Published on
The Boston Globe

Burger King's Greasy Campaign

Derrick Z. Jackson

When European germs wiped out Indians, at least that aspect of conquest was unintentional. Burger King has no such excuse.

The modern colonizers currently have an ad campaign called "Whopper Virgins." Commercials are running during televised sports events, and the company has a nearly eight-minute video on its website. In a bizarre parody of an actual documentary, Burger King sent a crew out to remote Hmong parts of Thailand, Inuit parts of Greenland, and a village in Romania where people have both never seen a hamburger nor ever heard of one through advertising. The narration starts, "The hamburger is a culinary culture and it's actually an American phenomenon [as if we didn't know this]."

The first part of the video involved plucking some villagers to come to a modern office in local and native dress to compare Burger King's signature burger with a McDonald's Big Mac. Villagers are shown fumbling with the burger, with a patronizing narrator saying, "It's been very interesting to see their reaction to the hamburger because they've never seen such a foreign piece of food before and they didn't even quite know how to pick it up and they didn't know how to - from what end to eat. . . .It was really interesting. We were able to see these people's first bite of a hamburger."

Remarking on the villagers' awkwardness in handling the burger, the narrator added: "It took them awhile to understand the dynamics of it and so that was fascinating to see because we take it for granted 'cause we live in America where hamburgers are consumed like a staple."

After the guinea pig villagers decided (of course!) that the Whopper tasted better than the Big Mac, Burger King sent a production crew out to the villages to cook burgers. Under the guise of "sharing things about both our cultures (Gee, where have we heard that before in sanitized colonial history?), shots of a burger broiler being airlifted and sledded in by dog are shown. The villagers, of course, like the burger, with the narrator saying, "They told us yesterday, 'No, we want to experience other things in this world, too. We want to taste other foods. We want to see other people. We want to see other things.' "

Right out of the most banal of Thanksgiving scripts, the narrator says, as one of the crew receives a coat, "And they've been extraordinarily gracious to us." Burger King defends the ads, saying it worked hard to respect cultural sensitivities.


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All this, to spread disease to developing peoples. And Burger King knows it. The Westernization of the global diet, led by America's fast-food giants, is helping spread obesity and diabetes as it has never been seen before. It's not enough that those diseases are off the charts with Native Americans here at home. Now we want to seduce Inuits abroad. Even if levels of obesity stay what they are now, the number of people around the world with diabetes will explode from the 171 million people of 2000 to 366 million by 2030.

The numbers will more than triple in places ranging from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Bangladesh to Guatemala. They will more than double or nearly triple in China, India, Brazil, and Mexico. According to WHO researchers, diabetes was already responsible in 2000 for nearly 3 million deaths around the world. "Given the increasing prevalence of obesity, it is likely that these figures provide an underestimate of future diabetes prevalence," those researchers said. Translated, even more people will die.

The WHO, not surprisingly, says, "Initiatives by the food industry to reduce the fat, sugar, and salt content of processed foods . . . could accelerate health gains worldwide."

But no, Burger King wants to colonize the farthest reaches with fat, sugar, and salt.

The irony was when the locals made the crew their native food in the video. The meal ladled out for them was smothered in vegetables. The crew yum-yummed "Nice," "Wonderful," "So good," and even, "Insane." That was the height of patronization given their mission. Burger King's violation of the "Whopper Virgins" is an insane reenactment of the worst of American colonial history.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at

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