December 5, 2008

Ravaging "The Whopper Virgins."

Here's an ad from a Burger King campaign that's causing outrage:



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?"

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."
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!

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...

80 comments:

Tibore said...

"... but I have seen novelty underpants stamped with the Burger King logo and the slogan "Home of the Whopper."

Errr... uh, professor, what sites have you been going to lately??

Windbag said...

Those whose panties are in a wad over this are probably the same fools who insist that I try a particular wine, knowing that "Even if you don't like wine, I know you'll like this."

Perhaps the difference is that I'm a white guy of European descent? The people in the ads are, of course, helpless savages, being exploited by big business types.

Condescension smells.

Ann Althouse said...

What sites? I have wandered through Greenwich Village many a time, chiefly in the years 1976-1981.

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

Remember ladies, We Do It All For You and You Can Have It Your Way but It Takes Two Hands To Handle a Whopper!

What's sexual in the these past fast food slogans? Hell, what isn't?

veni vidi vici said...

1. Always thought the hamburger was of vaguely German descent, like, from Hamburg or something. Who's been colonized now?

2. Everyone who's not [the American] "us" is better than us, more wholesome and pure. Under the apparently prevailing thesis, at least, American ideas/foods/etc. are the kryptonite that, even in the most miniscule ppm will corrupt, pollute and ultimately destroy "the other"'s culture and mores.

3. People who think along the lines of the foregoing paragraph are insufferable dumbasses who lack the very "nuance" they arrogate to themselves.

Quayle said...

I hate when people say something is just so wrong on so many levels that they can't even begin to explain why.

I hate it because people that say that all the time always try to imply that they deal with multitudes of levels all the time.

But seriously – how many levels are there?

Two? Maybe three, tops?

I actually know a guy that commonly dealt with five levels, but he was from Bayonne, New Jersey.

But this idea that there are so many levels is pure post-modern, crit-studies rubbish.

It is all an urban myth that has its origins in a particular budget fight in the humanities department of an well-known Ivy League University.

Roger J. said...

Once again, we have pole vaulted over a mouse turd--The only people that are outraged over this appear to be the usual suspects of the easily outraged class--those people need to get drunk and get laid in no particular order--their lives will be much more fulfilled.

Henry said...

Avoid them! They will make you unhappy!

Original Mike said...

Roger J beat me to it. I was going to suggest these are probably the same people outraged at Ed Rendell. Get a live, already.

knox said...

I can only imagine how excited the ad people are who came up with this. Bigger attention hogs (other than actors) there never were.

Maguro said...

The ad is kind of stupid, but all the prissy liberal outrage against the the ad is much stupider.

The whole thing reminds me of the old commercials where bleeding-heart American lardass Sally Struthers begged us to feed the starving children.

Henry said...

"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.

So let me get this straight. The Burger King people are visiting impoverished rural people and inviting them to eat not one, but two burgers. Two burgers make it worse? Or is it assuming that the poor people have opinions that gets The Inquisitor so freaked out?

Or perhaps The Inquisitor is a secret lover of Whoppers. The horror is forcing poor people to bite a Big Mac to get their Whopper.

Bissage said...

“I can't tell the difference between Whizzo Butter and this dead crab!”

AllenS said...

The only fault with the ad is that the Burger King people forgot to ask: "Do you want fries with that."

Tibore said...

Oh, I was just trying to make a joke about the seedy underside of the internet, professor. That's all that comment was.

rhhardin said...

It's all fine with me. Virgin carries no connotation of sex at all in the context.

The meaning is established before the word comes up, and nothing in any of the context draws out the sexual meaning.

It would be funnier if they used huge buddha sized figures of course instead of starving Chinamen.

Tibore said...

"You may say that's crazy -- that would be disgusting! But creating associations between food and sex is extremely common."

It's not just food. What was that shampoo commercial with the women moaning and yelling "Yes! YES!" in the shower?

