I’m Lovin’ It

I’M LOVIN’ IT:  McObesity for Profit

As a child growing up in the 80s during the beginning of the fast food revolution I can recall my excitement whenever my mother said we were going to McDonalds. It was never very often so when we did go it was always a big deal to me. Besides the attraction the “play land” equipment provided for me, one of the best parts about McDonalds was not the food but the “Happy Meal” itself. The “Happy Meal,” created specifically for little tikes like me, provided a nifty “Mc-arch”-shaped box with little mazes or puzzles on the exterior as well as a cheap toy character from the latest children’s film playing at theaters. For me though, my incessant pleading and my mom’s ultimate coercion into choosing to eat at McDonalds over any of its fast food competition was not for any of the afore mentioned reasons. The quality of food was irrelevant and was an insignificant factor in my decision making process. What was the deciding factor you ask? It had to do with the peel-off games McDonalds had incorporated, and still does, with its meals (see The McDonalds’ Monopoly Game). You usually received two peel-off game pieces when purchasing a meal, one on the fry container and one on your paper cup. I clearly remember the year the movie Dick Tracy came out in theaters, 1990. I had not even seen a preview for the movie; instead I had witnessed the massive amounts of television advertisements by McDonalds promoting the Dick Tracy peel-off game that had kicked off weeks before the actual movie debuted. The commercials, which McDonalds in 2004 reportedly spent more than half a trillion dollars on (Schor, 187), sold the chance to win all kinds of prizes ($25,000 cash, a jet ski, computer, new car, free food, etc.) to me.  Of course, my developing mind bought it hook, line and sinker. For me the excitement was in collecting the game pieces and the “chance”, however remote it might be, of winning; being only twelve at the time, the odds did not register with me.

According to Juliet B. Schor, author of Cultivating Insecurity: How Marketers Are Commercializing Childhood, “available research finds that the presence of skepticism does not affect desire for the advertised product, even among nine-and ten-year-olds” (192). In my experience, my desire to collect and ultimately win a “prize” trivialized and subjugated any skepticism I may have had about my odds of winning. In addition, being from the low end of the socio-economic spectrum only encouraged and intensified my already insatiable desire to win something that I knew my single-mother could never afford to buy me. I suppose it encouraged me to covet these “prizes”; in turn, creating a “repeat and habitual customer”. These predatory marketing/advertising tactics have only expanded, become more realistic and eye-catching with advances in technology and more bold with their anti-parent messaging over the past twenty years. Why should we be concerned? Consider that Schor’s research found that “Children who are more attuned to the consumer culture suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, boredom, and psychosomatic complaints such as headaches and stomachaches. They also have lower self esteem” (191). Let us not forget the amount of peer pressure imposed by schoolmates thanks in large part to “perception cultivation” through commercials funded by these massive transnational corporations and promulgated by the four media giants who dominate the global media market (Viacom, Time/Warner, Fox and Disney). It would be easy to blame parents as many of these corporations and individuals within our government attempt to do. In doing so, we neglect the role the advertising industry and corporations play on shaping “normative behavior”. Normative behavior to these companies is nothing more than being a good little consumer, someone who buys what they are selling, now and forever. Habits are hard to break, especially when you learn them at such young ages. In my humble opinion, creating these “habits” and thus perpetuating their opportunity to make profit is a major goal for companies such as McDonalds. Until we can surgically separate these conjoined institutions, the state and corporations, overreaches will continue to transpire at the expense of the many for the benefit of a few. Americans’ and their posterity’s health will continue to deteriorate while pharmaceutical, insurance, and fast food companies’ profits will continue to expand. Until this “miraculous decoupling” occurs a better alternative is non-compliance by making a concerted effort to cut spending on cable/satellite television or fast food; thus allowing your true voice, your pocket book, send these corporations a message of your own. “No, thanks.”

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~ by jrparrott on March 31, 2010.

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