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					                                   Act 2 - Theatres of Action
                                  Scene 9 – McDonaldization

                     By David M. Boje, Ph.D. November 13, 2001

Scene 9 - McTheatre

       McDonalds is bureaucratic capitalism, a concentrated spectacle in which worker
       and customer dialog and action is tightly scripted. McDonaldization integrates
       concentrated with more diffuse capitalism. Like Disney, McDonalds reaches into
       every nook and cranny of the global economy. McDonaldization "is the process
       by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more
       and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world" (Ritzer,
       1993: 1). Ritzer's (1993: viii) theory is that McDonaldization is a Weberian
       rationalization with "increased efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control
       through substitution of human labor power with technology and instrumental
       rationalization." Schlosser (2000) calls the spread of McDonaldization “Fast Food
       Nation,” soon to be Fast Food World. I shall assert that McDonaldization is a
       form of theatrics. As with Disneyfication, McDonaldization weds entertainment
       theatrics to global capitalism. But it also does more; it is a scripting of employee
       and customer roles within the theme I will call McTheatre. And it is a worthy
       choice for scene 3, a follow-on to Disneyfication. Why? Disneyfication and
       McDonaldization have something in common. They are both highly theatrical and
       at the center of the new capitalism. Both are top toy distributors and its largest
       private operator of playgrounds and theme parks. And Disney‟s technological
       wizardry (automation), theme park façade covering its assembly line rides, and
       TV promotion acumen are inextricably linked to McTheatre, the miniature theme

The structure of the chapter is in four parts. In Part I, we review McDonaldization for its
Weberian, Tayloristic, and Fordist theatrics. "McDonaldization" will also be explored to
highlight not only its industrialization, but also its theatrical aspects.

In Part II, we look at the scripted qualities of McDonald's and McDonaldization. I will argue
that McDonaldization is a form of mechanistic Theatre, in which predictability of performance
with standardized scripts, central direction, and the repeated motions of worker and customer
become mechanistic theatrics. McTheatre illustrates the power of the mechanistic script,
advertising, and our McCulture‟s insatiable appetite for spectacle.

In Part III, we review several examples of McDonald's Spectacle Theatre being dialectically
resisted by acts of Carnival Theatre. McDonaldized corporations are actors and agents in a
Tamara of simultaneous Theatres of capitalism, creating and saving face on many stages,
particularly when threatened by the parody satire and civil disobedience of carnivalesque street
Theatre. Protesting McDonald‟s has been the subject of hundreds of web pages, articles, and
books. The themes of our coverage include the Bovémania movement, the McLibel trial in the

UK, and a seven-year battle to keep McDonald's out of a New York county. We also examine
several examples of how carnivalesque protests can be presented on stage in ways that allow
for critical discussion and emancipatory revisions to those scripts.

In Part IV, we examine conscious capitalism, as it relates to McDonaldization. How can we as
consumers, workers, and educators change McDonaldization? This is a topic we return to in
more detail in Act IV of this book. For example, in Scene 7, we look at McOppression, how
Augusto Boal's (1979, 1992) work on "Theatre of the Oppressed" can enact and possibly
transform McDonaldization Theatre. We now begin with an introduction to McDonaldization
and its theatrical moments.

PART I: Introduction to McDonaldization

The Weberian, Taylorist, and Fordist McTheatres of Capitalism

McTheatre was first erected and performed in Pasadena, California, in 1937, under the
inventive direction of the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice (Dick and Mac). The
brothers are icons of the American dream, role models of the capitalist entrepreneurial spirit,
risk-takers who went into business, innovating to make a buck. They created the stage setting
for the birth of the fast food industry. The set of the first McDonald‟s was simple and there
were few menu choices and props.

Richard and Maurice rescripted traditional cooking and serving according to rational principles
of Weberian bureaucracy dividing cuisine into discrete tasks, then combined automated
machine routines with Frederick Taylor's principles of scientific management, such as
deskilling each work role, using time and motion studies to pre-plan each step of production.

The McDonald brothers pioneered a Taylorized assembly line procedure for cooking and
serving food combined with bureaucratic efficiency Weber described. However, the brothers
did not read Weber or Taylor‟s books, but followed the trend in other industries towards
rationalization and automation of crafts. The irony is that the best aspects of capitalism
(entrepreneurial risk taking) would in the next few decades combine with the worst aspects
(deskilling, conformity, widening gap of rich and poor, desertification, corporate welfare). The
McDonald brothers set out to be entrepreneurs, not role models of predatory capitalism, not
authors of a tragic script for low skill, low pay, and monotonous work.

The McDonald brothers just wanted to give a memorable and convincing performance of their
entrepreneurial talent. The theatrical result, multiplied throughout the globe, is the rationalized
and bureaucratic "fast-food factory" (Ritzer, 2000: 36). An industry where any unskilled
teenage worker can learn any role, any set of tasks in a few minutes, by following detailed
script-instructions, and memorizing dialog, and learning their entrance and exit cues.

The McTheatre scripting is highly bureaucratic, repetitive, and routinized. Employees become
cast members learning exactly what to say, when to do which task, in a division of labor

allowing unskilled workers to perform highly repetitive and automated tasks. Workers (as in
Disney) are cast members in specialized roles such as "grill men," "shake men," "fry men," and
"dressers" who put the "extras" on burgers and who wrap them (Love, 1986: 20; Ritzer, 2000:
36). The result of McTheatre was low wages, high speed, large volume, and low price (Ritzer,
2000: 36).