But anyway, going back to food: I'm not surprised that the association of a basic human necessity with a basic human desire is made. Lots of advertising is about spur-of-the-moment conflation, or "snapshot association", and the fact that the two human elements in question here - satiation and sexual satisfaction - are considered basic, elemental even, just makes this an easy pair of things to associate. Both food and sex appeals to people at a very fundamental level, and even though the sense of satisfaction from good food and... well, you know, are different, the fact that they're both so central to the human experience makes it a no-brainer conflation.

Sex as an advertising macguffin for food is so easy it's practially lazy. I'm sort of surprised we don't see more of it.

downtownlad said...

Remote Chiang Mai villagers? What bullshit. It's one of the biggest tourist towns in Thailand.

I've been to Chiang Mai and it is a very cool place. And it is thriving off of tourism.

Yeah - look at how remote it is:

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai/

John Z. said...

Everyone seems to be taking this at face value. Is it possible that the "villagers" are just actors, and the commercials are fiction? I mean, this is an ad campaign we're talking about.

downtownlad said...

And Chiang Mai has a McDonalds, a Burger King, and a KFC. They even have a Sizzler.

http://www.chiangmaiinfo.com/directory/categories/fast_food

1jpb said...

I agree with the ad.

I eat and appreciate a Whopper every 365 days, or so. But, I eat and appreciate a Big Mac every five years, or so.

Both are horrible, except in extreme moderation, but the Whopper is less horrible. Though, this is probably not exactly the intended message of the ad.


P.S.

About fifteen years ago I was stuck, late at night, in New Mexico where I could only find a Jack/Box drive-thru that was open. I bought a burger from them that contained extra protein in the form of a live cockroach. I won't be going back to them for at least a hundred years.

Palladian said...

Girthy!

Pogo said...

I am outraged!
Outraged!!!11!

I shall wail and grind my teeth and write to the newspaper and call for inquiries and compose a folk song and write to the company and start a campaign to raise awareness and get a master's degree in it.

jdeeripper said...

"The Whopper Virgins."

The spoiler is in the trailer.

Ann Althouse said...What sites? I have wandered through Greenwich Village many a time, chiefly in the years 1976-1981.

I went to Key West for a wedding. Jesus h. stay out of some of those gift shops. Wasn't expecting that.

Darcy said...

What's next?

"I am still a Whopper virgin!" T-shirts?

Freeman Hunt said...

The outraged people are the same sorts who think all persons with skin darker than Glenn will have when he returns from Grand Cayman are poor, ignorant, somehow friends with each other, and deeply connected to the Earth. The same stupid people who said electing a black man would help our image in the Arab world. The same stupid people who complain when a village of cruddy huts becomes a real city through (horrors!) capitalism. The same stupid people who think that the United States is the most racist country in the world.

"Omigod! You gave them burgers! Colonists! Colonists! Imperialists!"

Total lameness.

john said...

Where in New Mexico?

Freeman Hunt said...

Also, the idea that you shouldn't share your local food with foreigners strikes me as treating the foreigners like lowly animals. "They're all so charming and close to nature. I just love their authenticity! Don't spoil them!" Like people observing animals on safari.

Bissage said...

The risqué double entendre works only when unthreatening. The Whopper/virgin commercial looks like a set-up for a humiliating practical joke. That’s why I found it offensive when I saw it on TV a few days ago.

Mrs. Bissage found it offensive, as well. That’s why she gave the command to change the channel which sent me scrambling for the remote control like an RAF pilot running to his Spitfire to topple a V-1 rocket.

Such things must never be allowed to penetrate and explode in the London that is the Bissage family room.

Chip Ahoy said...

The contrived outrage is ridiculous on so many levels I must put down my game of multi-dimensional chess and set aside my 3-D puzzle for the moment and stop multi-tasking this four-course luncheon while responding to this blog entry while doing laundry while simultaneously playing with my puppy to respond to this while keeping open ten other windows and holding three conversations through instant messaging and solving this crossword puzzle.

1) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the psychological level

2) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the political level

3) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the sociological level

4) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the economic level

4) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the international level

5) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the sexual level

6) the contrived outrage is ridiculous on the contrivance level

Mr. Smarterthanyou said...

First, the thing about the use of virgin is all you. Sorry. And the rest of us don't hang out where homosexual exhibitionists hang out. Only a liberal could do that and assume that the rest of us do the same thing. Hello!!

The thing about yet another perpertually outraged liberal woman claiming that others are "insensitive" is getting old. We need to start slapping these sissies down when they start whining before they succeed in turning us into a nation of crybabies.

Jeremy said...

Original Mike-
What'd you say? Did you just tell me to "Get A Light?" Man, I would follow you home and grab your head because I am "extremely insulted."

Darcy said...

LOL, Bissage!

I have to change the Planter's nuts commercial (the unibrow woman)or someone might be seriously hurt as well. By my screams.

Pogo said...

I have begun watching TV without any sound, only occasionally turning it on. I miss most of these commercials as a result.

it reminds me of my 'silent movie' phase in grade and high school, when I watched hundreds of old silent films. I cannot explain the unreality that develops when sound is gone from a film, how it disconnects.

Commercials are often bizarre when the dialogue is absent. Very strange, like watching the culutural habits of some some newly discovered tribe called Hamburgerland, where a very frightening statue is king, and he tends to appear suddenly among the subjects and smile menacingly.

My TV is better than the actual thing, I think.

Lawgiver said...

What's next?

"I am still a Whopper virgin!" T-shirts?


Oooh Darcy, that's good! I would wear one of those even though it would be a lie.

Pogo said...

A "Whopper slut" t-shirt would be good, too.


Idaho?
No, you da ho.

John Burgess said...

Re: the outrage at the sexual implications... Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I think it a real stretch to impute sexual content to this ad. There's nothing sexy going on in it at all.

Re: the outrage at the concept of the ad... A bunch of losers tossing off their usual shock and horror at the world. Condescending and off the mark, at DTL notes.

PeteDrum said...

Q. What do you call Rosie O'Donnell with a yeast infection?

A. A Whopper with Cheese.

PeteDrum said...

Q. What do you call Rosie O'Donnell with a yeast infection?

A. A Whopper with Cheese.

Donna B. said...

I am now worried about my sexuality. I prefer the Quarter Pounder over the Whopper and have never liked Big Macs.

Thanks a lot Burger King, for making me feel inadequate.

Skyler said...

Sheesh, sometimes a whopper is just a whopper.

chuckR said...

Hamburgers are bad - like guns...

Well, I think a small bolt action hamburger is OK, but I do draw the line at Burger King's hamburger six pack. That's more of a semi-automatic hamburger and is a caloric, colonic and cholestoric assault weapon.

MadisonMan said...

No lameness tag?

Q: How did the Dairy Queen get pregnant? A: Burger King had a Whopper.

Christopher said...

I never thought I'd find myself in complete agreement with DTL, but he's right. The whole "Whopper Virgin" thing is a complete marketing ploy with no basis in reality.

When I saw the Chiang Mai commercial (and thank you, DTL for your google-fu in linking the restaurants they have), the first thing that struck me was a shot of some poor malnourished little brown brothers careening around in the back of a truck. I turned to my wife and said, "that's bullshit. If they can find a truck, there's no way they can't have at least HEARD of a BK if not mickey D's."

Besides, as the left constantly bewails, evil gap-toothed Amurric'n "kulchur" is everywhere infesting the virgin areas of the world - why, people know Nike! and McDonald's! and Beyonce! but they don't know Hank Aaron from Aaron Copland.

And the second commercial - using "unspoiled Transylvanian villagers" is even more BS, with the clean-skinned, neatly-cropped fellow in his quaint "national costume" seated before the bewildering choice of American bounty. It's nonsense all around, but that there are professional fools who take this seriously is the biggest load of nonsense of all.

chickenlittle said...

Whopper->flopper->Whopper

I predict Team Clinton will be out in the world marketing everything American in 6 months or less.

Palladian said...

