2014's fast food atrocities
Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.
Perhaps it’s naïve to expect cultural smarts from a magazine that tweets things like, “There’s nothing better than Swimsuit models wearing Body Paint!” — but still.
Sports Illustrated’s latest swimsuit issue used their ”seven continents” theme as an occasion to run photos of (mostly) white models posing with people of color as a background that signifies the “exotic” nature of the shoot locations.
In one shot from Guilin, Guangxi (an autonomous region of China), a white model reclines on a raft while a local man uses a pole to mimic chauffeuring her around.
In another, this time in the southern African Republic of Namibia, a white model poses with a black man holding a spear, wearing indigenous clothing that reveals as much of his body as hers.
Sports Illustrated is hardly the first magazine or catalog to use people of color as set design, only the most recent. Other examples include famed mammy doll candlestick-makers Anthropologie, along with J.Crew, Free People, Vogue and Nylon, to name just a few.
Now, the problem isn’t with featuring different cultures in commercial or editorial contexts; it’s much more about editorial intent. When a photo makes clear that the story it is telling is not about the person being shot with the model, that instead they are being used purely as cultural context or “exotic” buzz — that’s the problem.
The man in Namibia, whether or not he authentically dresses like that or if he was hired to do so, is not the story in that photo. He is there for a boring, hackneyed attempt at visual juxtaposition. His brownness is contrast for her whiteness. His spear, his desert, his all-encompassing “African-ness” is the point. He’s furniture. He’s the Taj Mahal. The Eiffel Tower. He’s there to locate the viewer in the world, not tell them anything.
And none of this is to mention that the picture offers a purely one-dimensional representation of an entire country. Did you know that Namibia is not just one big desert? Did you know this completely generic shopping complex is not actually in Fairfield, Connecticut, but Windhoek?
Now look, I am not here to regurgitate a critical race studies paper from my college years, but it’s important to talk about completely bogus representations of race and culture when they come up.
But the response to the issue has largely ignored these bizarre and racially clueless images, instead focusing on Kate Upton and her nearly nude Arctic adventure. A spread which, by the way, used penguins the same way the Namibia and Guangxi shoots used people.
Are we sensing what’s wrong here yet?
Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.
KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.
Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.
Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.
Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.