The Global Society of the McDonald’s Spectacle - McTheatre is legitimated in the Society of
the Spectacle (Debord, 1967). “The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained
the total occupation of social life” (1967: #42). With McDonaldization performed on every
global stage, “All of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles” (1967: #1).
McDonald‟s expresses itself in spectacle, and we consume spectacles daily, the “incessant
spread of the precise technical rationality” (#19); we are consumers of spectacle illusions (#47).
McDonaldization as spectacle is the “incessant refinement of the division of labor into a
parcellization of gestures which are then dominated by the independent movement of machines;
and working for an ever-expanding market” (#25). It is a division of labor that divides
production from distribution and consumption. Fast-food workers (and customers) are
separated from how food is grown, how animals are slaughtered, how rainforests are burned
and clear-cut to grow cattle feed. We live in the spectacle, bur we are fragmented, separated
from how the whole global enterprise of McDonald‟s operates as a whole. We do not know
who grows our food, who slaughters our cows and chickens; we only know the spectacle, the
jingo ads and Ronald. Ronald is a shimmering diversion, a character of McTheatre whose
banalization dominates societies the world over. As McTheatre is imitated and multiplies
across countless service industries, our free consumer choice is between one role, product, or
service within the competing McTheatres. Children identify with Ronald‟s shallow life.
Children pass into the spectacle as an object of identification. “Did I hear someone say

McTheatre says Ritzer (2000) is not only technocratic rationality it is also bureaucratic. In
Debord‟s (1967: 57) terms, “The spectacle of bureaucratic power, which holds sway over some
industrial countries, is an integral part of the total spectacle, its general pseudo-negation and
support.” Globalism is a world division of spectacular roles and tasks. Even our rebellion
against McTheatre is absorbed as a “purely spectacular rebellion” our dissatisfaction with
bureaucratic, automated, technocratic employment becomes one more commodity (#59).

McTheatre as spectacle also “presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable
and inaccessible”(#12). McDonald‟s personifies itself as all things positive. McDonald's spend
nearly 2 billion dollars each year on advertising, promotional gimmicks and propaganda.
McTheatre‟s poetics and rhetorical-content are identically the total justification of the existing
system of global capitalist conditions and goals (1967: # 6). The official image of good-
McDonald‟s envelops its spectacle of total cohesion, embodied first in the founders (Dick and
Mac) then in the CEOs that followed, finally in Ronald McDonald. McDonald‟s presents itself
as the fast food instrument of cultural unification, the heart of American culture, and a total
positivity. McDonald's spends $1.8 billion a year on advertising, presenting a favorable
corporate public image in its rhetorical positioning. “What hides under the spectacular
oppositions is a unity of misery” (#63). McTheatre becomes a pseudo-world apart, false

consciousness, an inversion and negation of life, in which we all become characters in an
McDonald‟s theatre, producing and consuming masks, unable to glimpse the “reality”
repressed back stage. Never mind that is McDonald‟s is an illusory community

McDonald‟s is the religious spectacle of the Golden Arches, not just a material or symbolic
reconstruction of the religious illusion, but an imitation of worship, what Debord terms, a
“fallacious paradise,” (#20) “religious fetishism” (#67) and “temples of frenzied consumption”
(#174). “The spectacle is the material reconstruction of the religious illusion” (#20).
McDonald‟s is the modern day “self-portrait of power in the epoch of its totalitarian
management of the conditions of existence” (#24). Collect the toy from your Happy Meal,
manufactured for your collection, your glorious sign you are one of the faithful (#67). Eat at
McDonald‟s and your family will be made Happy with consumption.

McTheatre is both concentrated and diffuse spectacle. As a concentrated spectacle, workers
experience bureaucratic capitalism within the totality of service labor; each franchise owner
experiences it as an individual bureaucrat, owning a piece of the global economy only through
the intermediary: the concentrated bureaucratic community of McDonald‟s Corporation (#64).
“We love to see you smile” reads the slogan on the paper mat covering the plastic tray.
Hanging from the ceiling is a sign, “Apply Today! Extra money; job skills; flexible hours;
opportunity; McDonald‟s means opportunity (the last sentence has a trademark after it).

The diffuse spectacle of McTheatre is the justification and apologetic of McDonald‟s
commodities to provision society and the world with fast food and develop the greater grandeur
of modern global capitalism. Contradiction also diffuses. The fast food distribution and supply
chain network demands forests be destroyed, teenagers be recruited for store jobs, and migrants
for slaughterhouse work. This occurs while selling commodity happiness.

McTheatre diffuses everywhere, invading and absorbing every facet of life. The map has
become the territory in which we work and live. The entire globe is a McDonald‟s Golden
Arches portrait. In this late modern capitalism, rival forms of McTheatre compete for global
terrain (not just McDonald‟s or Pizza Hut and Burger King, but non-fast food franchises).
“Lived reality is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle while simultaneously
absorbing the spectacular order, giving it positive cohesiveness” (#8).

McTheatre makes the entire planet its stage. McTheatre is at the same time concentrated,
constructed with rhetorical appeals, with infotainment that centers the McDonald‟s script
within the idea system of free market capitalism. “Fast-food companies use free-market
rhetoric to argue against raising the minimum wage” (Mieszkowski, 2001). Fast-food
companies use free-market rhetoric to alter the global landscape.

The result is what I will call the “McTheatre Effect,” a global rhetorical phenomenon the is
concentrated and diffuse. There are 28,000 McDonald‟s fast-food sites. The sun never sets of
the McDonald‟s empire, or our own passivity as characters in the spectacle, as McTheatre
covers the entire global surface (#13). One of every eight workers in the United States has done
time at the chain (Schlosser, 2000).

