw footage that they shot for this. I’m sure what we’re seeing are the best of dozens and dozens, if not hundreds. Assuming these aren’t actors, I’m sure there were several 500-pound people, sweating profusely and begging for their Whoppers. That, I’m guessing, wouldn’t have made as effective of a commercial.

    So, yeah, I think the whole thing is obscene. Fast food is obscene. Factory farming is obscene. This Punk’d brand of reality television is obscene. The language of viral advertising is obscene… This campaign throws them all into a blender together, and what comes out is, I think, a pure distillation of modern American culture. Our people live to consume . They ae voyeurs. They ae gluttons. They are addicted sheep. An ad campaign that shows that, and uses the fact as a selling point, so that they can sell more burgers, I think, is the height of… something… I’m not quite sure what. What comes five steps after postmodernism?

    So, here’s my new idea for a sitcom. It takes place in a dialysis clinic nextdoor to a McDonalds. No one is obese. Everyone is happy. They smile all the fucking time and they fuck like wild dogs.

  10. KT
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    The new Wendy’s campaign is a snuff film.

  11. dan from austin
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I have been wondering if these commercials are real. I find it surprising that people care, really. I’m sore that they had to sift through loads of footage to find the people they use for the final ads.
    I think many of the people are pissed for the bad service more than the fact that they can’t have their fucking whopper.
    I’m sorry that Mark isn’t a Yale American Studies or White people studies professor. But, it keeps him churning out the blog for free instead of making us buy his books or go to his lectures, so that’s a plus.

  12. kez
    Posted January 11, 2008 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    “reality televison” entering advertising… this isn’t anything new…

    remember replacing gormet coffee with folger’s?
    remember the pepsi challenge?

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