Upon further reflection, I decided a discussion of the changing attitudes toward American Fast Food restaurants is incomplete without race.
Japan, as I’m sure you already know, is an extremely homogenous country. According to Wikipedia, Japan is 98.5% Japanese, with 0.5% Korean, 0.4% Chinese, and 0.6% other. I don’ t know if “other” includes the Ainu, or if they’re just numbered within the Japanese, (most of them are at least part Japanese anyway,) but even if we take the high estimate of Ainu population, they’re < 0.2% of the total. So, yes, Japan is very Japanese.
By contrast, America has a large, ethnically distinct underclass of blacks and Hispanics: 65% white, 5% Asian, 13% of black and 17% Hispanic.
As a result, Japan’s underclass is still Japanese, while America’s underclass is ethnically and racially distinct from its upper classes. Japan is more homogenous, with a narrower wealth gap between its richest and poorest citizens and a much lower crime rate.
If SJWs have taught me anything, it’s that white people are always racist. Japan doesn’t have this problem, not only because it lacks white people, but also because it lacks different races for anyone to be racist against.
Around the mid-70s, McDonald’s (and Burger King and probably various other Fast Food brands) began explicitly targeting up-and-coming black customers with ads featuring happy black families, working class men getting breakfast before heading off to the construction site, black couples, etc. Interestingly, the ads aimed at white people tend to contain only one or two people, often with a closer focus on the food. (There are, of course, plenty of ads that only feature food.)
Now, far be I to disagree with the advertising decisions of the world’s most successful fast food chain–selling massive quantities of cheap food to black people has been a great strategy for McDonald’s.
But this has caused a shift in the racial composition of McDonald’s target demographic, affecting how it is perceived by the wider society.
Similarly, the demographics of people who work in fast food have changed radically since the 1950s. Most of my older (white) relatives worked at fast food restaurants in highschool or their early twenties. (Heck, I was just talking with an upper-middle-class white relative who used PICK STRAWBERRIES in the strawberry fields for money back in highschool, a job which we are now reassured that “white people won’t do.”) Unskilled jobs for young people used to be a thing in our society. It was a fine way for young people to start their lives as productive members of society, gain a bit of work experience, and save up money for college, a car, home, etc.
Today, these jobs are dominated by our massive, newly arrived population of Mexican immigrants, driving down wages and making it harder for anyone who isn’t fluent in Spanish (necessary to communicate with the other employees,) to get hired. Meanwhile, the average age of fast food employees appears to have increased, with people stuck in these jobs into middle age.
All of this has contributed, I’d wager, to America’s changing attitude toward fast food, and its poor/middle class people (of all races) in general.
You know, Americans talk a lot about how Japan needs more immigrants–generally citing the declining Japanese birthrates as an excuse. (Because what Japan really needs is higher population density + racial tension.) But despite its near total lack of racial diversity, Japan is one of the world’s most successful, technologically advanced countries. If anything, low Japanese fertility is actually fixing one of Japan’s biggest problems–density (which has long-term problems with Japan needing more food and natural resources to support its population than the archipelago can physically produce).
Only an idiot could take the Tokyo subway at rush hour and think, “What this country needs is more people!” I therefore recommend that the Japanese ignore us Americans and do keep their society the way they like it.
I. I was recently chatting with a friend who lived for some time in Japan. I asked them what they liked best about her experience, and received a surprising answer–not the cartoons or the music, the fabulous city of Tokyo or the tasty food, neither the ancient culture nor the attractive people (though I am sure they appreciated all of these things)–but the equality.
In Japan, they said, there is much more of a sense of community harmony, of everyone being in the same boat. There is much less explicit class consciousness and people are more willing to help each other out. It’s not uncommon to see little old ladies out sweeping the street in front of their houses to keep their neighborhoods looking nice.