The McTheatre Effect is the exportation of the Society of the Spectacle to a Global personality
culture where Ronald McDonald is better known than the spectacles of Princess Diana and OJ
Simpson. McTheatre is “the main production of present-day society” (#15). McTheatre
characters are part of globalization, and at the center of the anti-globalism movements. How did
the McTheatre begin? It began with the McDonald‟s brothers in southern California, and was
duplicated by countless imitators. Then it spread. We are now so accustomed to the routine, to
watching teenagers in their costumes (not uniforms) assembling our fast food in colored paper
and cardboard, that McTheatre, and our scripted role as customer is taken for granted. We wait
in line, knowing what we will say, and what the costumed character behind the counter will
reply. How did McTheatre spread across the global stage from 1 theatre in 1937 to over 28,000

When Raymond Albert Kroc (1902-1984) took over the direction of McDonald Theatre, there
were important script and stagecraft changes. He was the new director, ready to take the show
on the road. In 1954, Kroc pitched the idea of opening up several restaurants to the brothers,
Dick and Mac McDonald. He opened the Des Plaines restaurant in 1955. Kroc changed the
(on-stage) colors to red and yellow, from the red and white tile buildings that had become
landmarks throughout the U.S. Another change was managers began to work 15-hour shifts
scattered over nights and days. It is not just employees, but everyone associated with
McDonald‟s has scripted McTheatre roles. But the most important change was in tenets of

       As Ray Kroc, a McDonald's founder, said, expressing decidedly un-American
       ideals: 'We have found we... cannot trust some people who are non-conformists.
       We will make conformists out of them in a hurry... The organisation cannot trust
       the individual; the individual must trust the organisation' (Fast Food Nation).

Just as Walt Disney (see last chapter) applied Taylorism to animation, then to theme parks;
Dick and Mac and then Ray applied both to the theatrics of McDonald's restaurants.
McDonald‟s is indeed a miniature theme park, one playing in and theming every city in the

McTheatre sells $30 billion a year worth of burgers, fries and triple-thick shakes through
21,000 restaurants in 101 countries that employ over one million people. McDonald's is
Spectacle Theatre, done in cartoons and in Disney-type human dramas, to capture children of
all ages, to socialize the McTheatre Effect, and reap its consequences:

       Every month more than 90 percent of American children eat at McDonald's; the
       average American eats three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every
       week (Russon, 2001: 1).

On any given day in the United States about one-quarter of the adult population visits a
fast food restaurant. With the spread of McTheatre, the demand for beef increases, along
with the land necessary to raise cattle. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast

food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion. McDonald's is the biggest purchaser of
beef and pork in the United States; one in eight workers have done time at McDonald‟s
(Schlosser, 2001).

       What's in all those hamburgers? They're most likely made from the meat of
       worn-out dairy cows (generally the least healthy cattle stock), which spend their
       days packed in feedlots full of pools of manure. Each burger contains parts of
       dozens or even hundreds of cows, increasing the likelihood that a sick one will
       spread its pathogens widely (Russo, 2001: 1).

Schlosser (2000) is not a vegetarian, but nevertheless no longer eats fast food beef or chicken,
after he visited McDonald‟s slaughterhouses. What happens behind the closed doors of a
slaughterhouse? Those who have visited slaughterhouses, such as Eisnitz (1997) and Schlosser
(2000) discover repugnant and hazardous conditions that call to mind Upton Sinclair's (1905)
masterpiece The Jungle. Sinclair wrote about the wage slavery and human exploitation of
immigrants by capitalism. The book was written as fiction based on seven weeks of interviews
and observation. It created a sensation in 1906, but not about wage-slavery, citizens were more
concerned about the possible contamination of the meat they were eating. The descriptions of
how workers worked also included the way food was prepared. Sinclair said, “I aimed for the
American heart and hit its stomach.”1 These reports of poverty wages, lack of inspection of the
slaughterhouse process are not isolated incidents today. Eisnitz (1997), for example, documents
incidents of worker injuries, questionable healthy practices, and animal cruelty from North
Carolina to Washington State.

Currently the same situation persists; an unskilled, migrant workforce, suffering severe injuries
operates the killing lines, as U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors are once again unable to
control the quality of our food.

       As the speed of the "kill lines" that prepare thousands of animals for slaughter is
       increased to boost productivity, more and more semiconscious and frightened
       animals pass through their flailing limbs lashing out and injuring workers before
       being brutally hacked off. Living cattle, fully conscious and struggling, are
       shackled to the line to be skinned and dismembered. Live hogs are routinely
       dumped into scalding vats” (Eisnitz, 1997).2

A typical plant staff turnover is 100% each year, guaranteeing that no one is fully trained.
Operating for profit maximization, corners training get cut, equipment is poorly maintained;
this adds to the number of times animals pass down the kill line more semiconscious, flailing
and injuring workers.

