Thursday, December 11, 2008

travel to exotic, distant lands, meet exciting, unusual people, and feed them hamburgers

What do you think of the burger-sharing white folks who travel around the globe in this short Burger King advermentary (or if you like, docutisement)?

If you've seen ads from this new campaign, you probably know that this American film crew manages to find people who've never had a burger before. They label these curiously pre-modern people "Whopper Virgins." Then the white folks generously help the curiously pre-modern folks lose their virginity.

Are these white American burger-bearers benevolent cultural emissaries, helping to spread American goodness? Or are they intrepid and courageous foot soldiers, helping to enhance the great good of American corporate profits in a mercilessly sagging economy?

These taste-tests were conducted in Thailand, Romania, and Greenland. Does race matter here?

h/t: Gwen at Sociological Images, where there's more on this ad campaign


  1. They label these curiously pre-modern people "Whopper Virgins." Then the white folks generously help the curiously pre-modern folks lose their virginity.

    "Pre-modern" people??? Are you kidding me?

    That's racist!

  2. I agree, race does matter here. My questions are satiric--I think the video encourages Americans to think of them as something like "curiously pre-modern." I also considered "charmingly pre-modern," and other terms that suggest the condescension of the camera's gaze here.

  3. This makes me think of how many immigrants come to the US, stop eating their traditional foods from their country of origin, and get sick from our food (e.g. Whoppers) with diseases like diabetes.

    I saw one of these ads on tv last night where they were giving an Innuit woman a choice between the Whopper and the Big Mac. I was pretty shocked and disgusted.

  4. Wow. I saw one of these commercials yesterday, sad to see there's a mini-faux-doc like this too. The music too is so calculated. As for the condescension, this corp's people are fracking clueless! But then maybe they do know that what they're doing is racist, and just don't give a damn cuz this approach sells. It's something else too--"Overdeveloped Worldist"? maybe just "imperialist."

  5. @ oterhog

    With due respect (I see your comments around and I respect your opinions) it's true that the Whopper and other fast foods might not be the most healthful thing to eat here in the US, but I don't think they can be blamed for diabetes in immigrants (or in non-immigrants, either). Diabetes exists in other places in the world, and all while eating "traditional" (local) foods. I think this perception that American fast food perpetuates diabetes in those folks who come from "purer," more "natural" locations (implied by "traditional foods") is patronizing to folks of other countries and to those in the US, immigrant or not, who have diabetes.

    I am in agreement, though - these ads smack of imperialism through acculturation - "taste what amazing things exist in AMERICA and in AMERICA alone, you backwater Whopper Virgin", and enforce a false sense of nationalism and primacy in the US. It's also xenophobic, which is often directly tied to racism. And I don't even want to get into the connotations of a Whopper Virgin. For goodness sake.

    I always enjoy your blog Macon D.

  6. As a hipster who has traveled to Romania and spent two weeks in Transylvania, it's my duty to report: people there are very familiar with U.S. culture and fast-food restaurants. They have tasted the juicy goodness of a KFC drumstick and smelled the succulent aroma of McDonanld's. However, I did not see a "Burger King," so the people may be "Whopper Virgins."

    In addition, I would not label Romanians as "curiously pre-modern people." They are as modern as you or I who live in the so-called civilized, "first world."

  7. Of all the things to represent American culture to the world, a hamburger is chosen. That's pitiful.

  8. @ Bomboado

    I definitely agree that suggesting that American food is the source of diabetes creates New Age-y racism that assumes...all other people in the world are pure and "in touch with nature"...which allows for so much essentialization and tokenizing. However, I mean, the Burger King hamburger is so nasty.

    This video was the most Orientalist thing I've seen in a while: the patronizing, the constant references to "they" ("they don't even know how to pick up a hamburger! how quaint!"), but it makes it particularly more upsetting when a multinational, multibillion dollar corporation who is bent on selling fat and sugar on inhumane labor is providing the burgers. The BK burger is like the crux of American identity (apparently!) and it is this really cheap food that has caused more deaths, created more poverty, industrialized more land, etc...than..well, not. I mean, I guess it's the perfect example of Americanness, then.

    I just think it says something that pure crap is being fed to "people who have never tasted a burger before." Let's rape and pillage the world, k?

  9. @ Bomboado and Liz Shmakenzie...Thank you for your responses to my comment, and thank you for calling me out for being patronizing. My apologies.

  10. the first time i saw this commercial, i just stared at it with my mouth open. i was appalled...and offended. especially at the part where the white people were marveling at the fact that some of these people didn't know how to even hold a burger...

  11. I find this add extremely offensive and disgusting.. they're treating the hamburger like some sort of miracle... food.. something so amazing that we take for granted. ergh >< I found it was really imperialist and condescending. hamburgers are disgusting and aren't even nutritious, especially buger king and mc donalds.


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