On a Saturday afternoon at a McDonald’s in Brooklyn… The Playplace, during what should be prime Saturday afternoon birthday party hours, is empty and locked. … this McDonald’s looks like it stopped trying to attract kids in 1995. …
Today, these standard modular play structures — padded floors, platforms, polyurethane foam piping, a single plastic slide — are probably considered boring after age 9. At another McDonald’s, on Brooklyn’s Rockaway Beach, the indoor playground has been removed and replaced by more seating. At a Chuck E. Cheese’s near Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, a place where playgrounds are admittedly secondary to a casino of kids’ games, the usually standard play area is gone, too. …
According to Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm, families with kids going to McDonald’s fell from 18.6 percent in 2011 to 14.6 percent in 2014.
Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, thinks that we’re unlikely to see fast-food restaurants focusing on playgrounds again anytime soon. “I’m not sure that they’re becoming a thing of the past, but we clearly don’t see growth in the opportunity for restaurants,” Tristano says. “Brands like Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, who have indoor play places — we’re not necessarily seeing them expanding and, in some cases, when stores are being rebuilt, they’re no longer including these play places.”
There are multiple reasons for this shift, including people having fewer kids and more kids opting to play video games at home rather than head to the playground, but one of the biggest is classism.
Back when we were kids, McDonald’s was simply seen as a tasty, affordable restaurant that catered to families with small children. I’m almost certain I attended birthday parties there.
McDonald’s still offers birthday parties, but today the idea seems… declasse. Not that the kids wouldn’t enjoy it– kids today have about the same opinion of McDonald’s as I did–but their parents would disapprove. On parenting forums you often hear moms proudly proclaim that the dreaded “fast food” has never passed her offspring’s lips. Fast food is roundly excoriated as unhealthy crap, unsuitable for children–even though a Happy Meal is probably better for you than an organic, cruelty-free Whole Foods cupcake.
Snack bars – Some snack bars taste so good they can be confused for candy. KIND bars, made with all natural ingredients, are not only healthy but also available in indulgently delicious flavors like KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan and Healthy Grains Bars in flavors like Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Blueberry (which are also gluten-free!).
Guess what. If it tastes like candy and is covered in chocolate, it’s candy.
Fruit covered in caramel/chocolate – Freeze bananas and drizzle with a tad of melted dark chocolate or cover apples in homemade, low-sugar caramel.
Again, chocolate is chocolate. It doesn’t stop being chocolate just because you throw a banana at it.
Natural fruit snacks/wraps – Trader Joe’s Organic Fruit Wraps are a perfect example of a flavorsome snack that is good for you and your kids. These wraps are 100% fruit and low in sugar.
Do you know what chemical makes fruit taste so good? Fructose. Fructose is sugar; (-ose is a suffix meaning “sugar.”) Your body metabolizes it into glucose just as easily as it metabolizes table sugar (sucrose) into glucose. These are not low in sugar; they are low in sucrose. You are not fooling your body with this verbal trickery.
Fresh fruit – Always the perfect, healthy treat to offer.
Oh, sure, because you want to be that parent. The one with the apples on Halloween. Why not hand out toothbrushes while you’re at it?
Pumpkin and yogurt parfait – Kids love parfaits, so simply layer fat-free vanilla yogurt with canned pumpkin mixed with pumpkin pie spice and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Top with a few chocolate chip morsels.
“Fat free” yogurt has as much sugar as ice cream, and this thing has a spoonful of addedsugar. Guys, sugary yogurt topped with sugar doesn’t stop being sugary just because you mash in some pumpkin. (Even if you’re trying to avoid “fat” for some reason, most candy doesn’t have much fat in it.)
And don’t get me started on the notion that “kids love parfaits.” Maybe your kids love parfaits. Mine prefer foie gras topped with Cheerios.
I’m not saying you should feed your kids a bunch of candy. I’m saying don’t be classist about what is and isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy just because it comes from Whole Foods, and it isn’t unhealthy just because it comes from McDonald’s. (For goodness’s sakes, they serve salads.)
