“whopper virgins”

From Feminist Philosophers, Here is a 7+ minute video that shows a taste test conducted by Americans in regions of the world where people have never eaten a hamburger. They conducted an experiment to see if these “whopper virgins” would like the Burger King Whopper or the McDonald’s Big Mac better.

This video might be useful to show in a composition course to lead to discussions of how writers represent Others in their compositions — or, in another way, contribute to constructions of Others in the American imagination. Feminist Philosophers has some comments:

  • The film doesn’t even hint at the fact that there are problems with hunger and starvation around the world.
  • The subjects are getting the worst in American food values.
  • The subjects, many of whom appear to be dressed in special ”‘traditional dress” are presented often as oddities with whom one cannot identify. You know that problem: people are treated as means, not ends.
  • AND, who ever had the idea that the best judges are completely inexperienced? This is the American myth that gave us Sarah Palin. Seriously, whose view of a restaurant would you trust: someone who has been to a lot or someone who has been to none before?
  • And then there’s the phrase, “Whopper Virgin.” Snicker, snicker.

But to this list we might add:

  • The Other as “more natural,” more pure (“virgins”), pre-cultural, less-than-civilized (“off the grid”)
  • Because they are closer to natural, the Other as having more access to Universal Taste
  • The Americans as bringing civilization, as charitable
  • The Other as object of voyeurism, as subject to be observed and watched with intrigue

I wish I had spent more time this term on how writers represent others in their writing — word choice, representation, and such. We did spend time on how to summarize and give voice to claims or arguments you disagree with, which seemed to be much more successful (in student writing) than I had anticipated. However, there have been a few moments in student writing that I hadn’t anticipated, the most obvious being calling people of color “colored people.”

Another thing that surprised me: A student writing that American black slavery occurred up until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. I’ve seen this assumption from white students at Oregon State, so I don’t know why I was surprised in this instance, but nevertheless, I am always surprised by this.

EDIT: Sociological Images also discusses the video, calling attention to the framing of people as “outside of things” — which is an ethnocentric concept of “things” that matter. Additionally, they call attention to the framing of the video as a documentary, and what the effects of this might be.

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3 Responses to “whopper virgins”

  1. Dennis says:

    Do you ever bring up the philosophical principle of charity?

  2. Michael says:

    In regards to summarizing someone else’s argument and responding to it? I didn’t this term, and I don’t think I was aware of it when I taught FYC at OSU. I’ve discussed it in seminar papers before, though. It’s a useful concept, for sure!

  3. Dennis says:

    I might be guilty of over-applying it, or perhaps applying it too broadly, or both. But I agree that it’s useful. Very, very useful.

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