       The rate of serious injury--losing a limb or an eye--is five times the national
       average. In 1999, more than one out of four of America‟s 150,000 meatpacking
       workers suffered a job-related injury or illness.3

Sinclair‟s (1905) original book set off a storm of public protest, not because of the worker
injuries or concerns over animal cruelty, but because of the threats to human health. Consumer
fear resulted in a one third drop in meat consumption, and a 1906 Congress scrambling to pass
the Meat Inspection Act. In the 1950s consumers once again protested slaughterhouse
conditions, this time focusing upon the inhumane treatment of animals. Unions also supported a
new act, the Human Slaughter Act of 1958, because animals being carved up while still alive
could thrash about and injure workers. There is currently a similar groundswell of protest,
prompted by scores of books, science articles, journalist reports, academic deconstructions, and
citizens joining activist groups, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
How have the slaughterhouse and fast food industries been able to subvert the 1906 and 1958

Why? First the slaughterhouse and fast food industries continually lobby against worker and
food safety regulations. The result was that inspectors have been restricted to gazing only a few
areas of production, while other areas were given over to factory personnel (under the
fashionable craze for privatization). For example,

       … In 1998, it became dramatically worse when USDA implemented Hazard
       Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), a new food inspection program.
       HACCP transferred many USDA meat inspection duties to the meat industry
       itself. Under HACCP, USDA removed humane slaughter tasks from its list of
       inspection duties and allowed plant operators to build walls that block USDA
       inspectors views into the slaughter area.4

Second, McTheatre is too successful in producing an advertising spectacle that says there is no
problem; this in the face of E-coli, Mad Cow, BSE, or bovine spongiform, and Hoof and Mouth
outbreaks (Best, 2001). During the 1980s and 1990s there have been increasing reports of what
goes on behind the closes gates of America‟s slaughterhouses. Most people who have not seen
the conditions with their own eyes, prefer to believe Ronald McDonald, the star of McTheatre:

       For those who must see to believe, a video of conscious cattle being skinned and
       dismembered alive at IBP‟s (formally Iowa Beef Processors) huge Wallula,
       Washington slaughterhouse was shown recently on Seattle television (see
       Barbaric Butchery of Cows, page 13). Workers at the plant, who have defied one
       of America‟s most sinister corporations to tell the truth about conditions under
       which they labor, have sworn in affidavits that up to 30% of the animals going up
       the line are still alive…

       Excerpts from affidavit of slaughterhouse employee

        “…there are accidents because the cows are still alive. At the back hoof, the cow
       was kicking and it cut off one worker‟s three fingers. The cows are kicking and
       jumping and everything. And the company didn‟t save the fingers, so the worker
       lost them….”

       “…the meat is all green and all dirty from the manure. The meat gets dirty with
       manure because the skin is dirty and the cows are kicking.”

       "You know they're alive because they are breathing real hard, they make noise,
       they kick the other cows, and it moves the whole chain."5

McTheatre is powerful persuasion. McTheatre is interplay of routinized technology (in
restaurants and slaughterhouses), spectacular advertising and socialization forces of theatrics to
keep our focus on the front stage instead of the back. Millions of customers and employees of
McTheatre each year are not just consuming and producing the theatre of fast food; they absorb
an ideology of pure dogma (preaching free choice, individualism, democracy, and globalism)
while resisting attempts to reform labor and meat-processing practices. This is a massive
theatrical façade of science, efficiency and technology themed with dialog about free market
principles. It is also capitalism at its worst (agribusiness displacing family farms; corporate
culture resisting worker rights and hostile to minimum wage laws; financing franchises with
small business loans and US government subsidies to teach job skills to the poor.).

McDonald's is the role model of Marx's surplus value, wealth-extraction machine, where low
paid workers in a system of Taylorism make franchise owners wealthy. With a high turnover
rate of mostly teenagers, the short-term workers do not accrue many benefits, and do not stay
around to organize for worker democracy. Schlosser (2000) gives examples of how
McDonald's fight against unions, sometimes closing stores to prevent workers from unionizing.

The postindustrial side of McDonald's is a chain of franchise and corporate restaurants,
available in a choice of several theatrical styles (with and without Playland), a few menu
variations, but are almost exactly the same. McDonald's married postindustrial factory, supply,
and distribution chain with a postmortem consumerism.

In this modem Theatre, the audience stays in its assigned seats and stays in its queues,
separated from the stage by the counter. In its postmortem Theatre, the audience can take a
role on the stage, improvise a line, or suggest changes to the script by entering a McSuggestion,
thereby becoming what Boal calls spectator and actor, or spect-actor.

Consumers are part spectator and part actor, taking their prescribed role in McDonald's global
Theatre. It is consumers, who become “spect-actors” (spectators complicit in becoming willing
actors in the Theatre). Consumers, for example, even knowing or strongly suspecting child
abusive conditions, (low wage, forced overtime, harassment) or injuries to workers in
slaughterhouses, in McDonald's distribution and supply chain, will say, so what, "I will still eat
my Big Mac at McDonalds." Spect-actors keep the Theatre going.

If Weberian bureaucracy is scripted rules, written regulations, and a hierarchy of roles, then
McDonald's is a terrifyingly impersonal Theatre. If Fordism is repetitive labor, doing one thing
over and over again, always in the same way, then McDonald's is a terrifyingly robotic Theatre,
saying the same lines, following the same monotonous script, day in and day out, until we have
no mind and no creative instinct. If Taylorism is separating planning from doing and thinking

form working, then McDonald's is a terrifyingly mechanistic Theatre, the application of science
to make us part of the machine,

McDonaldization is more than just McDonald's Theatre staged and performed at restaurant
chains, or even at the imitative fast food chains of Burger King, Wendy's or Dairy Queen.
McDonaldization is a rationalized, highly predictable, repetitive, and controlled type of Theatre
with standardized scripts for workers and customers that is imitated in countless businesses,
schools, and communities. For Ritzer (2000: xvii)" the fast-food restaurant, most notably
McDonald's [has] revolutionized not only the restaurant business, but also American society
and, ultimately, the world." McTheatre is replicated in a fast food industry that employs over
3.5 million people, just in the U.S. McTheatre is also being repeated in businesses outside the
fast food industry, in all kinds of retail franchises from taxes, motels and flower shops, but also
in the McDonaldized education, society, and the colonization of more feudal and festive ways
of being in the world.

