About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The McDouble Standard: You Don’t Have To Be Smart To Enjoy a Latte

Ashleigh Prigodich

This past year, McDonald’s has come out with a new line of coffee-house-style drinks from their version of a coffee shop called the McCafe. The advertisements for this product line follow the same pattern: two “intellectuals” sit in a coffee shop drinking their lattes and reading. One of the characters mentions that McDonald’s is now serving various coffee drinks. The two then go back and forth discussing how wonderful it will be not to be a poser anymore. In this paper I will consider how the ads construct intellectualism, and set up a dichotomy between intellectual interest and both femininity and masculinity.

The ad below focuses on two men sitting in a coffee shop sipping on their lattes. They are dressed in “typical” coffee shop attire: sweater, glasses, and nicely trimmed facial hair. Man #1 is reading a rather large book when the second man looks up from his paper and informs his friend of the new drinks.

The interaction between the two men is meant to be comical. Its humor comes from featuring feminized men, who are, because of McDonalds, now “free” to be their more masculine selves. Man #1 appears to have a lisp. The other man takes off his turtle neck sweater while Man #1 takes off his glasses while saying, “I don’t need these glasses. They are fake.” They both hide their masculinity to fit in with their surroundings. McDonalds, in essence, is selling both masculinity and authenticity, by situating coffee shops as intellectual, feminine, and inauthentic spaces.

The next commercial is almost identical.

Here shows two intelligent-looking women sit together with some form of reading material. They are wearing sweaters, glasses, and scarves loosely draped around the neck. Again, woman #1 looks up and says that McDonald’s is serving lattes. Both women discuss how wonderful it is not to have to change their image to fit the coffee shop standards. Now they can read gossip magazines, wear heels, and not care about the location of Paraguay.

This commercial implies that femininity is somehow contradictory to intellectualism. The ad’s humor is premised in the dichotomy between sexuality and one‘s capacity for learning. But why can’t women be smart and sexy/goofy at the same time? One of the women claims that she wants to show her knees but apparently it goes against proper coffee shop etiquette.

The ads set up a dichotomy between its store and coffee shops. McDonalds is equated with authenticity, where men and women can be their “true selves. Coffee shops are constructed as inauthentic and pretentious. These definitions work well with the target audience. McDonald’s advertises its business as a restaurant for the “common man.” It appeals to working class who want a meal at an inexpensive price. To make fun of educated people reaffirms those beliefs of the people who frequent the restaurants. This ad devalues the notion of being book smart while emphasizing the gender-based stereotypes. Knowing about the world and opening one’s mind by a sense of reading isn’t important and is frowned upon. Therefore…

Knowledgeable and well educated = elitist and bad

This concept of anti-intellectualism can have a negative effect on the masses. What was valued and deemed essential in order to succeed in society is poked fun at. No person is actually smart. We just do it for the coffee.

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