Monday, December 8, 2008

Whopper Virgins (yes, you read that correctly): the taste-pure, chaste-pure "other"

Another atrocity to post, thanks, once again to those wonderful folks on the Society for Anthropology in the Community College listserv (really a great resource), we have this discussion looming:

Whopper Virgins for you Burger Kings and Queens: "Real People doing Real Taste Tests." "People who are really off the grid." "Extraordinarily gracious people" who have never tasted a hamburger before (?), and don't know "how to hold one", filmed at the moment of their deflowering. I am having a hard time swallowing it, having lost my hamburger purity some time ago.

Here is a link to the You Tube version of the commercial using (and abusing) the Hmong, and here is the Romanian one.

It is truly horrendous and I don't even know where to begin with the critique and analysis. Anthropologists everywhere are going to be running to the dentist for mandibular adjustments when their jaws become unhinged.

(Excuse my temporary absence, btw. Returned to the ancestral homelands of New Jersey to return my Grandmother's ashes to where her heart has always been, had a nice break at the Algonquin Hotel and now am hip deep in student excuses, pleas, and pitifulness. Thanks for all the nice comments and posts. I will return shortly.)

UPDATED to add student responses from class today:
Some of my students, today, had seen the ads. They enjoyed critiquing them. Some thought them offensive and exploitative. Most did not "buy" the "pure" message. They questioned the accuracy of people not knowing about hamburgers. And they questioned that Whoppers were something which represented a positive contribution to people's lives. One offered the analysis that it was insulting to "us" as well, since we are portrayed as victims' in the McDonaldization of our society, unable to judge for ourselves the "better taste". If they are "pure" then we are "dirty".

Having completed the entire semester some pointed out that asking people to pick up foods with one's hands and inserting the food directly in the mouth might be offensive. But they know my story about how in the 1980's in Tanzania this would have been considered disgusting. Only the size morsel that actually fits in your mouth should inserted in your mouth. They felt the film makers were completely missing people's discomfort with that process.

In general, most thought is was a fairly stupid commercial because they couldn't accept the conclusion that other people eating Whoppers was much of an argument for them eating them. They have been raised with continual advertising assault and they are far to cynical to fall for that argument, seems to be the generally agreed upon sentiment. Although the extension of that argument made me uncomfortable, for, as my student said, it worked to the extent that we are all discussing it which is, after all, what Burger King wants.

All in all, many teachable moments.


Tina said...

Since I am a vegetarian does that mean that my Whopper hymen has grown back?

openanthropology said...

I am still drowning in venom here. To be frank, it's this kind of overt derivation of anthropological tropes and techniques that leaves me very deeply embarrassed to call myself an anthropologist. I want to pose something about this too, once I manage to calm down.

Oh well, I suppose that means I won't be posting then.

openanthropology said...

I meant POST, not pose

oh whatever

Pamthropologist said...

Tina, How many years has it been? Doesn't it take 7 to be a born-again virgin or is that the bad luck from a broken mirror? How much for a broken hymen? If a Whopper has been involved seems like it would be irretrievable. Looks like you are shit out of luck.

Open (I like that name for you), see, anthropologists everywhere are incoherent, jaws dropped fingers jammed. It reminds me of the reaction to The Gods Must be Crazy. Remember the boycott that Marshall called for when faced with a depiction of the !Kung as never having seen a Coke bottle, and, perhaps more to the point, the issue of preserving their "pristine culture" so that White South Africans could remain the elite in the separate but equal argument that they were making through the film's message. (Sorry for the run-on, I have been giving and grading finals all day. Just plain tired.)