It is not just McDonalds that colonizes every European, Asian, and Arab town, it is the
repetitive architectural vortex of franchises and corporate “service economy” stores, Pizza Hut,
Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, K-Mart, Target, Hobbytown, Toys R Us, Banana Republic,
The Gap, Jiffy-Lube, Kinko‟s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken across America, and the world.

Boje McTheatre Reviews - I have a few reviews of McTheatre, both on the local and the
global stages.

I began my McTheatre review by driving to the Las Cruces, New Mexico McDonald's. I was
once a regular spectator, but since I became vegetarian (actually vegan), I don't go too often. I
entered the stage, by passing beneath the Golden Arches, did my order, claimed a booth and
wrote some field notes while waiting for my order. Ronald McDonald's greeted me, not on
stage, but in displays and photos, everywhere I turned.

Ronald, for me, the main theatrical character on the McDonald's stage; more important than the
worker, manager or owner, is Ronald's iconic "smile know round the world." Synonymous with
the corporate slogan, "we love to see you smile." I noted that it appears on my drink cup, my
hash brown envelope, and the paper mat under my tray. Under the "M" is a smile with a bit of
tongue showing.

Has the McDonald's hamburger become an actual character on the global stage, and has it
actually vanished into its own sign? McDonald's sells a smiling M, not the nutrition of its food.
I noticed that on my place mat, the two smiling M 's seem to float above the picture of the Big

In this postmodern world, the dividing line between hero and villain is blurred. The
postmortem M stands in place of the designer hamburgers, irradiated salads (costing more than
hamburgers), simulated McNugget (chickens), and promotional McBreakfasts. What are
postmortem hamburgers?

       That is what McDonald's (most excessively) and all the fast food chains are
       selling these days... Hamburgers as party time for the kids; hamburgers as
       nostalgia time for our senior citizens; hamburgers as community time for small
       town America; and, as always, hamburgers under the media sign of friendship
       time for America's teenagers. Thus, processed hamburgers for a society where
       eating is the primary consumptive activity and where, anyway, fast food is
       interesting as a sign of the aestheticization of the body to excess. Phasal eating
       for postmortem bellies, which have already become spectral images of

       Processed crowds: like Disneyland, the key problem for McDonald's (as a phasal
       eating station for the nation) is crowd control; and so a whole apparatus of
       processed eating stations (like work stations in cyberspace), everything to speed
       the way from secretion to excretion (Panic Encyclopedia, 2001).

In the Theatres of Capitalism, it is corporations and their clowns and hired-celebrities, who are
the stars.

In critical postmortem pastiche, McDonald's mixes its corporate fetishes in acts of corporate
alliance. Seducing us into Theatre of consumption, is the hallmark of post-World War 11
capitalism, where we are told that our economy will fail if we do not get back on the airplanes,
go to the Disney theme parks, and get on with consumption of our McCulture.

For example, I did a transorganizational reading a visit to McDonald's in Las Cruces, New
Mexico. Upon taking my seat, I noticed a display that is highly transorganizational Theatre of
consumption (Firat & Dholakia, 1998; Firat & Venkatesh, 1995). To my left, Ronald's upper
torso extends above the display, leaning on his elbows, with his gloved fingers interlocked.
Ronald smiles down at the display of Disney - PIXAR's Monsters, Inc. toy characters made by
Fisher Price. Monsters Inc. is a feature length motion picture about a parallel world
unbeknownst to human beings called Monsters, Incorporated. On the display it says, "Got a
toddler, ask about Fisher-Price" and "Listen for scream" (near a button you can push; I am
tempted, but don't).

To my right of my booth, close enough for me to touch is a poster of the Monster toys with all
kinds of neat phrases, such as "Only in Theatres," "you'll scream for these toys that glow,
connect, and light up." Similar posters are available on McDonald's web site.6 This is a highly
collaborative transorganizational effort of Disney, McDonalds, Pixar, and Fisher Price, and
Mattel (a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc.), corporations collectively capitalizing on a synergistic
multi-corporate strategy. There is also a Monster Inc. McDonald's Happy Meal coloring book
on the McDonald's web site, and available at participating McDonald's while supplies last.7
You can get a Fisher-Price Monster Inc., PIXAL-Disney toy with a Happy Meal. It is
tempting, but I decide to check out the web version.

At the Fisher-Price web site, you find out that "Fisher-Price toys are available at McDonald's"
and parents are advised, "a trip to McDonald's is a great opportunity to practice good table
manners."8 Renee, "Wait until everyone is served before you begin eating." Ray, "sit up
straight. Don't slouch." Jason, "don't chew with your mouth open." At McDonald's parents
learn script lines to teach their children.

PLAYSKOOL's McDonald's building is another example of the interplay of corporations to
market corporations to children. I spot a familiar character, a character form Monster‟s Inc, part
of a robotic display. From the Creators of Toy Story: “You Won‟t Believe your Eye” says the
character from Monsters, Inc. (Now Playing). There is also a sign that reads, “Click Here.”

