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Posts Tagged ‘McDonald’s’

Taco Bell perfectly embodies the authenticity/conformity contradiction of America by walking a fine line between the two ideals. Authenticity, or at least the appearance of its existence, is important to Americans, especially in food. Taco Bell attempts to maintain authenticity through its use of the Mexican language and an ode to Mexican Missions. Inside the store, traditional Mexican words are used for most of the menu items as well as in half of its slogans. Outside the store, the architecture is reminiscent of Mexican Missions featuring “adobe-like tan brick exterior walls, a red clay-tile roof, and … a simple, Mission-style bell.” [source] Additionally, the brand’s company overview on Facebook reads, “Taco Bell is the nation’s leading Mexican-style quick service restaurant chain.”

As for conformity… the taco that most Americans come into contact with today is an American invention popularized by Glen Bell during the 1950s when competition was heating up for fast food burger joints. [source] Bell altered the traditional Mexican fare to suit American tastes (a different mixture of toppings) and to make it easier to eat on-the-go (trading a soft, corn tortilla for a crunchy, flour tortilla). [source] Doing so would launch his chain to McDonald’s level fast food stardom. Not only is the Taco Bell taco very unlike traditional tacos, so is everything else on the menu. The items have been Americanized for our palate. After the jump, Mexicans can be viewed trying various items from Taco Bell’s menu for the first time. Their reactions, and Taco Bell’s failure to open in Mexico, say it all.

But what about all this makes Taco Bell so American? Aside from its American invention, Taco Bell resonates with the American ideal of the melting pot. There are many cultures here; we accept everyone. Look! Mexican food is the 6th best quick service restaurant, following McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks, Wendy’s, and Burger King. In reality, it’s not Mexican food at all. It’s just altered traditional items, and items made up altogether. So, in reality, we accept cultures as long as they conform to the current mainstream cultural values and behaviors. As Americans, we love to feel like we’re the cosmopolitan example for the world, but it’s not easy to be an immigrant here. The country that’s built on immigration has a hard time letting go of where people came from. Both positively and negatively.


Side note: A few of the definitions on Urbandictionary help my point, like this and this, but most were disgustingly funny like this.


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In The Hamburger: A History, Ozersky talks about how the hamburger has functioned as a symbol of prosperity. Because beef has historically been expensive, a consumer can gain social prestige by eating it. It can be a way to express class and wealth. Because hamburgers are made of ground beef, they can function as a middle ground that is at once aspirational and attainable. Ozersky considers this part of the hamburger’s longstanding appeal. However, in the past few decades, fast food chains that had originally been the province of the middle class in years before are now coded as “poor”. This is very obvious in popular culture. On Urban Dictionary, the top definition of McDonald’s is:
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A place where people eat a lot, get fat, and then sue to get money.

I ate at McDonald’s everyday for 7 years and now I weight 500 pound, so I’m gonna sue them to make some cash

(click image to enlarge)

The whole site feels a little like a peek into the id of popular culture, but this is a helpful definition. It shows what’s the most commonly accepted read on McDonald’s as a brand. None of the associations are good ones.

In the (relevant) definitions of hamburger on the site, it’s interesting to note that the food itself is still valued–but with specific mention that a true hamburger is not the same as the ones sold by fast food joints. Here’s the top definition for hamburger:
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A very tasty food which consists of beef, hamburger buns, and a wide variety of toppings including, but not limited to: Mustard, Ketchup, Pickles, BBQ, Bacon, Lettuce, Onion. The best hamburgers can be found at bars or are homemade.

You can find fake, nasty hamburgers at many fast food places.

Burger King…more like King of fake burgers! Bob’s Bar in the small town of Smallville has the states best hamburgers!