The folks who make their kids sugar-drenched organic parfaits in order to keep them away from the dreaded M&Ms in their Halloween bucket are the same folks who denigrate fast food.
IV. I have a certain fondness for old-fashioned playgrounds. Modern ones have their advantages (plastic slides won’t burn your legs,) but they feel incomplete without see-saws or merry-go-rounds. When it came to McDonald’s, I loved that guy with the giant hamburger head you could climb inside (mostly I tried to figure out ways to get through the bars and get on top of it.)
To tell the truth, I am not that fond of McDonald’s food–I mostly like them for their playground. In the midst of winter, I am thankful to have a warm, dry place where my kids can play and we can all get something to eat. We once celebrated and appreciated such places, just as we once celebrated the manufacturing jobs that once allowed Americans to enjoy the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen.
Today the middle class is shrinking and the working class is destined to be poor than its parents. Global poverty has plummeted, but American wealth inequality has been steadily increasing since the 70s. (Coincidentally, average wages have been stagnant ever since the beginning of mass, low-wage immigration from 3rd world countries.) And politics has become more divisive and dived as we’ve turned into a nation of snobs, turning up our noses at people once considered brothers.
V. The article on disappearing fast-food playgrounds speaks positively of efforts to pass playground-cleaning regulations:
Dr. Erin Carr-Jordan, a playground sanitation vigilante and, more formally, the founder of Kids Play Safe, a research organization “committed to protecting the health, safety and well-being of children,” was banned from eight Phoenix-area McDonald’s in 2011 presumably for swabbing play areas for germs. A cross-country journey during which she tested the playgrounds of six national chains in both high and low socioeconomic, rural, and urban areas turned into a crusade. …
Surprisingly, there are no state or federal regulations for playground cleanliness or maintenance, and they’re not regulated in many counties and cities. Carr-Jordan has been working to change that, successfully doing so in her home state of Arizona. Kids Play Safe recently partnered with Chuck E. Cheese’s to, according to a press release, “collaborate on common goals to provide a safe healthy play environment for kids.” Chuck E. Cheese’s is the first major brand to work with Kids Play Safe, which could be a small step forward to improving the reputation of restaurant playgrounds.
I am extremely sympathetic to the desire for clean playgrounds. Nothing ruins a lovely afternoon like vomiting all evening. But legal regulations aren’t going to get you there. Faced with a choice between risking fines if their minimum wage barely-English-speaking employees incorrectly clean the playground or just not having a playground, restaurants will opt to go without.
I propose an alternative solution: return to the simpler playgrounds of my youth. Free-standing structures exposed to the wind, rain, and sun do not harbor germs in the same way as humid, enclosed tubes and pits. The older playgrounds were probably cheaper, as well, and had more personality.
Finally, I’d like to note that I am not really trying to shill for fast food, but examining a change in the way society approaches food marketed to middle and lower-class people.
American politics are deeply, fundamentally classist.
Those who want to sound high-class (or are) adopt the rhetoric of the liberals. The working class go Republican.
You know what? Screw it, I don’t even want to pull up data on this. If you don’t believe me, go stick your head back in the sand and believe whatever you want. Tell yourself that you despise conservatives because they are Bad People and not because they are Low Class and not Good People Like You. And conservatives can tell themselves that they hate liberals because liberals are Bad People who Hate Americans.
In reality, of course, most people are good people (except for the one who work in HR, who should all be shot–NAHRALT, of course.)
When people hear that I write about “politics” they tend to assume that this means that I enjoy reading/debating about electoral politics. The truth is that I basically hate electoral politics.
Most of what passes for “political debate” is really just tribal signalling. Tribal signaling need not be wise, thoughtful, or factually correct; it need only signal “my tribe is better than your tribe.” I might be able to stand this kind of inanity if I felt comfortably a member of one of the big tribes and basically hated (or had no friends in) the other tribe. Of course, I have to have friends from across the economic system.
