If you’ve been away from the Internet over the past few days, you may have missed one of the better PR campaigns to come our way in a while (and yes, a “good PR campaign” is not necessarily an oxymoron, although the majority of PR folks quite often push this term towards this direction).
In order to promote The Simpsons Movie coming out in a few weeks, various 7-11′s across the country have changed into Kwik-E-Marts, the Springfield version of the ever ubiquitous convenience store. One has even popped up right here in my home town of Seattle.
I have been a fan of ‘The Simpsons’ from way back (I can recall seeing the animated shorts from “The Tracy Ullman Show” making their way to several animated film festivals before they came into their own half hour long show…and yes, I am that old). As a fan, I thought it was my desire, nay, my right to march my way down to the Kwik-E-Mart and procure me some of the Simpson themed food-like treats that have been made especially for this promotion. This would include KrustyO’s, Buzz Cola, donuts that had been iced an especially garish shade of pink, and the hallucination-inducing Squishees. My idea was to review the food, heavily lifting several quotes from “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?“, the episode where Homer becomes a restaurant critic.
Some choice quotes that episode include:
Homer: So come to The Legless Frog if you want to get sick and die and leave a big garlicky corpse. PS, parking was ample.
Homer: Uh not bad. If Lasagna is Italian for pile of puke!
Italian Chef: Ahhhh…I choppa you good!
(Swings at Homer with a knife.)
Homer: Well, I hope you cut me better than you did these string beans!
Homer: Really, the only word to describe it is (drools)
Lisa: Hmm. What’s the English equivalent for (drools) I’d say … transcendent.
Homer: How about groin-grabbingly transcendent?
Lisa: Uh … I don’t think so.
So, yeah…the KrustyO’s were groin-grabbingly transcendent, and one should drink Buzz Cola if they want to get sick and die and leave a big cola-esque corpse. PS. Serve chilled.
But a funny thing happened to me in the process of actually sampling the KrustyO’s and having a sip of the Buzz Cola. I came to the realization that the products manufactured for this promotional event were the perfect examples of overhyped American processed foods as well as American food products with massive amounts of empty calories. And when one considers the most recognizable of Simpsons-themed food products missing from this promotion (Duff Beer), I came to realization that ‘The Simpsons’ both parodies and celebrates what they consider to be the most American of foods – namely sugary cereals, corporate beer and colas, and sugar and fat laden donuts and Slurpees. When reading the ingredient list of the KrustyO’s and the Buzz Cola of these products, of course they would have massive amounts of corn, sugar, high fructose corn syrup and/or artificial ingredients. Remove these components from these foods, and they cease to represent the foods of America that ‘The Simpsons’ wishes to emulate. Suddenly, in the back of my mind, instead of being put off by the ingredient list, my inner voice was shouting “U-S-A!!!U-S-A!!!U-S-A!!!” Clearly I was under the affect of the bright colors and various unknown chemicals I had ingested a mere moments before.
It seemed appropriate to have this reaction on July 4th, the second most American of Holidays. The most American of Holidays? Labor day…where one typically celebrates labor by not actually doing any.
I realize that I am not the first to say this, but ‘The Simpsons’ gets it exactly right. For all of this talk about our growing world wide restaurant reputation, the increased demand for organic and local foods, and “The United States of Arugula”, American food is still more accurately represented by the cereals, colas and beers that have been manufactured by faceless corporations.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to change that. We absolutely should. But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the tipping point is here.