Repeat to yourselves "It's just a commercial. I should really just relax..."

Henry said...

Thank God Oscar Meyer didn't think of this...

veni vidi vici said...

I too only enjoy television with the sound off. Especially while commercials are on, you see what monkeys we people really are. Smiling primates on a Pavlovian hamster-wheel, or something.

1jpb, that sounds awful. A few months ago I returned to Route 66 on a LA-Cleveland-LA roadtrip for the first time since '99, and was saddened by how many of the local restaurants have been end-of-lined and how much of the "fruited plain" has only chain restaurants and chain fast-food to choose from when eating out. Even back in the 90's when I'd go back and forth a few times a year between LA and Chicago, there were many more quality local joints to stop into.

And now to learn that the chain joints are even worse then they taste to begin with! Yikes!

chickenlittle said...

Thank God Oscar Meyer didn't think of this...

...."the dog kids love to bite" is just sick and wrong in this context.

AllenS said...

Did Burger King get the Dairy Queen pregnant, or was it Jack in the Box?

I can hardly wait until Obama gets in the White Castle.

laura said...

Two things, for me, there's not natural link between the rural Indonesian culture and the phrase 'virgin' when used in the non-sexual context that I put together. The whole thing doesn't make any lasting sense.

(When I read the phrase 'whopper virgin', my mind immediately jumped to the first time I walked into a casino. I was the only one in the group that had never been - my sister-in-law picked up on that and asked me if I was a casino virgin. That's my reference point here.)

Secondly, and maybe this is a more liberal-mind at work (I'm sure someone will tell me), is that when I saw them introduce the burgers to these uninitiated foreigners, I thought, "oh, cripes, can we not leave these people alone? Haven't we done enough?" And along those lines - all with a wink - it is only a whopper.

Lawgiver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
veni vidi vici said...

"Ich bin ein Whopper" t-shirts are next.

veni vidi vici said...

With a picture of Obama in Berlin.

Lawgiver said...

Is it wrong because hamburgers are bad -- like guns!

I like the gun words used in sex talk.

Trooper unholstered his whopper and briefly inspected it before thrusting the first bite into his pie hole. Bang, bang, bang, his molars slapped out their rhythmical cadence. "Mummm" he sighed. The whopper briefly lodged in his throat but he re-chambered it with a short cough. His juices were flowing now and he was confident no further misfirings would impede his conquest.

Trooper next targeted a pickle slice trying to escape near his left pinky and rapidly jacked the whopper into his mouth again. Reloaded, his molars machinegunned the mayonnaise camouflaged pickle into a sickly green and white goo. He swallowed. This wasn't his first time, Trooper was no whopper virgin, he knew how to pull the trigger.

Original Mike said...

You'll have to pedal faster, Jeremy.

Original Mike said...

I remember when Whoppers were new. I saw the signs, but never heard it pronounced. I spent years thinking it was a "Whooper". I guess my teenage brain didn't get the sophisticated sexual innuendo. Or maybe I just thought about sex less than Ann.

Mitch said...

Other T-shirts?

Practicing Abstinence
I'm A Whopper Virgin

or

"Just Say No" (oh wait that was used)

1jpb said...

John,

It was Las Cruces.

peter hoh said...

I knew someone who did a bicycle trek through Thailand. In some remote village, he was asked by the villager who could speak some English, "Have you eaten a Big Mac?"

Adam replied yes.

The man smiled and said, "Some day, I will eat a Big Mac, too."

Adam and Brenda were aghast that someone living in one of the world's great culinary traditions would be obsessed with an item on the McDonalds menu.

Ann Althouse said...

"Oh, I was just trying to make a joke about the seedy underside of the internet, professor. That's all that comment was."

Gah. I know. But I don't want anyone to think I'd go anywhere sleazy on line.

"Jesus h. stay out of some of those gift shops. Wasn't expecting that."

Oh, no, now you think I went in those shops. I was only just walking by.

Freeman Hunt said...

The man smiled and said, "Some day, I will eat a Big Mac, too."