This definition subverts several aspects of the hamburger as interpreted by fast food joints. Burger King’s burgers are “fake” and “nasty”. The author’s statement that the best hamburgers are either homemade or come from bars implies that real hamburgers come from unique establishments or as the product of hard work. Because Americans live in a society in which our patterns of consumption are configured as statements of identity, hamburgers as defined by Urban Dictionary user Meijer’s! express individualism. The hamburgers that fast food corporations manufacture to uniform standards across the globe lack the same authenticity that hamburgers are meant to embody. Often, when we talk about food being authentic, it’s in the context of whether a dish is made the same way it would be by the people that originated it. We can apply that meaning here, but I also think that the question of authenticity gets a little more complicated. McDonald’s is regarded as a symbol of America. It follows that McDonald’s hamburgers would be authentic, since hamburgers are an iconic American food intertwined with the development of a major brand and a particularly American way of dining. So excluding fast food burgers from the designation of authentic has to be a deliberate choice. It’s a rejection of the things that McDonald’s represents in favor of another view of America.

McDonald’s is associated with obesity, laziness, cultural imperialism, and poverty. These themes come up again and again in the entries on the site. There’s a certain level of vitriol in the definitions that’s a little shocking until you consider how loaded the topic is. It’s not just food at this point–because of the associated concepts, discussion of McDonald’s veers into the territory of moral judgment. Talking about the ways in which patterns of food consumption are read as moral or immoral probably goes beyond the scope of this post, but food from McDonald’s and the people who eat it are positioned as an immoral. This is not only because of the lack of nutritious options on the menu and the extremely low wages paid to employees, but also due to the brand’s association with poor customers, who are also coded as immoral in much of public discourse. Part of the demonization of the brand is a result of the moralistic way in which poverty (and obesity, which is in some respects a related issue) is framed in America. The bars in Meijer’s! definition of the hamburger are much more evocative of the working or middle class, an American fantasy of hard work and comfortably modest living. Hamburgers as an American staple must always contend with the legacy of the major fast food corporations, but Meijer’s! repositions the icon to show another face of America, one that they find more palatable.

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Disneyland in Disney

We may say that Disneyland represents just a tiny part of Disney World. Indeed, if we pay attention on Disney, as a company, we can observe that Disneyland represents one part of all the Disney Empire. Everyone knows Disney Channel, the Disney Studios, DreamWorks (bought by Disney), Disney cartoons, Newspapers, shops etc. Disney is a powerful empire and Disneyland is a way to exploit Disney World. Disneyland parks are made for fun, but also to live as a true character from the movies. To live the Disney adventure from the inside. Everything makes you feel as if you were in wonderland. The castle, the decorations, the attractions, the disguised characters etc. If you go to Disney, you sneak in another world. A world where you can live another life, to be someone else. Thus, when people goes to an attraction park, such as Disneyland, they expect to live something different, to have the Disney experience. This is called the magic of Disney: you go to Disneyland, not only for the attractions but also because you want to live your dream. Disneyland is also a park for children and adults. This may not be obvious but this is a genuine advantage. Adults can go to these parks not only to go with their children but also to live this experience at the same time. Sometimes they have seen a movie with their children, and so they can enjoy the attraction because they know what it is about (example: Ratatouille).

Criticism

Lots of criticism have been made to Disneyland. The 1st one and the most popular is about the waiting. People spend more time waiting than really having fun doing an attraction during the high season because the parks are swarming with people. To avoid that some people even rent disabled people to avoid waiting. The second criticism is that they push you to consume their product, to buy a lot of things, all useless. There are (really) a lot of shops in Disneyland and the fact that you wait so much even pushes you to go inside the shops because there are some of the few (maybe only) places you don’t have to wait for hours. Besides, the park is so big that you can’t do it all in just one day so you have to stay at least one night if you want to do it all, and for that the only hotels close to the parks are the Disney hotels. Of course there are other hotels but they are more distant from the park and there isn’t buses to go from the hotel to the park every 5 minutes as for the Disney ones. Besides, when you go on the sites to see the prices you are pushed to stay at least one night, because booking tickets for just one day isn’t the first thing that the website propose to you and you have to search a little before finding where is the page to do that.

Another criticism is about health. Even if the park is big and you walk a lot in it. The restaurants in Disney aren’t really healthy, they are fast food restaurants, like MacDonald’s (but Disney brand of course). Health is also an issue because of the attractions, especially the roller coasters which can provoke backaches or neck aches. The working conditions of the employees or “cast members” can also be criticized. Some studies have been made about their jobs and they are very repetitive, last for very long hours during the day. They are also imposed a dress code, which can be understood because it is part of the magic of Disneyland. Their salary is also not so good, considering the job they are doing. But most of them love to work there because of the magic and mostly because they are proud to say that they do work for Disneyland.

