McDonald’s has a new mascot for its Happy Meals. You know the Happy Meal, a hamburger/French fry/soda/toy combo that used to come with a cookie (cheapskates), that’s now a hamburger/cheeseburger/McNugget/French fry/apple slices/soda/milk/toy combo (although no child would order apple slices and milk on purpose).
That mascot is Happy. We’ll talk about Happy soon enough.
The McDonald’s corporation has always mystified and somewhat frightened me.
Mystified in the sense that I know what I’m eating is bad for me, and I know what I’m eating is probably taking years off my life, so why I’m I still eating it? And why am I making “nom nom nom” noises?
Frightened in the sense that McDonald’s is so good at selling these addictive, fatty hamburgers it has 35,000 locations worldwide, nearly half of those in the United States. Urp.
Oh, and there’s the clown. Clowns scare the hell out of me.
The first McDonald’s mascot was Speedee, an overweight little man in a chef’s uniform, who had a hamburger for a face. This wasn’t an advertising gimmick; it’s just what McDonald’s employees looked like in the 1950s.
In 1962, McDonald’s replaced Speedee, who was at least friendly and didn’t want to swallow your soul, with Ronald McDonald, who did. What the McDonald’s corporation didn’t take into consideration with Ronald is that 15 percent of the population suffers from coulrophobia, a fear of clowns. The percentage of the population that is left-handed is only 13 percent. This means absolutely nothing, except for the fact that there are roughly 6.28 million more Americans terrified by the McDonald’s mascot than are left handed.
That’s a lot. I’m just saying.
However, the terror didn’t stop there. In the 1970s, McDonald’s unveiled McDonaldland, an entire world of terrifying mascots; hamburger-headed politicians and police officers, a purple shake-gulping blob, French Fry Goblins, and dancing McNuggets. There’s a rule on the farm, “Don’t give livestock names. Nobody wants to eat a hamburger named Suzie.” Or, in this case, Mayor McCheese.
Now there’s Happy. An animated Happy Meal box with blue eyes (although only eight percent of the world’s population has blue eyes. Hmm), cartoon appendages and a mouth STRAIGHT OUT OF A NIGHTMARE.
This thing’s gaping black maw has a tongue the size of a human foot and more teeth than a dinosaur.
Little Johnny: “Why’s it smiling like that, Dad?”
Dad: “Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes …”
Little Johnny: “This is McDonald’s, Dad. Not Jaws.”
Dad: “Don’t be so sure, son.”
You’d think a $97 billion corporation could afford to hire someone to, oh, I don’t know, keep their main Happy Meal demographic from wetting themselves in terror.
A good mascot makes people say, “Awe. How cute. I want one, too.” Like Gidget, the Taco Bell Chihuahua.
A good mascot does not make people cover their eyes screaming, “Oh, for all that is holy. Kill it. Kill it with fire.”
Thanks, McDonald’s. I may not sleep tonight.
Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at amazon.com.