Adam and Brenda were aghast that someone living in one of the world's great culinary traditions would be obsessed with an item on the McDonalds menu.


My husband and I went to a small film festival and watched a documentary about a group of women in Mexico who spent several days making tamales. It took them several days because they had to grind the corn by hand. Near the end of the documentary, the women somehow procured a powered mill, and the narrator lamented that this mechanization would ruin the several days long event. For their part, the women were very excited that they would no longer have to spend several days grinding corn with rocks.

I guess the filmmaker thought one should be able to visit these people as one might visit leopards in the zoo.

MadisonMan said...

Did the film-maker develop all the film by hand? That's what I would have asked him (her?) if they were there.

jaed said...

"Third world as petting zoo."

1jpb said...

developing film?

I'd have asked him/her why they aren't painting on a cave wall.

Mike Pechar said...

I caught a glimpse of what the food fascists think of the ad campaign. There's a quote from one who indicates starvation is better than eating a burger -- any burger.

Freeman Hunt said...

Did the film-maker develop all the film by hand?

LOL

I'm sure that in that filmmaker's world, it's only the exotic, brown people who do things by hand.

Original Mike said...

I caught a glimpse of what the food fascists think of the ad campaign. There's a quote from one who indicates starvation is better than eating a burger -- any burger.

I think I'll have a burger tonight before the hockey game, just to annoy the food fascists.

Darcy said...

Which hockey game, Original Mike?

Go Wings!

Original Mike said...

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, Darcy. And I'm feeling like it's an ice cream night, tonight (Culvers gives out free ice cream when the Badgers score 5 goals).

(What's a Seawolf?)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"I am still a Whopper virgin!" T-shirts?"

I could wear one. I've never had a Burger King hamburger. I didn't eat in a Burger King until just a few years ago.

Last week we did stop in at a Burger King and I had a chicken sandwich with onion rings and my husbnd had a Whopper with onion rings. We were both sick all night. Must have been the onion rings.

Darcy said...

LOL, Original Mike. I have no idea what a Seawolf is. A German sub? :)

Anyway, good luck to your Badgers!
It's too cold here to think of ice cream. Brrr...

Windbag said...

I'll shoot for the bottom of this thread, with a post that risks getting deleted.

What about having the burger cooked rare, so the blood runs down their cheeks, and the slogan can be "We're out to bust their hamburger hymens"?

Original Mike said...

Thanks for the best wishes, Darcy.

The UW students taunt the seawolves with that cheer.

What's a Seawolf? (clap, clap, clapclapclap)
What's a Seawolf? (clap, clap, clapclapclap)

P.S. It's never too cold for ice cream.

Dave Thomas said...

If you can't eat a hamburger without feeling sick all night, you are too delicate for this Earth. Ninnies.

TROGDOR said...

Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner caf
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a juke-box jumping with records like in the u.s.a.

Poetryman said...

Go Elf yourself Whopper Virgin!

Rockfish Files said...

The ad is the stupidest thing i've seen on tv in a long time.I don't think a toothless 3rd world person's opinion on food is anything but worthless.In my opinion,the fact that almost all of the people they suppossedly fed burgers to for the 1st time chose the Whopper would more likely incline me to get the big mac.Besides the fact that anyone who doesn't know which of these 2 burgers they prefer by now are probably mildly retarted.I myself actually feel like a whopper sometimes and sometimes a big mac and sometimes whichever 1 is having a deal or i have coupons for

Rockfish Files said...

anyone who doesn't know whether they prefer a Whopper to a Big Mac by now lives in a cave or 1 of the places these commercials go to.I personally prefer the Big Mac,but frequently have a Whopper .I am sure most people are the same.Now having said that I think it's ludicrous and inane to think that the fact some toothless 3rd world person's palate is going to make me reconsider and prefer the Whopper is idiotic.On the contrary the fact that these people who subside on God knows what kind of food prefer the Whopper makes me like the Big Mac that much more.Now I shall never get the Whopper.