An American Icon.

Disney is the perfect example of the American Dream. First because Walt Disney was not coming from a wealthy family, and he built his company from the ground until it became a huge company. He established his empire permanently. Disney is known worldwide. The movies set all around the world. Thus, people of each country can identify themselves to the character of the movie that takes place in their own country. Because these people know the country, culture, environment that is shown in the film, they will feel closer to this movie. But there is a price for success, and Disney is not exempt from counterfeiting. Many Disney characters are copied and many other companies take advantage of its fame. For example: Ratatouille has been copied, another movie with almost the same plot and structure called Ratanouille was realized.

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When I think of the Statue of Liberty, I often think of it as a symbol of what America represents to its people, and how the rest of the world sees the country. This cartoon, although a bit ridiculous, may bring about the message of what America stands for now. Instead of the law and justice represented in her hands, we see a McDonald’s menu; instead of a torch, a (triple?) cheeseburger; instead of a strong woman holding the torch with pride looking into the future, a larger women with weak looking arms and souless eyes. Because it is a cartoon, it obviously exaggerates the current state of the country, but it does raise the point of the changing perception of America. It’s no surprise that priorities of Americans have changed since the founding of the country and the Civil War, but this image suggests that America has completely abandoned those ideals of freedom and law for instant gratification through unhealthy foods produced by large corporations.

A similar image of this cartoon appeared before in Germany on tray liners for the sandwich company, Subway. These liners paired the image with the caption “why are Americans so fat?, [Source] in an effort to promote healthier sandwiches. The perception of America has definitely changed, but not necessarily for the best.  When people look to America, do they still see freedom and justice, or do they see obsession with unhealthy foods and consumerism?  America is a wonderful country that, I believe, still stands for freedom and law, but it also has many negative connotations. Hopefully, those positive traits are the ones that continue to be represented and reinforced in many minds.

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McDonalds was so successful in its effort to impose the brand as a symbol that its elements have been widely used in various contexts. One of them is art production. The restaurant in itself is obviously not important anymore, only what it represents. An Americano-Russian sculptor, Alexander Kosopalov, created this piece entitled “Angel of Cholesterol” in 2010. It was exposed in New York among other cities, in the Guggenheim museum and at the Museum of Modern Art. It questions the problematic of the sacralisation of McDonalds, and through it, the sacralisation of a society of consumption, with all its consequences.

angel of cholesterol

This mummy was created in 2012 by a Texan artist, Ben Campbell, as part of an exhibition dedicated to showing the connection between ancient Egypt and modern society. The mummy is made out of 200 dollar worth of McDonald’s food. The artist uses McDonalds as a symbol for big corporations in general. He links the desire to build ever growing corporation to an obsession with immortality, which can be seen as a characteristic of Ancient Egypt society. For him, McDonalds is a cultural ambassador of the United States to the rest of the world and on top of that, its food doesn’t decay (as we will see with the next piece of art), which makes it quite an appropriate material for a mummy.

mummy

In “The McDonalds Happy Meal Project”, the photographer Sally Davies, from New York, has photographed the hamburger and portion of fries of a Happy Meal every day for 6 months. At first, she intended to record its decaying but was surprised to find out that no sign of rotting or molding ever showed on the food. It’s been 3 years and the food is still sitting in her apartment, on a bookshelf, under glass.

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During the 2014 Milan Fashion Week, the Moschino brand introduced a collection inspired by the connection between “fast food” and “fast fashion”. Consequently the pieces displayed references to McDonald’s and other icons of the popular culture. The line also features the slogan ‘Over 20 Billion Served’ – a reference to the consumer culture in which we are all submerged. The designer linked his work to that of Andy Warhol who challenged the definition of art.

