Jon Reed Goes Off On... April 2008
Wednesday, April, 23 2008
McDonald's: The Economy is Going to Hell, Grab a Cheeseburger
McDonald’s is running a “dollar menu” commercial that on one level is a very well-executed illustration of the value proposition (if not the nutritional value) of so-called fast food. But on another psychotic level, the commercial is downright apocalyptic, disturbing all the moreso because so few people are disturbed by it. Let’s put it this way: if the American Empire falls in the next fifty years, and I expect it will unless an American company discovers a cheap petroleum substitute and gains control of it, this thirty second McDonalds spot could be preserved and referred back to as a sort of time capsule of our own unapologetic self-destruction.
Let’s rundown the scenario: a group of spiffy stockbrokers is hanging about the cubicle, engaging in airhead banter about how bad the dollar is doing (“the dollar is terrible, the dollar is pathetic,” etc), but making sure to keep a joking tone, as if to make light of how much America is leveraged by countries such as China, and how utterly irreversible this situation is - though the fictional employees in our commercial make light of the abysmal value of the dollar like you would a rainy day, with the implied idiotic possibility that sunny economic skies will somehow magically appear tomorrow - nevermind that a McDonald’s hamburger just doesn’t taste as good after your house gets foreclosed because your company had to let you since they had to “wrongsize” because a gallon of gas now costs four cheeseburgers.
The most ominous thing about this cube conversation? Since no one to my knowledge has been enraged by this commercial besides myself, you wonder if the typical American has any idea that the water is going to boil soon and we are the lobster, and by “typical” I mean any educated American with an Internet connection who can easily step back from American Idol and edumacate themselves about basic economic trends. On the other hand, most of us know what it means to pay five times what we used to for health care, so maybe there are others out there who are as worked up about this commercial as I am.
At any rate, the punchline of this commercial, if you haven’t guessed, is that the dollar is still worth something because, you guessed, it, you can still buy a McDonald’s double cheeseburger for a buck off the “Dollar Menu.” This leads to a turnabout amongst our financial analysts, who, when confronted with a colleague chomping on a McDonald’s burger, decide that “the dollar is strong...the dollar is good!” Now, I will concede it’s a corporate culinary miracle that you can get that kind of meal, mystery meat or not, for so cheap. And maybe it’s ok that eating a steady diet of double cheeseburgers will take a good chunk off our collective lifespans? After all, who wants to be alive when gas costs $20 a gallon and people shoot you on sight to siphon out of your tank?
Listen, it’s a swell commercial, well scripted and well executed. I’m sure it will sell some burgers and maybe even make some people crack a smile. But the question is, if you are on a bus and it is headed off the side of a cliff, should you be smiling and adjusting your high definition television set, or should you be trying to bust your way to the front of the bus and try to get your foot on the breaks? According to McDonald’s, you should just fill up on cheeseburgers and settle in for the ride. The only problem is that dollars aren’t worth pennies when your dreams of a better future go up in a pile of inflation-fueled wreckage. You can pile up a thousand double cheeseburgers and it isn’t going to ease that fall. Well, I gotta go, I’m super hungry and the only place that’s open is the...McDonald’s drive through. Thank god I still have a few dollars left.