Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Meal Fisticuffs in San Fran

I agree completely with San Francisco's decision to keep kids from getting toys in Happy Meals that don't meet certain nutritional standards. Fat kids, I think it is universally agreed -- especially those whose obesity is not their own fault but their parents' -- should not be allowed to have fun. And kids who behave in ways that might eventually cause them to become fat should not have fun either.

The logic is sound: if we help kids to eat more healthfully at fast-food restaurants, they will change their eating habits and become more healthy. And legislation like this successfully bypasses those pesky parental responsibilities that get in the way of practical life and it can end marketing that targets kids, completely. Either that, or it "sends a message to corporate America" . . . or something. (People love to send messages these days. I'm thinking of getting a job as a messenger.)

In order to explore this issue, I interviewed two kids. So as to circumnavigate bias and pre-judgement of our subjects, we'll call them "Burger" (whose circumnavigation would take quite some time -- sorry; disregard that) and "Jock". They are both ten years old. I asked them the following questions:

Chris: Do you like french fries?

Burger: Oh yes. Very much [drools; clasps hands together].

Jock: No. They affect my health adversely and they curtail my athletic potential.

Chris: How many times a week do your parents get you Happy Meals for dinner?

Burger:  Five times a week [drools a little but quickly sucks it back up]. They are very busy and they tell other grown-ups that it is . . . uh . . . unrealistic for them to be expected to cook at home. And I cry if they try to give me vegetables until my dad goes out for McDonald's to shut me up. Works like a charm.

Chris: Only five nights?

Burger: Saturday is pizza night and my mom cooks on Sunday: mac and cheese with chopped up hot dogs in it.

Chris: Hm. Jock?

Jock: What is a Happy Meal? Come to think of it, what is "happy"?

Chris: Are you sure you are ten?

Jock: Yes.

Chris: You look older.

Jock: I'm a competitor.

Chris: Oh. [awkward pause] I'm going to put these steaming french fries on the table. Please take a look at them. Smell them. Note the crispy, chewy goodness. But don't touch.

Jock: Whatever. All carbs.

Burger: [begins to cry; places chin on table and stares at fries]

Chris: Now, look at this cool toy.

Both boys in unison: [intake of breath] A Megatransformatron (tm)!!!!

Chris: Which of you wants it? [both kids raise hands and begin ooing] Well, you can't have it and have the fries.

Jock: Cool. Give it.

Burger: But, what will I eat?

Chris: [whips out a little bag like a magician] Apple fries!

Burger: They're  . . . fried?

Chris: No.

Jock: Then why do you call them fries?

Chris: Well . . .

Burger: I'll tell you why!! Corporate control. Predatory marketing. Jedi mind-tricks. They are playing upon our subconscious connection to junk food by trying to pass off fruit as delicious fried goodness in hopes that our mental and physical addiction to salt will chain our wills to their substandard foodstuffs regardless of how deceptive and manipulative the gnarled finger of their corporate hand has become as it pins us into submission.

Jock: Yeah -- forget the fact that apples are just sponges for chemicals and insecticides. You might as well suck on a Terminix man's shoelaces.

Chris:  . . .

Burger: Give me the apple "fries". [takes them; stuffs them  in his mouth and beckons for the toy] Grrrrrv mrrr th trrr. [swallows] Give me the toy.

Jock: Eeeeeewuh.

Chris: Thanks for your time, boys.

At this point, the boys broke into a fight. Jock pummeled Burger with his bag full of athletic gear. Burger's parents did not react, as they both were texting to business associates. Just as Jock was prying the toy from Burger's immobile hand, Jock's father looked up and said "What the hell happened?" Jock responded that "the fat kid" tried to take his toy and the father high-fived the son. The two walked off arm-in-arm, presumably for a nice can of dry tuna, owing to the fact that Jock needed to "make weight" the next morning.

I think Burger was still breathing, but I high-tailed it out of there before Mr. and Mrs. Burger got off of their iPhones.

(HAT TIP: for the "lead" to Cara Calzolano Ross.)

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