The Disney web site, "where the Magic lives on line," is marketeering both toys and film.'9
Then there is the Monsters Inc. Junior Games that immerse you in the day-to-day life at
Monsters Inc. And Monsters Inc. PC is offering "Wreck" Room Arcade games. The Monsters
Inc. PlayStation one title is a prequel to the movie that allows Mike or Sulley train to become
the "Top Scarer" of the company. We are assured, "Imagineering's Ultimate Ride isn't simply
another roller coaster simulator"

McDonaldization is several tragic Theatres of Capitalism, but as with Disney, presented with a
happy face. "We love to see you smile" it a McDonalds Trademark. From my booth I can see
the stagehands, taking orders, a manager hugs a teenage fry clerk. "Who set my timer," one
worker asks the other. Timers sound and more young people move about, some with headsets;
multi-tasking works better when you are young.

If we ventured inside a McDonald's, the layout was designed like a theme park ride
where you buy the ticket, get a seat, and wait for thrill. Of course, the thrill is not in the food, it
is in the toys, the colors, the play land, and the enticing advertising. The irony is just how
isolated from knowing any economic connection to where food came from, how it was made,
and how McDonald's succeeded in Commodifying our consumption life. As a Ph.D. student
told me, "as en environmentalist, I hate McDonalds, but as a Mother, I am forced to go there,
since that is where our community of mothers takes our children to play.

My family was programmed by McDonald's Theatre-going, our behavior regulated at the drive-
up window, waiting for our order, paying for some church time, and driving away. And this
seduction of my family and I begin at an early age. I could not drive by a Golden Arches, with
a young toddler in the car, then a teenager, and hearing "McDonalds, I see it. I want a Coke
and a toy." Our desire programmed and regulated day after day, sign after sign, in thousands of
commercial print, TV, and billboard ads we cannot escape, while growing up.

I continued my review by asking my son, Raymond, "what is theatrical about McDonald's" He
replied, "it's the cartoons with Ronald chasing Hamburglar" sit in Hamburglar is always up to
McDonaldland." It is actually called "McDonaldland," a mimetic of "Disneyland." The
cartoons depict Hamburglar tricking Ronald and his friends out of their hamburgers!
Raymond, adds, "each commercial is like a theme park event for TV, but some have real people
in them." Raymond adds, "I just saw a commercial" and describes a recent McDonald's

commercial to me, since I do not have TV. He tells me, he just watched one, with a beautiful
African-American woman who takes her young son to McDonald's. It is his first time, and
McDonald's makes it a very magical initiation ritual. They walk up to the counter and the kid
steps up to order the food. It's his first time order, so he acts really shy. The woman behind the
counter says, "Welcome to McDonald's may I take your order." The kid orders something; I
think it was a Happy Meal. The commercial is done Disney-style. This is a very dramatic
scene that can push your emotional button. The kid acts scared as the woman behind the
counter hands him the meal, and he politely thanks the lady. The mother and child begin to
walk out. Ronald McDonald appears before the kid, and draws a magical "M" in the air with
his index finger. Stars dance in the air. The music comes on, with the lyrics, "We love to make
you smile."

Like most of you, I grew up on McDonald's spectacle performance. In 1965, while in high
school, the drive-up McDonald's in Spokane, Washington was the stage where I cruised and
courted Nancy McDonald (no relation to Ronald). Wish I still had that orange and white, 55
Mercury, with the Hurst shift. McDonald's, for me, this was time and place to drive a bit crazy,
to have some fun, to be seen in my ride, and a place to buy some fetish, a Double Cheese
burger (or two), large fries, and a Coke. I was addicted to McDonald's from then until this past
decade. My addiction changed when my consciousness of global capitalism changed. I
became a much more conscious consumer.


McDonaldization is a series of theatrical scripts and roles for directors and scriptwriters, and a
performance space where the front stage is separated from the back stage, and the actor's work
role is delineated from the spectator's customer role.

The purpose of this section is to explore both the oppressive aspects of McDonald's Theatre and
propose some ways postmortem theatrics can be used to transform the more modernist
McDonaldization work, consumption, and distribution 'scripts' of capitalism. This will include
concrete ways to rescript McDonald's situations of work, consumption, as well as distribution.

Dramaturgy and Dramaturgs

Erving Goffman (I 922-1982) took dramaturgy from Broadway to the off-Broadway theatrics
of "total institutions," such as prisons and asylums. In his most famous book, The Presentation
of the Self in Everyday Life, Goffman (1959/ 1973) develops a model of the theatre and
theatrical performance, as a means of analyzing how we develop and present ourselves to
others. Life is Theatre, and Goffman uses the concepts of front and backstage to develop to
dramaturgy of formal organizations.

Corporate Theatre only works, as PR, if it sustains a 'front' stage performance that is considered
authentic by spectators, and a back stage that is more secretive (Gofftnan, 1959: 28, 108). The
path from front stage to back stage is the corporation's most guarded passageway (1959: 110-

114). Back stage teams of PR consultants, marketing advisors, and other dramaturges decide
who will play what role, say particular lines, and thereby script a public performance (Boyle,

Corporate Theatre involves the art of impression management. But sometimes, Goffman
believes we may make, slips, a faux pas or gaffe that others may catch, as a miss-step or slip of
the tongue. We put on the wrong face, or are out of face, just for a moment. Corporations
work at presenting positive images of their corporate-self, saving corporate-face, and adjusting
to possible loss of corporate-face.

McDonald's must have a dramaturg on staff. There is too much McDonald's corporate Theatre
to get along with out dramaturgs. I assume McDonald's is hiring Dramaturgs, as theatrical-
consultants and coaches, to its marketing, human resource management (HRM), and public
relations departments.

