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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Hail to the Chief

Maybe it’s just my mom’s sensibilities being passed on to me, but I’m a firm believer that not only is there a bit of good in everyone, but everyone is good at something. Nobody’s stupid or useless.

Maybe that’s the reason some recent McDonald’s ads have gotten under my skin. If you watch TV regularly (or watched any football on Thanksgiving) you’ve probably seen the ads I’m talking about. There’s one for men and one for women.

In each commercial there are two characters in a coffee shop, ostensibly the local place that’s just a bit classier than Starbucks (think Central Perk from “Friends”). One of the characters brings up the fact that McDonald’s now serves cappuccinos, seems on the verge of mocking it, then they both realize how much they like this development.

In the male version of the commercial, the characters note that they “can finally shave this thing” off (a soul patch), can talk about football and will no longer “have to call movies ‘films.'”

The commercial, at first glance, is amusing. Right up until you start thinking about it. The advertisement is a clear, obvious attempt to marginalize a stereotype, in this case the “intellectual-coffee-shop-going-snob.” I feel like one of the first things I was taught in school was that stereotypes are inherently inaccurate as it’s impossible to lump people into one group and make blanket generalizations that will apply to everyone, which makes it irksome that these advertisers have done so right here.

Great job, guys, you got a cheap laugh. Meanwhile, everybody that has negative stereotypes about people with glasses who drink coffee and wear scarves just got all their dumbass ideas reinforced. Nice.

Let us take a step back though. What if, instead of the label “intellectual snob” we replace it with a sizeable minority? Is it going to be funny reinforcing those stereotypes? Or is it going to be called racism? Or sexism?

McDonald’s was kind enough to provide us an example of this! The female version of this ad is much the same, only these characters are happy that, because they can now go to Mickey D’s for their coffee, they can now watch reality TV, wear heels and read gossip magazines again (this last realization is accompanied with the novel being read by the woman being tossed aside, much like her dignity).

But the fun doesn’t end there! The two women engage in a series of admissions, revealing that one of them can’t speak French and doesn’t know where Paraguay is, while her companion doesn’t know what Paraguay is.

Dismissing for the moment the question of how geography is tied to one’s coffee shop patronage, let’s ask some other questions: why is fashion (regarding either facial hair or shoes) being linked to coffee? For that matter, why are television choices being linked to coffee? Is McDonald’s really advertising here that their establishment serves better food because their clientele can’t locate a country on the globe?

The tone of these commercials brings to mind a veritable celebration of ignorance. The characters are initially happy about McDonald’s having coffee, but this jubilation swiftly morphs into the men and women tearing down the façade of intelligence they have been keeping up for who knows how long.

The real problem here is that the advertisers, rather than show off their product or extol its virtues, sucker punched two stereotypes when they really didn’t need to. More troubling than this backslide into moral mediocrity is the fact that nothing will likely be done about it.

I don’t think the multifaceted individuals of America have an organization to stand up for them. Who’s going to stick up for the men who watch football and enjoy high-priced coffee or the women who want to read books and magazines? Or are we saying as a society that it’s okay, that people should be one-dimensional (and geographically crippled)?

To leave you on a somewhat happier note, someone did send in a poem for the challetunity I issued two weeks ago:

 

Please don’t run me over as you speed by on your bike

I simply love to walk and dream about anything I like

For slowing down and walking but a few times a day

Is I how I keep from going insane in every little way

So when you rush by, in your frantic race, be polite

Don’t yell or cuss or moan, and please don’t hit me with your bike.

 

 

RICHARD PROCTER wants to read more poems! Send them to rhprocter@ucdavis.edu, he might publish them.

 

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