Monday, July 11, 2005

I'm Loving It (Where "It" Means "Crazy")

Nearly a year ago, when McDonald's brought to the fore it's current line of "I'm Loving It" commercials, and friend of mine was watching TV. And caught one of the very first. A man working in a car wash is seen eating McDonald's, and we hear his thoughts as he runs his eyes over an oblivious and attractive woman. The man is clearly under the delusion that, by virtue of eating McDonald's, he is somehow transformed into a sex magnet, and that the woman wants him badly. She then walks away, cementing the viewer's suspicions that the man is, in fact, delusional. My friend sort of blinked and thought to himself, "Wait. Am I to understand that McDonald's makes me crazy?"

So he paid increasing attention to McDonald's adds, and informed the rest of us of his hypothesis: the new ad campaign always carried the message "McDonald's causes insanity." And nearly a year later, he's batting 1000. That's right: every McDonald's commercial for the last year has actually been telling you that eating there causes madness. Sometimes, it's quite subtle, only recognizable to someone overly familiar with the symptoms of various (often obscure) conditions.

A number of notable examples:
  • A man sitting in a McDonald's begins to have vivid psychotic hallucinations that he is playing the Aztec ball game. The ball happens to be on fire.
  • A man describes to a woman friend that he just broke up with a girlfriend. The act of eating McDonald's breakfast appear to induce in this woman friend a Fatal Attraction-style fixation on the man.
  • A man seems to have instantaneous transitions between clearly discrete events (e.g. going from sitting on a couch to being in the middle of a basketball game), suggestive of the "lost time" phenomenon commonly described in alien abduction stories, and associated with entering a fugue state.
  • Exposure to a McDonald's poster suddenly causes a man to become fixated on an elderly woman standing in front of it. The commercial seems to have a sexual subtext. Which might appear to suggest that McDonald's creates an unnatural desire for the elderly. However, the truth is made clearer by the following example:
  • McDonald's famously received a lot of flak for their internet banner ads during this period. Specifically, an ad saying, "The New Big Mac: I'd Hit It." Which means that McDonald's actually gives you an unnatural attraction to foodstuffs.
  • A girl walking down the street begins to be pursued by a man composed entirely of graffiti, who always ceases to move when she turns to look. Given that she never looks directly at the man while he is moving, the commercial suggests a constant paranoia on her part.
  • A man become irrationally and aggressively protective of his chicken strips, shouting at others to stay away despite no apparent interest in their acquisition.
  • An old woman eating a McGrittle (or some other McFood) is attacked by ninjas and fends them off. I'm led to believe this is another example immersive hallucination.
  • A woman eating chicken strips becomes totally lost in the experience, then dumps her boyfriend for a complete stranger for no reason: a clear case of Dissociative Personality Disorder.
As you can imagine, I could go on. There have been dozens of these commercials. My point is, that with sufficient scrutiny, all McDonald's commercials seem to suggest that eating there blurs reality and might leave you mentally crippled.

It's not just McDonald's. A lot of commercials seem to suggesting "our product causes you to become irrational." Beer commercials have always been this way, of course (in that they seems to cause men to believe they are surrounded by attracted women), but it seems to be spreading to other products. For example, a Wendy's commercial suggests that being given a choice in side dishes causes multiple personality disorder.

So the question is: why would people want to be crazy? They're still making these ads, so someone must think they're working. Maybe, working for an insanity-causing company, the marketing people have gone crackers? It's difficult to say. For my part, I'm waiting for a few disorders McDonald's hasn't tapped yet:
  • The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Commercial: A man hears the sound of someone biting into a hamburger and suddenly vividly re-experiences eating at McDonald's. He hears the slurping of a soda and relives drinking at McDonald's. Which causes him to mime leaning onto a counter an reflexively order McDonald's food.
  • The Schizophrenia Commercial: As a person eats some McFood, whispering voices get louder and louder, telling him how delicious the food is, until he suddenly shouts at them, causing everyone else in the room to look at him in surprise.
  • The Bipolar Commercial: With each bite, a man's background goes from dark, quiet, and still to loud, colorful, and frenetic. His last bite leaves things frenetic, and he leaps up to join the dancing crowds.
  • The Sociopath Commercial: A man emerges from his house, goes to a drivethrough, orders a lot of McDonald's food, and drives home, all the while twitching like mad and loathing society. The commercial closes with him eating his McFood and peering crazily through the blinds of his well-shuttered home.
Think about it: do any of these really seem weirder that what McDonald's is currently using?


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