Celebrating Diversity?

I was settling down to watch the 2012 Euro Cup final and a McDonald’s commercial came on.  Have you seen this one?  Watch video

It is clearly exploiting the international flavor of the football tournament.  An American hipster approaches an exotically attired man on the street of some faraway land and says, “Excuse me.”  The response of the addressed indicates that no communication is possible for, being exotic, the man speaks no English.  The commercial cuts to various international locales and a variety of characters –old and young, male and female, rich and poor—being asked a question in English, but none can help the hipster.

Then the American ask a new question, “McDonald’s?”   We begin to see a comprehension that transcends mere words.  The music swells as the barriers of language fall and the joy of a more profound commonality is celebrated.  These people from all over the world understand and point with beaming faces in the direction of the malapropos site – the common experience of humanity, it seems, is the McDonald’s experience.

This ad shows us, in very positive terms, the variety found in the world’s cultures.  But at its root, the philosophy of McDonald’s undermines difference.

In the 1960s, McDonald’s told us that we could eat the same hamburger anywhere in the United States.   This is just one key to McDonalds’ success, however.  What is truly remarkable is that they were able to convince us that sameness was a good thing.  We have been so thoroughly convinced of the necessity culinary uniformity that we will pass by unique and far better-tasting hamburgers in order to buy one more of the billions and billions of inexpensive and identical sandwiches.

One of the things I most love about Europe is that you can walk past two bakeries within a few blocks of one another and enjoy a different lunch.  What both meals share is quality: the bread is fresh, the cheese is local and the pig that is in the sausage was raised on a nearby farm and not in pork a factory a thousand miles away.  This variety is in the same block and there are innumerable blocks in innumerable towns all across Europe.

The new McDonald’s commercial celebrates the diversity in our world, yet, the corporation intends to do to the world what it’s done to America—indeed, it is doing it right now.  I’d like to think that it won’t succeed—that maybe one of the differences between our culture and the rest is that they don’t value efficiency and monotony over artistry and uniqueness.   Sadly, I don’t think this is true.

If you agree with McDonald’s that cultural diversity is something to celebrate, then take the next step and oppose McDonald’s cultural homogenization strategy–instead cultural diversity by never eating at McDonald’s again.


  1. RK Henderson

    Watching the vid and reading your comments, I couldn’t help but remember the classic (small “c”) Coke advert from our youth, wherein thirsty Olympic athletes pass a cold bottle of same from scene to scene. Another American death star, on another quest for world domination, and yet, somehow, a profoundly different message.

    What would you give to lead a social studies discussion on this contrast?


    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

  2. Trent

    Part of this is that many welcome the conquest.

    They eagerly embrace a view of life where experience (in this case with food)is reduced to units sold x (sale price – cost of production)/ turnover.

    (Hey, that was like math, and I just made it up. Do you think it’s right?)

    I don’t understand why people would want this. I would have figured the French at least would have begun another revolution.

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