Think Things Don’t Change?
Try a 14-Year Old McDonald’s
Not many corporations convey so well both the state of the economy and our social mores as McDonald’s, the world’s former biggest restaurant chain. And for its product’s poor nutritional value and the environmental impact of its business practices, it’s doing just fine.
Or so it seems. For news about a 1999 burger looking eerily ‘fresh,’ and of a CEO making $8.75 million, while the average patty-flipper earns $8.25 a hour, were both received with jaded nonchalance. No wonder an artist made a life size mummy out of McDonalds.
It’d be stupid to blame solely the economy on the company’s success. Granted, its origins are in fact linked to the Great Depression, and it’s no wonder that now, during such an extended reenactment of those empty pocket years, it remains the compulsory choice for those who can’t afford to embrace the organic, cage-free craze of the era.
It may also be the power of its muscular business model, the 1980s expansionary pull through emerging economies, what may have guaranteed its staying appeal. Such aggressive strategy made possible for McDonald’s to become more popular (read, cheaper) than Indian food in India, for instance.
But who can deny that other element that the most American of all corporations possesses, to which only a overused and detested word can be applied: iconic. The red and yellow colors, the rings, and that obnoxious clown are so infused in urban culture, that artists such as Andy Warhol had no choice but to incorporate it into their work.
As for those who see signs of hope, since McDonald’s no longer the world’s No. 1 food chain, let’s keep things in perspective. Researchers at University of California just published a study showing that sandwiches at Subway, the new fast food reigning champion, are just as unhealthy as old macs. So much for that fitness drive.
THE CEO & THE PATTY FLIPPER
After the catastrophic Wall Street malfeasance of 2007, which literally shoved millions of working families to the curb, few were surprised when the income gap between corporations’ top management and workforce got even bigger. No one else believed in the political grandstanding and promises of contrition that followed the debacle.
Those credulous souls were certainly not expecting to find out how much the boss of their favorite, if somewhat single-choice, eatery was making. Or that it’d take the senior citizen, or the high-school dropout, serving their burger, a million working hours each to get that kind of cash. That’s a century on the clock, in case you’re wondering.
Such staggering difference was never invoked when CEO Jim Skinner left the company in December, even if it’s doubtful that McDonald’s shareholders were not aware that their company was losing its first place to relatively newcomer Subway. It surely wouldn’t be an issue if that old sport or the kid would get fired for showing up late or eating while working.
But the mammoth chain is considering changes, even if not the kind that would lead it to a more balanced compensation package for all employees. As an example of such disposition, management at the newly opened Massachusetts joint has posted a help wanted add for a cashier ‘with a college degree.’ Protests ensued, the company denied it, but many have applied all the same.
AGED TO PERFECTION
The food industry has almost free reign, when it comes to preserve and extend shelf life of its products, and in many cases, it goes overboard, washing meat and dairy with enough hormones to grow an extra cluster of cells inside. Mcburgers may have tracked that risky path long ago but, somehow along the road, they pretty much stopped being food.
If that sounds a bit hyperbolic, consider David Whipple, of Utah, and his fateful lapse of memory: in 1999, he forgot a whole McDonald’s in the pocket of a coat. When he rediscovered it, two years later, the burger was so well preserved that he decided to start an experiment of his own: to see how much long it’d take before it’d disintegrate.
The thing is, it didn’t. It’s been 14 years now and it still looks exactly as if it’s ready to be eaten. Now, if that doesn’t prove to you how much preservatives go into these little monsters, we’d dare you to take a bite. Just don’t complain later if, instead of the sandwich, you are the one to start peeling apart and looking like, well, you got our whiff.
We don’t mean to sound flippant about this, though, just because some of us have a choice to feed on something less diabolically set to last to infinity and beyond. The Whipple experiment is already too scary, as a cautionary tale and how it bodes badly to our eating habits, for us to pile on it with another self-righteous speech.
We will, though, add a possibly redundant foot note about the relic: it looks frighteningly close to what that senior citizen and his pal, the dropout kid, serve you daily, and nothing like the flashy commercials that flood screens and glossy magazines. But you certainly knew already all about that little deception, didn’t you?
THE MUSHY MUMMY
The idea that McDonalds don’t decay over time has been around for some time. So what’s a mom to do to teach her kids that fast food is bad for you? Why, keep a McDonald’s cheeseburger for a full year as Melanie Hesketh, of Ontario, Canada, did in 2011. That should show them, shouldn’t it? We’ll get back to you on that.
Another one who took the same premise, the immutability of a McDonald patty, and took it a step beyond, was Ben Campbell, from Texas. He combined $200 worth of burgers and resin and sculpted a life size mummy, which managed to be both scary and disgusting too. He even got a Kickstarter page to fund an art show that would include other sculptures made of the same stuff.
Whether he got any further, we’ll need to get back to you on that one too. But his mummy may as well be on its way to eternity, no bandages or burial rites necessary. That is, if some maniac hasn’t hacked it yet, horrified by such vision of his favorite food. They have those too, and sometimes art takes the brunt for being, well, unsavory.
OLD MCDONALDS HAVE A FLAW
That reminds us of that other artist, the one with the quote about fame, Warhol, who once shocked, shocked the world, by saying that, ‘the most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonald’s. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.’
Since we’re sure he sold a few thousand more of his silk-screens, just on the account of that outrageous statement, we couldn’t dare to dismiss it. But we wonder whether he’d be willing to take a bite from that 14-year old burger, just to be contemporary to the spirit of this age of reality shows and dwindling privacy and self restrain.
We doubt that he’d touch the stuff, though. People and things do change, notwithstanding McDonald’s, and even the millions who once gladly took to the airwaves and the Internet to share their most intimate secrets, are now beginning to long to be completely, absolutely forgotten for at least 15 minutes.
* I Was Loving It