Hate has always been a hot commodity. There's a certain level of popularity that, once reached, all but guarantees that a significant portion of the general public will immediately decry anything else that entity generates for time eternal.
Don't get me wrong -- as a comedy writer, I'm as guilty as anyone else when it comes to instinctively hating something. You have to give the people what they want, and sometimes what they want is just to know that someone out there hates things as much as they do. That said, the jokes I write aren't necessarily a reflection of how I actually feel about something. That's how jokes work. Sometimes you have to say unkind things about stuff you like. We discuss this phenomenon on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Emily Maya Mills and Aaron Covington and my former Cracked co-worker Ian Fortey. Just as it is with the article you're reading right now, we kick things off by talking about one of the most detested franchises in the history of food.
Nothing gets more blame for the obesity epidemic in the United States than fast food, and when it comes to fast food, no brand is hated quite like McDonald's. On the one hand, it makes sense. They practically invented the idea of fast food restaurants, and unlike their competitors, they're so revered by kids that their restaurants (often outfitted with full-on playgrounds) are frequently used to host birthday parties.
This birthday, give your child the gift of diabetes.
Unfortunately for McDonald's, being instantly recognizable and loved by young and old alike means they're usually the first name mentioned when critics of fast food start talking about the disastrous impact it's had on the cholesterol levels and waistlines of this great land and so many others. To some extent, that's totally fair. The road to McDonald's becoming the most hated restaurant of all time is littered with several completely legitimate controversies.
However, being the go-to name to name when talking shit about shitty food has had an interesting side effect. When something needs to change in the fast food industry, McDonald's usually leads the way in making those changes happen. Case in point: Remember when every fast food burger used to be packaged in unwieldy polystyrene containers?
Eat a dick, ozone!
McDonald's certainly wasn't alone in that practice way back in 1987, but it was the only fast food company targeted by environmental groups as part of the "McToxics" campaign, which sought to pressure the burger giant into using less eco-destructive packaging. Guess what? It totally worked! Sure, McDonald's put up a fight, but in the end they relented, and in 1990 they did away with polystyrene packaging altogether. As stated right in the last sentence of this dawn-of-the-Internet-era article about the campaign, other fast food restaurants quickly followed suit.
That's not a minor point, either. Time and again, when widespread problems have been identified in the fast food industry, McDonald's has routinely been called out as if it's the only guilty party and in turn has been the first to take steps toward fixing the problem. Another example of this is the infamous "pink slime" scandal. That's the name given to the disgusting looking "mechanically separated meat" that's long been associated with heart attack-inducing fast food.
Just like mom used to make.
McDonald's is generally one of the first names mentioned once talk turns to this horror show of a product, and back when the scandal first broke, that was completely fair. Of course, that was a really long time ago. As Snopes points out in this article about the controversy, McDonald's actually stopped using mechanically separated meat way back in 2003. If you recall hearing disturbing news stories about it in the days since, it was probably related to ground beef sold in grocery stores.
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The kind people tell you to buy instead of wasting your money on fast food.
There are even signs that McDonald's is ready to act on the most recent trend in hating everything Golden Arches-related. For some reason, that McDonald's doesn't pay very well has just recently become a thing that people complain about.
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It's a perfectly legitimate gripe, even if it took a few decades too many to happen, and once again McDonald's obviously isn't the only fast food restaurant that's guilty of not paying its workers a living wage. If a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission is any indication, they might be the first to make it right. Under the "Risk to Business" section, the company mentions that protests and social media campaigns drawing attention to employee pay issues pose a significant threat to the bottom line, so much so that raising wages at some point in the future will likely be unavoidable.
Sure, in a perfect world, McDonald's would just make these changes unprovoked, or, even better, just not be awful in the first place. Still, I have to imagine they've got more than enough money to fight their detractors in whatever way they want for as long as they want. Instead of doing that, they've made a habit of capitulating to whatever demands public opinion places on them, and as a result, they've been on the cutting edge of practically every positive development that's come from the fast food industry, no matter how few and far between those may be. They at least deserve some credit for that, right?
Is NASCAR a company? Sort of! "Governing body" is probably a better term for what they do. International Speedway Corporation is a company, though, and a publicly traded one, no less. They derive 90 percent of their revenue from NASCAR-sanctioned events, so, you know, good enough. It's less of an issue than it might seem, because in this case, unlike the previous entry, what I'm defending here is the product the company in question produces.
Now, let's get an important announcement out of the way: I do not watch NASCAR. I don't watch it, I don't enjoy it, and I really don't care if any of what I write here changes anyone's opinion on the sport.
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Stock image of a hipster!
It's important that I make that distinction, because admitting that you watch NASCAR is a social transgression on par with saying you watch Fox News or drink Budweiser. In other words, it's perfectly fine with at least half the country. Unfortunately, none of those people live where I do, so it's important that I make my allegiances perfectly clear when discussing a topic of this nature.
With that out of the way, I'd like to add that I've always found it a little silly when people write NASCAR off as "just turning left" and nothing more.
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Stereotypes hurt everyone.
For starters, even if they are just turning left, they're still doing so in a manner that lies outside the driving capabilities of the average person. They're moving at speeds of more than 200 mph, all while driving in precariously close proximity to each other. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and that's without all of the extra fate-tempting that happens on a NASCAR racetrack. Put almost anyone who laughs off the sport as nothing but a series of unskilled driving maneuvers in that same situation and they will die.
Beyond that, it's more than a little ironic that the sport people most associate with dullards and boredom is also the one that requires the most intelligence. Even the most intricate of ball-based sports, like my beloved American football, is mostly just a matter of memorization. Every move every person on the field makes has been scripted in advance; their only job is to know where they're supposed to go when each individual play is called. Only when those plans break down do players have to start improvising and acting on instinct.
Now think about what goes into keeping a NASCAR production on the track. I mentioned the drivers and the danger they deal with, but that's just the beginning of the story. Those cars they drive are being put through the most extreme driving conditions imaginable. That every single one of them doesn't break down 30 minutes into any race is nothing short of a marvel of modern engineering.
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As is this.
Just to make sure, I did mention the ever-present threat of death as well, right? It's worth mentioning again, because even with something that ominous in a driver's face the whole time, they still have to make snap decisions and judgments about all sorts of mechanical and tactical maneuvers, all in an effort to gain the advantage needed to win the race. Sometimes that advantage amounts to mere fractions of a second.
Again, I'm not saying I enjoy NASCAR, and I really can't defend the idea of watching it. No matter how much effort goes into bringing that sport to life, it's still only fun to me when someone crashes, and damn if it isn't morbid tuning into something simply because you're hoping to catch a glimpse of someone possibly dying. If cars are your thing, though (and if you're in the South, the area most associated with fast car fandom, they probably are), I totally get why you'd be into NASCAR.