Monday, May 23, 2011
Will Ronald Go the Way of the Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese??
After nearly 50 years as the innocent, fun symbol of McDonald's restaurants, Ronald McDonald's job is in danger.
The nonprofit advocacy group Corporate Accountability International, which has previously targeted soft drink manufacturers Coca-Cola and Pepsi for the environmental impact of their bottles, has organized more than 550 health professionals and organizations in a campaign to ask McDonald's to stop marketing junk food to kids and retire Ronald McDonald.
The campaign, which took the form of full-page advertisements in six major newspapers across the US last week, acknowledges that "the contributors to today's (health) epidemic are manifold and a broad societal response is required. But marketing can no longer be ignored as a significant part of this massive problem." Groups such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, as well as well-known nutritionists and doctors like Andrew Weil, a doctor and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, signed onto the effort.
Is there an obesity crisis in our country, especially among children? Absolutely. But this is less the fault of Ronald McDonald than it is the difficulty in getting children to engage in consistent physical activity instead of playing video games and watching television. And it can be attributed more to the ease by which stretched-to-the-limit parents can buy their kids fast food meals rather than cook dinner after a long day of working or child-rearing.
Ronald McDonald certainly proves an enticement to children, inciting them to ask their parents to take them for fast food. But at the end of the day, the decision to feed children fast food lies in the hands of their parents, and whether or not there is a friendly-looking mascot has no bearing on the final decision.
It is far cheaper to feed children (or adults, that matter) fast food than to buy fruits, vegetables and meats. As that trend continues, parents have few options.
I wish we as a society would be more willing to accept responsibility for things instead of looking for others to blame. It isn't the coffee shop's fault if you burn yourself drinking your coffee, it isn't the donut shop's fault if you gain weight after eating one donut every day, and it isn't the mall owner's fault if you fall into a fountain because you're not paying attention to where you are walking.
I hope McDonald's and other fast food restaurants will continue taking steps to make their food healthier, as that will assist parents who feel trapped into feeding their children fast food. I also hope that children and parents get better educated about what causes weight gain, and how to reverse that trend, and that doesn't include getting rid of advertising symbols.
But I do wish Burger King would ditch the creepy king figure...