“Whopper Virgins.” Seriously.

So Burger King came up with a new idea:  let’s do a taste test comparison between McDonald’s and Burger King that uses people so outside our culture that they are Whopper Virgins, people who have never tasted a hamberger before.  And here is the result, which may herald a new day in advertising.  That is, the commercial as documentary.  The video below is over 7 minutes; much shorter parts can be found here and here.

Well, what can one say?  This just shows there are no limits? 

There have been objections, but the ad people I’ve seen discussing it take the “there is no  bad publicity” approach.   Here  are some of the problems:

– The film doesn’t even hint at the  fact that there are problems with hunger and starvation around the world.

– The subjects are getting the worst in American food values.

– The subjects, many of whom appear to be dressed in special “‘traditional dress” are presented often as oddities with whom one cannot identify.  You know that problem:  people are treated as means, not ends.

– AND, who ever had the idea that the best judges are completely inexperienced?  This is the American myth that  gave us Sarah Palin.  Seriously, whose view of a restaurant would you trust:  someone who has been to a lot or someone who has been to none before?

–  And then there’s the phrase, “Whopper Virgin.”  Snicker, snicker.  The frat boys appear to be on the rise.

All that said, the film has some moments of beauty, I  thought (grudgingly), and the ‘natives’ do often preserve an impressive  dignity even though they clearly think the whole thing is pretty wierd.

12 thoughts on ““Whopper Virgins.” Seriously.

  1. I feel like a majority of the above criticisms could be defused simply by the observation that IT’S A WHOPPER COMMERCIAL. Seriously, “hunger and starvation”?

  2. Carbine, here and under an assortment of different names in reponse to different posts, you’ve really disagreed with our trying to look below the surface. It’s probably the case that many of us are in philosophy because we inclined to look below the surface, so your comments really puzzle (I assume) a number of our readers. I wonder why you aren’t interested and whether you could if you wanted to.

    So what do you see if you look beyond the fact that they’ve used developing world people to get other Americans to spend more money on their products? Well, on the surface is the fact that they think the people are really nice and sweet and cute. But below the surface is their utter failure to show that they have any grasp of their subjects’ perspectives. Nothing, nada. Totally blank as far as empathetic engagement with people in another culture goes.

    That failure of any empathetic engagement with other cultures can stand out in Americans abroad. And it drives a lot of people wild. I think that’s a lot of what’s behind the expression “ugly American,” though certainly not all.

    So I don’t know if you’re not wanting to see more, or if that is a political stance, a resistance to feminist philosophy, a blindness or what. But I assure you, whatever the cause, the stance affects your relationship with other people.

    There was a movie that took a lot of this up – The Graduate. I wonder if anyone knows of anything more recent.

  3. Earlgreyrooibos, I can’t remember if I’ve ever had one. Quite likely not. One thing that stood out in the various comments on the commencial is that the Whoopers don’t leave one feeling very good. You end up feeling heavy and tired.

    I wonder if anyone will fess up to eating them and tell us if this is true.

  4. i can’t say that i know the taste of a whopper, either. in fact, i’m so far away from eating them, that i forgot that the word “whopper” could operate as a noun; i thought this clip was going to be about people who were really, really virgin. which was confusing.

  5. I confess that I love Whoppers (with mustard instead of mayo). There are two aspects of the commercials that I don’t get, though.

    First, are we to believe that Romanian villagers who just happen to be found within 15 minutes of a McDonald’s and a Burger King in Bucureşti also just happen to be wearing their finest folk costumes on this trip to the city? I am skeptical.

    Second, when they transport this special Burger King grill to remote sites, it seems obvious that anyone consenting to try the burger and participate in this film crew spectacle will take pains to be polite and agreeable on camera to these strange Americans who have descended on their village to give them food. It’s not like they could do their taste comparison in the villages, not having a comparable McDonald’s fry griddle to bring along. I don’t even see the point of the exercise. Villagers are friendly and polite to strangers?

  6. I saw these commercials for the first time while watching TV with my boyfriend, and I just grabbed my face and was speechless. I was stunned! The concept is just really…sad.

  7. What is really shown here is the capability and graciousness of other cultures to accept and welcome anybody who comes with a gift and of being polite enough to have them accepted within their community. The best answer was, at the very end, “I like seal meat better”
    Most of us, who are well reared (whatever that may mean) will say something nice and polite to a stranger who is taking pains to show us their food. Eating with both hands, not using utensils or failure to use parts of the same meal to help along… think tortillas or rice here…
    Illuminating yes, in showing the rest of the world the usacentric way of thinking…
    And, anyway, burgers are best eaten without the bread ;)

  8. “The subjects, many of whom appear to be dressed in special ”‘traditional dress” are presented often as oddities with whom one cannot identify. You know that problem: people are treated as means, not ends.”

    – I agree that it is annoying they are dressed to look different to make a point… however, I did identify with them because it was charmingly amusing how strange this ordinary (to me) food object was to them, and I could imagine myself having a similar reaction if I was in their place, or if they took some type of food very unique to their culture and had me try it.
    I think one positive outcome of this commercial was to get someone to think outside of their ‘culture box’. However, it still annoys me that this is being used as a commercial for junk food and that they would have these people try this completely unhealthy thing. Hopefully they don’t get addicted to the taste and start craving it haha.

  9. I don’t really think of the term “[x]-virgin” as characteristic of frat-boy humor. A lot of people use the term to denote someone who is a novice or otherwise inexperienced with regard to particular activity. For instance, any fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show knows that “virgin” has long been an iconic term which denotes someone who hasn’t seen the film before. (And if you’ve seen RHPS, or are familiar with its cult following, you know that it’s is not exactly frat-boyish … )

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