What is a dramaturgy A dramaturg is defined here as an internal or external consultant, who
coaches and liaisons about the theatrics of the production, distribution and consumption, and
helps with the identification, staging, and revision of the corporation's 6 c metascript" (Neutal,
2001). Metascript is a term suggested to me by Henri Savall, who views his consultation to
corporate Theatre as the task as being a dramaturg, a Theatre coach to corporations (Boje,
2001d, SEAM). The main work of a dramaturg would include:

1.   Advising the corporate marketing and PR team - on theatrics (gives input on press
     releases, staging shareholder meetings, special events, and other corporate Theatre
2.   Historical corporate Theatre research - on the multiple texts of the metascript currently
     performed (interview and document analysis of past Theatre).
3.   Post-Theatre reviews - Collecting data on current metascript (including multiple scripts,
     and corporate personnel who act as its multiple directors, writers, and editors).
4.   Re-authoring corporate Theatre - Working with training and HRM staff to workshop old
     and new metascripts (can use volunteers as actors, or bring in professionals to stage
     metascript performances for spectator analysis and review).
5.   Re-scripting corporate Theatre - Adapting non-theatrical text/action into a metascripted
     performance (once the historical and current metascript is observed and showcased,
     changes to the metascripts for new plays are proposed, rehearsed, and staged (includes
     revising and editing current corporate Theatre metascripts by suggesting additions and
6.   Coaching corporate actors - executives, managers and technical staff on theatrics (act as
     liaison and coach of the institution's and main character's theatrical rehearsals and
     performances of corporate Theatre.
7.   Stage manager for corporate Theatre - technical work on corporate Theatre's sound,
     light, set design, and web pages to improve the staging of corporate Theatre in live and
     simulated e-Theatre performances.

McDonald's may not call the persons doing all this Theatre work dramaturgs, but that is what
they are, and this is important work that is being done by staff members and consultants.

To better understand the dramaturgy of corporate Theatre, we will review several performances
of McDonald's corporate Theatre. In doing so we will focus on fragments of metascripts, and
the many corporate agents that direct, manage, revise, edit, and rescript McDonald's theatrics.
At a more macro level, we are concerned with theatrics of capitalism, how corporate Theatre is
produced, distributed, and consumed. And that concern extends not to the local stage of a
McDonald's restaurant, but to the wider Theatres of consumption, and to the production called
McDonald's performed day after day on the global stage. On the world stage, McDonald's is
controversial Theatre, its performances opposed by a myriad of anti-globalists, anti-sweatshop,
ecology, and anti-fast food, anti-biotech social movements. We will call this interplay of
McDonald's production and distribution of a metascript for consumption, its corporate
spectacle, and the street Theatre and cyber-Theatre that opposes that spectacle, the carnival.
Here, and there we will point to a third Theatre, we call festival, which is more tied to Nature,
the seasons, and crafts, but can be appropriated as a sideshow to both spectacle and carnival.
In short, Theatres of capitalism are interplay of spectacle, carnival, and festival.

At McDonald's we neither desire nor expect surprises, we crave predictability (Ritzer, 2000:
83). A McBreakfast served today in one city must be identical to the one we ate yesterday and
what we will eat tomorrow in some other city. Customers are spectators, who want the same
special sauce day after day, wherever they travel, but they are also actors, taking special roles,
expecting predictability.

McDonald's is Consumption Theatre - we as consumers are seduced in ways religious.
There is a religious predictability about McDonald's. In McDonald's Theatres of Capitalism,
premodern, modem, and postmortem theatrics co-exist in natural synergy that is religious.
McDonald's reenacts feudal church in its Golden Arches, and modem church in its routines and
rituals, and a postmortem experience, where what we buy is fetish, the illusion more real
certainly than the food. For Marxists, critical theorists, vegetarians, and quite a number of
environmentalists, the McDonald's food has no "use-value" whatsoever, yet mysteriously
seduces the customer and worker to be part of the Theatre, so "surplus value" can be extracted
by corporation and franchise-owners. The ads are spiritual for children of all ages, because
they invoke the theatrics of religious ritual. The ads say to children, "Coke is life" and "Coke is
the real thing," which would make McDonald's the real church where the McNugget
communion is served, the same way every time you go there.

The McDonald's stage is set in yellow and red, golden arches in the shape of the "M." The
scripted lines of the counter worker add predictability, as does the layout of the seating, the
sameness of the menu marquee, and the ritual of the drive-through window. "Thus, homesick
American tourists can take comfort in the knowledge that nearly anywhere they go they will
likely run into those familiar golden arches and the restaurant to which they have become so
accustomed (Ritzer, 2000: 86).

McDonald's corporate human resource professionals write the scripts, and managers provide
take the role of the director to make McDonald's entirely predictable Theatre, insuring the same
scripted interaction for each and every customer. McDonaldization scripts have positive and
negative functions. For example, the positive aspect of the scripting is that employees can
(Ritzer, 2000: 89, directly quoted):

1.   Control their interaction with custom, and "fend off unwanted or extraordinary demands
     merely be reusing to deviate from the script."
2.   Use their routines and scripts to protect themselves from the insults and indignities that are
     frequently heaped upon them by the public.
3.   Adopt the view that the public's hostility is aimed not at them personally but at the scripts
     and those who created them.
4.   Overall, rather than being hostile to scripts and routines, McDonald's workers often find
     them useful and even satisfying.

Scripted interactions feel equally comfortable and save to customers, who do not have to think
about how to respond to worker comments that are not in the script of the polite ritual
greetings. Many customers are happy not having to exchange pleasantries with teenagers and
liked the safety of an enforced civility. Customers like the feeling of control knowing that the
worker is required to smile, even if the friendliness is fakery.

