Tyrades! For Ronald McDonald: Golden Arches Or Gold Watch?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Term limits for Mayor McCheese? A drive-thru shooting of the Hamburglar? A purple rain washing away Grimace?

Yes, the unthinkable could come to pass if Corporate Accountability International gets its way. Citing children's health issues, the Boston-based nonprofit consumer rights group (Motto: "Over 10 billion frivolous lawsuits served") is staging protests on college campuses and outside McDonald's restaurants nationwide to force the company to retire longtime mascot Ronald McDonald.

The organization brandishes a survey that purportedly indicates 47 percent of the populace wants Ronald (the chain's "chief happiness officer") to disappear. I wonder about the methodology of the poll. Most likely, respondents just mumbled an automatic affirmation to the rapid-fire question, "You want self-righteous meddling with that?"

Blaming Ronald McDonald for a complicated problem such as the childhood obesity epidemic shows that someone is a few Dollar Menus shy of a load. Granted, the McDonald's PR department should have been quicker to respond to early warning signs, such as the increased demand for single-passenger clown cars.

Even if McDonald's happens not to be "your kind of place," there are several reasons to be concerned about Corporate Accountability's agenda.

For one thing, society is not set up to handle the wave of juvenile delinquency that would surely engulf us if the Machiavellian clown is stopped from seducing/manipulating/mesmerizing kiddies into (*gasp*) desiring fast food. Without a doubt, youngsters will be breaking into broccoli warehouses, sneaking spinach into the boys' room, and procuring fake i.d. cards for the purchase of Brussels sprouts.

Also, Corporate Accountability has already taken down cigarette spokes-dromedary Joe Camel. If they also triumph over Ronald, they'll super-size their campaign and relentlessly attack other beloved advertising icons. Obviously, the Michelin Man forces toddlers to swipe the family car, Tony the Tiger ("They're grrrrreat!") promotes Prozac abuse, and the Energizer Bunny glorifies overpopulation (as in the new reality series "Bunny and Kate Plus 88"). The Pillsbury Doughboy and Elsie the Borden cow? Promoters of inappropriate touching, of course.

And who really wants to imagine Ronald's retirement activities: endlessly watching the wedding video of smashing wedding pie into his wife's face, puzzling over which bowling shoes are his, and trying to talk Medicare into paying for seltzer bottle enemas?

If Corporate Accountability really thinks retiring Ronald will solve the problem of overweight children, they've been hitting the "secret sauce" a little too hard, if you know what I mean. At best, McDonald's ad men will buckle down and find an even more effective way to target youngsters. Or, if they decide to shift to tantalizing Baby Boomers and their parents, it could get ugly. I'm not ready for ad campaigns like "Food, Fun, and Hot Flashes," "We Love To See You Remember Your Dentures," "McDonald's: I'm Gummin' It," and "You Deserve A Colonoscopy Today."

As for my slender six-year-old son Gideon, he would enjoy the toys and playground at Mickey D's whether or not the alleged Pied Piper of McDonaldland had ever been invented. Expressing an interest in uncovering the "mastermind" behind this anti-Ronald scheme, my impressionable, vulnerable tyke explained, "The hamburgers are yummy -- but I'm not stuck on them."

That about sums it up. Nonprofit consumer rights groups CAN be yummy -- but getting stuck on them can get you into a pickle.

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@aol.com.

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