Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal Analysis
People might think of fast food as a benign convenience of modern times. The food is good, cheap, plentiful, easily accessible, filling, and the restaurants are clean. What could be wrong? Reading Eric Schlosser’s groundbreaking study Fast Food Nation, one learns that just about everything is. Schlosser uncovers a history of corruption, greed, and disregard for the welfare of workers and customers in franchises such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Jack in the Box, to name a few. His study takes on the industry from all angles, uncovering a bloated business empire grown insensitive to anything but the bottom line, and he discusses all of this in an effectively quiet, informative way without overwhelming the reader with forced rhetoric. Since the fast food industry is such an omnipresent force in people’s lives, not only in the United States but, increasingly, all across the globe, Schlosser’s study is a timely exposé revealing a highly manipulative industry motivated by greed and a Faustian urge for world domination of the market.
The modern history of fast food began in the 1950’s in Southern California, the era and place that also produced Disneyland and the nation’s first freeways. Obliged to alter their architecture to suit the whim of the automobile driver, owners of early diners and hot dog stands had to find ways to attract customers by using bellhops and flashy neon signs. Frustrated with the extra expenses of easily stolen items such as silverwear and dishes, the brothers Richard and “Mac” McDonald hit upon a way to simplify the whole process of serving burgers by using assembly line techniques, and Ray A. Kroc persuaded the McDonald brothers to allow him to franchise the restaurant across the country. Kroc viewed business with an almost Darwinian ferocity, calling it “rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I’ll kill ’em, and I’m going to kill ’em before they kill me.” What was once a bewildering array of different companies boiled down to the successful few that survived and spread, and they succeeded largely through marketing and by various aggressive techniques for maximizing profits. McDonald’s shared with the Disney company a strategy of appealing to children first, who would then nag their parents into bringing them to the restaurants. Adults would then spend the rest of their lives with a favorable opinion of a restaurant inculcated in them when they lacked any critical ability to distinguish advertisements from regular programming on television.
In the same vein as other important studies of multinational companies, such as Anne Klein’s No Logo (2001), Fast Food Nation is very concerned with the effects of marketing. These books seek to deprogram those susceptible to advertising’s claims, demystifying logos and brands that have developed a cumulative force over the years. Schlosser focuses specifically on the techniques that McDonald’s uses to market Happy Meals to children. Psychologists have determined that children often dream of round-shaped animals, so characters such as Disney creatures, Barney the dinosaur, and those found in McDonaldland(Mayor McCheese, for example) all cater to these dreams. Schlosser unearths confidential documents in which McDonald’s executives discuss how all of their advertising should emphasize the corporation as a “trusted friend,” even though warnings on the memos against unauthorized use betrays a more paranoid relationship between the company and the customer. Moreover, McDonald’s pours so much money into advertising, expanding its franchise across the United States, that its message becomes ubiquitous and increasingly hard to ignore. In an interview, Schlosser says that he associates McDonald’s with the Kremlin because of the way the chain consistently refuses to answer his calls and e-mails. Like the Kremlin, they also know how to dispense propaganda to maintain power.
Schlosser also uncovers a long history of purposeful disenfranchisement...
(The entire section is 2,745 words.)