If those satire-dripping Swiftian nihilists over at the Onion were to parody the corporate world, they would make McDonald’s — obesity’s favorite whipping boy — a major corporate sponsor of the London Olympics. Big Mac boxes would serve as starting blocks. Archers would try to pierce little packets of ketchup. Garlands made of french fries would adorn the winners’ heads.
Brilliant! Hilarious! But then the writers would conduct two seconds of research and realize that McDonald’s has been an official Olympics sponsor since 1976.
So then they’d sit around the Onion conference room and concoct an even more outrageous scenario, such as: The megalomaniacal McDonald’s has such an ironclad sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee that the fast-food ogre insists that none of the other 800 vendors at the London Games can sell fries — despite the fact that good, greasy chips (along with their preferred running partner, fried fish) have been part of British gastronomy for 150 years, may have helped win two great wars and certainly contributed to Winston Churchill’s dashing figure.
Now they’re on to something! This scenario would be Darwinism set in the corporate jungle! The financially fittest company would spread its fries freely, without a lick of natural competition, the McDonald’s genetic code worming its way into every Brit’s DNA until the dry, wicked intelligence of Londoners is reduced to the drab, monochromatic, how-ya-doin’? folksiness of Oak Brook, Ill., the chain’s corporate headquarters.
Yes, this is good, pointed satire — until Team Onion learns that McDonald’s has indeed stiff-armed every food vendor at the London Olympics, forcing them to abandon their own chips unless (in a concession to refined British sensibilities) they sell them in combination with greasy fried fish.
Undaunted by the crushing weight of reality, a bright young Onion intern suggests an alternative scenario: Imagine, the intern starts, that McDonald’s slim, golden, addictive spuds run counter to a British government recommendation to increase the size of chips in an unorthodox, counterintuitive program designed to combat the country’s growing obesity crisis with fatter fries.
Wouldn’t that be wicked funny? In this plotline, all those chippers who dutifully cut their potatoes thicker in the name of national health would collectively appear outside the Food Standards Agency and start lobbing fully loaded Quarter Pounders at the British bureaucrats who developed the stupid campaign.
At this point, an older Onion staffer (probably around 24) would inform the green intern that her scenario is not so far-fetched. Two years ago, the British government actually asked a number of chippers to fatten their fries, with the idea being that thick-cut potatoes absorb less oil and fat.
In one last stab, the Onionites imagine the most grotesque scenario of all: Right in the shadow of Olympic Stadium, where athletes with body-fat percentages of negative-5 percent stretch the limits of human speed and endurance, McDonald’s will construct the world’s largest fast-food restaurant, with calorie counts that exceed the collective poundage of the German weightlifting team. Families with fannies the size of manhole covers will sit on McDonald’s massive patio, mindlessly wolfing down cheeseburgers while waiting for the next event in the decathlon, never caring what kind of nutritional requirements might be required to run like the wind.
The hypocrisy and cynicism would be so thick that even a palate coated with a McDonald’s chocolate shake (calories: 870) could taste it!
Then the facts would hit the Onion conference room once more: The fast-food chain will open the world’s largest McDonald’s, with seating for 1,500, right outside Olympic Stadium, on July 28. The larger truth would be even more disturbing: Reality has become more surreal than satire, and nobody thinks it’s funny — or even that odd — anymore.