A Pointless Exercise in Academic Hipsterism

Wombat-socho draws our attention to a piece in The Atlantic that’s so silly I’m almost ashamed to be writing about it. Almost. Writer Ian Bogost turns the ever inane eye of Critical Theory on the McRib sandwich as a means to trash the much-hated McDonalds and show how far above the little people he is.

See, apparently when you buy a McRib it isn’t because the thing is cheap and tastes good; it’s actually because

The McRib is like Holbein’s skull: we experience it as (quasi-)foodstuff, as marketing campaign, as cult object, as Internet meme, but those experiences don’t sufficiently explain it. To understand McRib fully, we have to look at the sandwich askew.

Here’s a funny trick that academics use when they want to sound profound: they quote a bunch of gobbledygook from people like Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Zizek and wrap it around a famous work of art. I have actually seen this exact same presentation in seminars.

It works like this.

The [thing I don’t like] can be looked at in light of [randomly quote Lacan] [blah blah racism] and [randomly quote Zizek] and by the way, here’s The Ambassadors.


It’s a really cool painting.

See that weird skull? That’s exactly what I’m talking about! [Randomly quote Foucault.]

It’s not clever. It’s not original. It’s just a signifier that a person speaks a certain language that passes for intellectual depth. The Wombat takes Bogost down nicely.

There are many reasons to visit a McDonald’s: cheap, tasty food served fast; large sodas sold for cheap in the pit of the summer; free wifi when the home internet is down. Nobody goes there for the ambience or to experience a gastronomic thrill, and only a deluded intellectualoid like Mr. Bogost would think anyone would go there driven by the unquiet urges of their id. In the end, the McRib is just a sandwich.

Read the whole thing and hit the tip jar.



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