Give me virginity or give me death!

December 19th, 2008 10:47 am by Kelly Garbato

Burger King’s latest ad campaign – Whopper Virgins – is a convoluted mess of racism, sexism, speciesism and colonialism, all crammed into a a series of 15-to-30-second ads.

To wit:

Let’s dissect, shall we?

First and foremost, we have the exoticising and othering of “foreign” (read: non-Western) peoples and cultures: the narrator stresses that the BK “scientists” traveled far and wide, trekked to remote villages, through miles of dirt roads, in order to find – gasp! – people who have never tasted an American burger. They are Whopper Virgins – oh, the humanity! Just look at the silly primitives, with their goat milk and rutabagas and shit! Don’t they know that factory farmed animal parts, pumped full of antibiotics and covered in feces, are the pinnacle of culinary genius?

The voiceover is performed in the vein of a kitschy, retro documentary, thus giving off an air of mystery and gravity (not to mention old-skool ethnocentrism), as though the BK researchers are encountering previously “undiscovered” cultures for the first time, and must record the moment for posterity’s sake. Close your eyes, and you can almost recall a lost episode of Wild Kingdom: now watch as the Serengeti lion stalks her prey, so stealth, quiet, focused…the great beast’s muscles become tense in anticipation of the kill…the antelope senses her presence…

Even the soundtrack reminds the viewer that These People Are Not Like Us, as BK appropriates each culture’s musical style in order to push their product. Listen closely and you can hear the “exotic,” “ethnic” notes of a pan flute, as if floating towards us from far, far away in the mountains. Isn’t that special.

Luckily (for BK shareholders, that is; everyone else is a loser in this deal), Burger King is raring to pop the natives’ Whopper Cherries. Hello, colonialism vis-à-vis American capitalism! 11,300 outlets in 69 countries isn’t enough for the death dealers at BK; no ma’am. The world will not be complete until there’s a BK franchise in every city and every town the world over; who cares about animal abuse, water pollution, global warming, bird flu, food poisoning, environmental degradation, habitat loss, biodiversity, cultural diversity, or public health and safety when there are markets to corner and buxxx to be made? Next stop: Mars! Hey, the world is not enough, am I right?

Like most bigotry, the racism in this campaign doesn’t stand alone: they also throw in a healthy serving of sexism, because what ad would be complete without a little woman-hating?

By equating the non-Westerners’ burger “illiteracy” (as the obligatory white doods refer to it in BK’s documentary) with “virginity,” the BK marketing geniuses are equating the Whopper with a sort of sex. Or rather, the act of eating the Whopper is equated with sex; the Whopper itself is the consumable sexual object. Said consumable sexual object is usually depicted as female in gender, as eco-feminist Carol Adams has astutely noted time and again. While BK doesn’t explicitly make the connection in this campaign series, that’s usually the way it goes. And BK’s no stranger to this tactic, either.

Anyway, back to all that hot, nasty, life-altering sex the Whopper Virgins are being introduced to. When BK compares eating a Whopper to having sex, let’s think about what they’re suggesting. “Burgers” are made of “meat.” Factory farmed “meat.” This “meat” consists of a collection of corpses of abused, exploited, tortured and ultimately murdered animals; animals which were previously living, breathing, feeling, sentient creatures. “Meat” is, above all else, death and destruction.

Sex = meat = death.

Now that’s a fucking lovely concept to promote, eh? On its face, it’s misanthropic – harmful to men and women alike – until you also consider that women are more often compared and reduced to “pieces of meat” than are men, and meat is advertised in highly sexual, gendered terms. So it’s not much of a stretch to infer that, in the Sex = meat = death equation, women are just as likely to be the consumed as they are the consumer.

Not that any of us should be the consumer; meat consumption, at least in industrialized Western societies, is not only wholly unnecessary, but it’s also harmful: harmful to the environment, harmful to our health and, above all else, harmful to the animals we’re killing and consuming. The speciesism in the Whopper Virgins series is the most prevalent of the “isms” – and it’s also the least visible, because it’s so widely accepted as “how things are.”

The thinkers at ABC News, for example, noted the irony in Burger King blowing their wad to travel around the world and seek out “virgins” who have never tasted a Whopper – while 16,000 children die every single day from hunger-related causes.

No word on the billions of animals slaughtered annually, though.

Instead of exporting these destructive dietary habits, we should reform them, starting with our own plates.

I say*, give me Whopper Virginity – because the alternative, is Death.

* In my very bestest Tyler Durden voice, natch.

(Crossposted from.)

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2 Responses to “Give me virginity or give me death!”

  1. Whopper Virgins, SNL Style » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] King commercial (BK’s Burger Shots, natch), I stumbled upon this SNL parody of BK’s “Whopper Virgins” series. I’m fairly certain that SNL is poking fun at BK for devising such an absurd and culturally […]

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