Thursday, December 18, 2008

Webisodes on Critical Media Analysis: "Whopper Virgins"

We have been thinking, in Cultural Production, about ways to develop short “webisodes” (on line video segments) that would showcase and promote productive conversations in critical media analysis. Our initial idea has been to make short segments analyzing new television and print advertisements, integrating grad students and faculty in conversation with sampled footage of the ads themselves. We’ll see how this works out.

We’ll start with Burger King’s much-discussed, “Whopper Virgins” campaign, an ethnographic-style documentary chronicling the supposed journey of taste-testers to the the distant corners of the earth, exposing Greenland Inuit and Romanian and Thai villagers (supposedly new to Burger King or McDonald advertisements) to hamburgers. These various exotics, usually attired in traditional costume, then judge between the Whopper and the Big Mac. The short television ads, now running, are drawn from a skillfully produced larger eight minute “documentary’ on line at:

The ads proclaim such phrases as "See what people thought, when nobody told them what to think," or "Unbiased. Unbelievable. Undeniable."

The blog buzz on the campaign, curiously, largely buys into the hype about Burger King reaching communities as yet ignorant of fast food: what right, some bloggers ask, does the corporation have to push unhealthy foods into new markets? Yet, at least for us in Cultural Production, our primary questions have centered on the ideological and affective dimensions on the campaign. At one level, the ad can be read as a rather standard exercise in American cultural imperialism, a latter day civilizing mission recruiting communities from the global antipodes into the tastes and sensibilities of Pax Americana, epitomized by the hamburger. Yet we also sense a curious wistfulness in the campaign, a joy by the American protagonists at being welcomed (and ultimately fed) by the rest of the world. Does this signal a post-post 9/11 desire (epitomized by the recent celebration over Obama’s election) by Americans to be welcomed once more back into the global fold? (To be sure, this reveujenated internationalism remains predicated on the sure assumption that deep down the rest of the world just wants to reconnect with its inner American essence, realized through the sacrament of the hamburger!)

We are puzzling over the best way to frame these kinds of conversation on line through web-based video: through our own talking heads, through sample ad footage with voiceover student and faculty commentary, through some of of interactive slide show? How do we promote critical readings of these media forms, without foreclosing important lines of conversation and interpretation that we may not have anticipated? Suggestions are most welcome...As we work on all of this, please stay tuned!


" Dallas " said...

Thanks mark for your very intresting article about race and HBO series True Blood.


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