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The Danish collective Superflex exposed this video at the South London Gallery in 2010. The film work is entitled “Flooded McDonalds”. A life-size replica of the interior of a McDonalds is gradually flood with water. The video questions the responsibility of consumerist society and large multinationals and the lack of willingness to take action in the face of climate change.

McDonalds and its attributes are heavily represented in street art throughout the world. Banksy, a Bristol born artist, is one of the most famous representative of street-art and, in 2013 he made out a fiber-glass sculpture of Ronald McDonald, mascot of the renowned fast food chain, and moved it from one McDonald’s to another in the New York area, with a real man shining the shoes of the statue. An audio-guide is connected to the piece accessible through a phone-number. Here are some quotations of the audio recording made by Banksy: “Ronald was adopted as the official mascot of the McDonald’s fast food corporation chain in 1966. Fiberglass versions of his likeness have been installed outside restaurants ever since, thus making Ronald arguably the most sculpted figure in history after Christ. The result is a critique of the heavy labour required to sustain the polished image of  mega-corporation.

 

Capture

This was not the first time that Banksy had used McDonalds in his work. Several of his graffitis feature the fast-food chain. It can be a symbol of the decaying of modern society, as in this prehistoric man with a tray of MacDonalds food in his hand, or a symbol of American imperialism and of its crimes against humanity, with Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald holding by the hand the little Vietnamese girl burnt by napalm during the Vietnam War.

 

banksy ape banksy

 

McDonalds and its symbols can be found throughout the streets around the world, usually as a symbol of the imperialism of American culture and of its noxiousness. It is interesting to note that once again, McDonalds is linked to other American icons, here, the historic photo “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” taken during WWII. It is regarded as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war, and possibly the most reproduced photograph of all time.

street art in Amsterdam street art in Paris street art in San Francisco street art in Spain

We can see through the use that is made of the brand and its symbols in art that McDonalds has come to represent much more than a fast-food chain, it a true American icon.

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The blogs about McDonalds’ had very interesting information on the way that the brand as a ‘big business’ has greater control and represents more about America than meets the eye. They pointed out what wasn’t obvious about the brands representation within America and also about ‘Americanism’. For example the brands international success is a way of spreading ‘Americanism’, and that McDonalds is the ‘face’ of American wealth and influence. The blogs suggest that brands like McDonalds represent the 1% that has power within America, that make decisions to expand and influence, again stemming back to this idea of spreading ‘Americanism’. However what the blogs are missing is the obvious connections with America and how it is represented internationally. Dennis and Susan Hall write in their book American Icons that McDonalds’, ‘launched what has been described as the most expensive and aggressive ad campaign in American corporate history.’ [1] America is the birthplace of advertising, and McDonalds’ represents the 1950s/60s boom in advertising up until the current day. Also particularly in the 1950s/60s as Dennis and Susan Hall point out was a period of ‘growing American car culture and the increasingly fast pace of life.’ [2] This is still relevant today, America created this culture where we want everything now, and with the brands success internationally, this fast paced culture has spread. On a whole the blogs analysis of McDonalds as a ‘big business’ was very interesting and looked at its influence at angle that wasn’t obvious.


[1] Dennis and Susan G. Hall, American Icons (USA: Greenwood Press, 2006), p.453.

[2] Ibid.

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A shitty, unhealthy fastfood restaurant that most Americans love to eat. The biggest fastfood franchise in the world. The spread of McDonald’s in other countries also symbolizes the spread of American way of thinking, that is rationally break down things into standard procedures.
 
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A restaurant chain that shamelessly whores itself to minorities, and evidenced by their latest “Ba-da-ba-ba-ba…I’m luvin’it!” campaign. The food is terrible with the exception of the fries, McChicken sandwich, and McFlurry. 
 
****
 
Restaurant whose mascot is a pasty-white pedophile with a red afro and whose current advertising campaign is an anagram of “Ailing Vomit”. Destroyer of cultures, exploiter of peoples and a key player in the cause of one of the world’s greatest killers.
 
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The cause of overweight americans.
 
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A popular American fast food restaurant with a worldwide appeal and presence. Hated by college Marxists because it represents the triumph of capitalism and consumer choice.
 
 
 
 

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