Working class and prole whites are convinced that elite whites hate them. Elite whites are convinced that prole whites hate just about everyone. And blacks, Muslims, etc., are probably pretty concerned about proles hating them, too. Family members are voting for the people they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side. Friends are voting for different people whom they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side.
Almost no one I’ve talked to is voting for a particular side because they’ve undertaken a careful study of the particular issues under discussion and decided that one of the candidates has the best policies. How many Democratic voters agree with Hillary’s stance on the Iraq War? How many Republicans agree with Trump’s opinion on the same?
The most vocal Trump supporter I know was talking about how we need to do more for immigrant children coming from Latin America just last year, and has told me that they don’t actually want to see anyone deported. They just hate liberals, and they are voting for Trump to stick it to the liberals.
Yes, my friends, I went out and socialized this weekend.
It was awful.
Don’t get me wrong. I can socialize. I can paste on a plastic smile and make appropriate small talk. I’ve been to dinner parties with professors and hung out with hobos. I just don’t necessarily enjoy socializing.
The area I stayed in is one of the whitest in the country, an island accessible only by a ferry ride on which I saw a woman wearing a dress so ugly it could only have been horribly expensive and a Rolls Royce, the kind of place where a little cabin in the woods is worth a million dollars. The folks I stayed with commented on how nice it was that the $25 ferry boat toll “keeps the riff-raff off the island” and have framed pictures of Obama in their house.
Well, there is no $25 toll to my community, so the riff-raff comes here. The folks I visited can vote for more immigration and bussing and section 8 housing, and it has no effect on them, because they live in an all-white million dollar community accessible only by ferry. And if some poor or middle class person says, “Hey, this has bad effects on me!” they look down their noses a and call that person racist.
Rich and poor alike are barred from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges, and rich and poor alike may only avoid crime, environmental destruction, and their wages being driven into the toilet by purchasing million dollar homes on exclusive islands.
BTW, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should read Scot’s post before finishing mine.
Anyway, does the performance of femininity itself follow this model?
I propose yes.
Let’s go back to 1900 or so. Most people are farmers, and farmers have to work damn hard. The wives of farmers are not delicate wilting flowers, but extremely hard workers themselves, with very little excess time or money to spend on things like closets full of shoes. The traits we associate with femininity and gender role performance were largely luxuries available only to the wealthy, a situation that had probably been largely true for centuries.
Then came industrialization, the shift to the cities, and the rapid growth of the middle class. By the 1920s, the middle class could aspire to ape upper class behaviors, spending their new wealth on clothes and shoes and stay-at-home-motherhood. It is probably no coincidence that at the same time, fashionable women began dressing and acting like men, even aspiring to “boyish” figures.
Then came the Depression and WWII, and people went back to eating spare shoes instead of wearing them. By the fifties, femininity was once again a symbol of luxurious good living, complete with the magical wonders of modern technology like vacuums and Jello.
Of course, as soon as the middle class (and even, god forbid, proles,) started aspiring to vacuum in their pearls, such things became horribly retrograde. Poors might aspire to have enough money that one of them might be able to take off a little time to care for their children, but rich people had much better things to do with their time. No self-respecting career woman would be caught dead in public with a parcel of screaming brats; if they must breed for the sake of some horribly chauvinist husband, the actual care and upkeep of the children must be farmed out to suitably low-class (often non-white) nannies. Nor would she deign to humiliate herself by cooking meals or doing laundry. (Such work can also be done by low-class non-white women, to allow rich white women to keep up their masculine lifestyles.)
(Note: it’s not employing people that’s problematic. It’s believing that certain types of work are beneath you, but perfectly acceptable for other sorts of people. If you think women shouldn’t cook and clean, then don’t hire other women to cook and clean.)
Of course, poors and proles never quite got the message and continued buying their daughters Barbies and Bratz and whatnot, despite all of their betters’ constant harangues about the dire moral dangers of such toys.
As the economy continues to suck and the middle class shrinks, will femininity become again the domain of the super-rich?