Now, I have a problem with this that is entirely different from the outrage I'm reading about. My problem is the use of sexual innuendo: "virgins," especially in connection with an encounter with a "Whopper." Don't tell me "Whopper" isn't a sexual reference. Yes, a "whopper" is also a lie, but I have seen novelty underpants stamped with the Burger King logo and the slogan "Home of the Whopper." Even if it wasn't the original intention behind the name, the association is easily enough made that you don't want to stimulate it with the word "virgin" -- unless you actually do want people to think about your product that way. You may say that's crazy -- that would be disgusting! But creating associations between food and sex is extremely common -- all that orgasmic groaning and grimacing over food in ads -- and people eagerly scarf down far more obviously phallic foods than hamburgers all the time -- such as the hamburger's classic competition, the hot dog.
But that's my problem. The problem other people are having with the ad campaign goes like this:
"It's outrageous," Sharon Akabas of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University, told the New York Daily News. "What's next? Are we going to start taking guns out to some of these remote places and ask them which one they like better?"I hate when people say something is just so wrong on so many levels that they can't even begin to explain why. Make the effort!
Marilyn Borchardt, development director for Food First, called the campaign insensitive.
"The ad's not even acknowledging that there's even hunger in any of these places," she told the Daily News.
The campaign has also stirred up a welter of online commentary. Brian Morrissey, writing on Adfreak.com, likens the campaign to colonialism and declares it "embarrassing and emblematic of how ignorant Americans still seem to the rest of the world."
"It doesn't get much more offensive than this," noted The Inquisitor blog. "If visiting poor people in remote locations, some who would be at best surviving on below poverty levels and throwing a burger in their faces isn't bad enough, it gets better, because they also ask the Whopper Virgins to compare the taste of the Whopper to a McDonalds Big Mac as well.
"It's hard to place exactly where this begins on the level of wrongness."
1. Is it wrong because some people in the world are poor and hungry? Is everyone who isn't us part of one big undifferentiated mass? If the commercial showed hungry, poverty stricken individuals, there would indeed be something offensive about offering a few of them big hamburgers and expecting them to report an opinion about which of the 2 relatively similar objects was marginally better, but the people in the commercial don't look food deprived or oppressed. They are just ordinary people from some specific, relatively isolated location.
2. Is it wrong because we shouldn't be intruding on -- colonizing! -- foreign cultures with our food? Presumably, those who have this problem would not have a problem with a commercial showing an American midwesterner or American rural southerner -- we don't call them "peasants" -- eating, say, Thai food or Indian food for the first time. Isn't it hypocritical and paternalistic to think it's wrong show some non-American trying our food for the first time?
3. Is it wrong because hamburgers are bad -- like guns! -- and we shouldn't be spreading them around the world? A hamburger is nothing more than a sandwich -- some meat and a few assorted trimmings between 2 slices of bread. There are plenty of things to worry about in this world. Do not fear the sandwich.
I got to that article today via Copious Dissent, via Conservative Grapevine. But I read about it yesterday on Rachel Lucas. Rachel said:
Do you ever find yourself reading an article, and you get pissed off at the subject of the article, like this is so stupid, but then wham, then you get to the part where a critic of the subject says something even more stupid about the original stupidity? And you can’t decide who is the most stupid...