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Clowning around

See that Ronald McDonald force feeding those fat kids inside? Yeah, me neither.

In all the time I’ve made a glutton of myself on fast food over the years, I have to say that never once was it because Ronald McDonald was threatening to hit me with one of his giant, red shoes. Nor did he hold a gun to my head. Nor did he ask me to eat 20 chicken nuggets. Not ever. Nope.

When I was a kid, I was rather frightened of the red-headed clown. Not to mention the idea of the Hamburgler running up and stealing my food. Or that creepy chicken lady with the aviator goggles that, obviously, had no clue her employer was busy chopping up her family members into tiny, tasty nuggets. I’m not even going to talk about Grimace (who was originally supposed to be evil… not kidding).

I was more intimidated by these characters than I was endeared to them. I can guarantee that never in my life did I see a McDonald’s commercial on television and think to myself, “Geez, Ronald and the gang look so happy! I should go get a happy meal so I can be like them!” Instead, it was more like, “Good God, kid! Get away from those guys! They’ll steal your food!”

But a coalition of health professionals, parents and corporate accountability advocates (also known as uptight bastards), are asking that Ronald McDonald retire as the leading spokesperson for McDonald’s. Why? They think he has too much influence on kids.

This group, known as Corporate Accountability International, is not a new face when it comes to calling for spokespeople to lose their jobs: They were the group that spearheaded the campaign to make Joe Camel stop lighting up.

While I can’t argue that a smoking cartoon camel would possibly be detrimental in stopping underage smoking, I just don’t think a clown wearing a yellow and red jumpsuit is the leading cause of our nation’s kids eating too much bad food.

The coalition has indicated that it has plans to showcase a survey this week in which it will prove that most Americans think Ronald should step down and retire like the Fry Kids, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, the McNugget Buddies and, of course, Mac Tonight.

I know most humans are stupid, and as Americans we often bring a whole new level of stupidity to the planet, but I just can’t see people calling out Ronald McDonald on being a bad influence on kids.

I can, however, see this group possibly asking questions like “Do you think a kid would buy a hamburger from a clown instead of a rabies-infested wolf?” Well, of course the answers are going to swing in their direction.

Not like it matters. The folks over at Corporate Accountability International are going to throw Ronald a retirement party and are asking people across the country to sign retirement cards for the ol’ clown.

McDonald’s, which wasn’t apparently invited to the retirement party, has responded by basically saying that Ronald isn’t going anywhere.

And who can blame them? He’s their mascot. Perhaps Wendy’s should remove that freckle-faced red-headed girl from their sign? Or maybe Chuck E. Cheese should finally snap the trap closed on that giant mouse?

Ronald McDonald does more than go around and hock hamburgers. Asking him to retire would be devastating to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which use his image to promote fundraising and other events. They actually help families and kids. Really.

While I admit I haven’t been privy to a McDonald’s commercial in quite awhile, the last one I do recall had Ronald playing sports with kids and pushing apple slices in happy meals. Bad clown!

But the coalition doesn’t care. They have searched far and wide to find 200 (gasp!) photographs (double gasp!) of Ronald McDonald visiting schools and other child-focused events. They say he’s pushing kids to eat unhealthy foods during, what they called, a “fast-food-industry childhood obesity crisis.”

I hate to break it to these clowns (the coalition, not Ronald), but having photos of the McDonald’s spokesman hanging out with kids isn’t going to turn any tide. Having photos of him at a strip club with a set of surgically-enhanced chicken nuggets being pressed against his grinning face would likely be a better argument. (I mean, he does do a lot of things he shouldn’t do, like here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

It just irks me that groups like this would point to a clown and say that he’s the reason for the troubles in this country when it comes to heavy children. The last time I checked, he wasn’t standing outside of playgrounds handing the stuff out.

“It’s a free sample,” grins the clown, glancing around to make sure no one is looking as he slides two cheeseburgers out from under his trench coat. “You try them out and if you want more, you come see me. I’ll be under the Golden Arches.”

And kids aren’t out working as a greeter at some box store or serving drinks as a bartender hoping to earn enough cash to get them their next Big Mac fix.

Parents are providing these foods to their children. Parents are the ones paying for it. Parents are the group that is responsible for making this food available.

Shouldn’t this Corporate Accountability International be looking at opening another branch called Parent Accountability Coalition? When will parents be held responsible for their kids’ weight gain?

But the clown convinces the kids, right? And then the kids are so strong willed that a parent just doesn’t have a choice, right?

Wrong! Grow a backbone, parents. Don’t give your kids the foods that are making them fat. McDonald’s is a sometimes treat, not an answer to your inability to cook. Take a class. Visit a website about cooking and nutrition. Be involved.

Instead of spending money on trying to get Ronald retired, maybe this coalition could take some cash from their coffers and promote nutrition education to these parents who obviously have no clue.

Of course correcting the problem is always more difficult than just pointing fingers and trying to get headlines. That’s accountability for you—it’s always easier to hold someone else responsible than to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

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  1. Deb
    March 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Bravo! Childhood obesity begins at home. I don’t remember Ronald McDonald setting me afire with burger cravings when I was a kid, either. And even if he did, who had the wallet and car keys? My parents!
    Along this line, I saw part of Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” show yesterday. A teary mom had just received a devastating health report on her young son, and she acknowledged that she needed to change her family’s food habits, chalking up the family’s weight problems to letting the kids eat the foods they liked.
    Whatever happened to, “I don’t care if you don’t like broccoli, there’s no dessert until you finish dinner”? A parent isn’t supposed to wheedle or coddle. They’re supposed to be IN CHARGE of doing what’s right for their kids, not what’s easiest.
    End of sermon. Damn fine article, Sam.

  2. Kim
    March 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Deb! Maybe you should write a column, sounds like you have great thoughts on the issue too 🙂

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