Management and owners like the scripted interaction because the workday can be highly
routinized, controlled, and service is not only reliable and speedier, but less expensive, more
efficient, even incompetent workers can be hired at low wages.

On the negative side, scripted interaction between customers and workers numbs the body,
mind and soul. It is not only highly bureaucratic control, but it is a fast food assembly line that
combines Frederick Taylor's principles of scientific management with Henry Ford's
monotonous assembly line or what is called "Fordism" with "Taylorism." Here is a summary of
the downsides of over-scripting the Theatre of micro-management and control (Ritzer, 2000:
91-96, summarized):

1.   Employees spew out memorized lines even when the context makes their utterance
2.   Workers suppress their real self to embrace a new self, a McIdentity (Ritzer,
     2000: 91). It's smile or be fired.
3.   Virtually all decision-making and discretion is removed from the McJobs. Discretion
     about when and how often to go to the bathroom, the temperature of the grease for the
     fries, and every other operation is Taylorized.
4.   No detail is too trivial to fall outside the constraints of the script. This includes, as with
     Disneyfication, the makeup, costume, hair length, facial hair, and body jewelry.
5.   It is very controlling, in that interactions are highly limited in length and scope.
6.   Even the managers at McDonald's behave predictably, their lines, movements, and
     performances are just as routinized, controlled, and predictable in McManagement.

7.   The professors at McDonald's Hamburger University say "McDonald's has standards for
     everything down to the width of the pickle slices" to the size, shape, and quality of meat,
     chicken, fish, and potatoes.
8.   The setting takes on Disney look, the Playland is a McDonald-land and the advertisements
     are done with a "Disney look, and follow a Disney-script.

The mechanistic Theatre is so scripted, the setting so stylized, it becomes a formula, a globally
predictable product, service, and experience of work and consumption in a uniform industry.
McDonaldization has consequences that are being protested on the global stage:

1.   Regional and Ethnic distinctions are disappearing from American cooking
2.   Colleges and universities are embracing the same predictability, control, and
     standardization of 'Burger University,' and are becoming 'McUniversity.'

Textbook s are predictable, as are exams, the scripted talk of each professor, the scripted
interactions between faculty, students, and administrators.

Entertainment is the McMovieworld, one predictable sequel or prequel after another with the
same actors and plot lines, used again and again. The same is true of McTV world. It is all
becoming copycatting and predictable McEntertaininent, an indistinct, yet efficient palate.

Capitalism is modem and postmortem political and economic Theatre. Capitalism exists to
produce, distribute, and consume its own Theatre, a mask for more ulterior motives and
practices. To understand Theatres of Capitalism, I believe we can gain a deeper analysis of
production, consumption, and distribution by looking at how each is a form of Theatre. And as
a form of Theatre, each oppression is acted out in what Boal (I 974, 1979) calls, Theatre of the

Next I want to develop more ethnographic ways of exploring McDonald's Theatre. IN
particular I am interested in the multi-organizational arena of McDonald's is supply and
distribution chains, as well as its partner alliances with other corporations.

        PART III: Spectacle resisted by Carnival on Virtual and Global Stages

Corporations adopt or develop metascripts back stage; the verbal (language) and nonverbal
(gestures) acts and texts that portray their version of the corporate story to the public are
oftentimes rehearsed, and on stage performances are reviewed in guarded passageways, behind
closed doors. Saving face is a corporate asset. "Face" is the image of the institutional self that
is presented to the public. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) bring this analysis to the level of
capitalism, and develop the idea of corporate "faciality," the image or face the corporation
produces and distributes for mass consumption. Faces are social constructions that various
corporations get committed to performing. Face has theatrical capital; there is dollar value in
how the corporate face and image is viewed by its public, as more or less heroic. The job of

public relations, advertising, and dramaturgy staff and consultants is maintaining corporate
faciality with consistency across many situations, some quite scandalous.

McDonald's works hard at face-work, and this impression management involves every aspect
of Theatre. Once upon a time, there was a dramaturg who looked at McDonald's corporate
Theatre, and decided they needed happy-faced clown to work the store openings, make stage
appearances at shareholder meetings, and be the corporate-face of McDonald's to children of all

Ronald McDonald is the main corporate jester in McDonald's Theatre the same way Mickey
Mouse is the main comedian for Disney. In 1963 Ronald made his first corporate stage
appearance and became second only to Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, in terms of recognition
as, "The smile known around the world," Ronald McDonald. Ronald is not only clown and
corporate jester, beyond icon for McDonald's corporate, Ronald is the very mask of capitalism
in a cathedral of consumption, whose religious personality is better known than Moses, Jesus,
Buddha, Mahavira, or Mohamed.

McDonald's Theatre is where kids go to play, hound their parents for a new toy, and get that
instant gratification they cannot get at a restaurant that takes forever to bring your food.
Parents are baggage. McDonald's Theatre plays to children, and to parents of children who are
taught that a trip to McDonald's is what responsible adult do, and once you join this'religion, it
is hard to convert from fast food to some other faith.

The Happy Meals, the smiling cartoons, and of course Ronald, is the Theatre of Distraction,
scripted to get us to play a comfortable, predictable, and simple role. We can miss how since
MTWII, McDonaldization has changed consumers' eating habits from slow to fast. In
Distribution Theatre, we miss the transorganizational cooperation on the global stage by
multiple corporations, the theatrics of how the corporate clowns, mascots, and stars get
symbolized, and ways the corporations themselves become characters on the stage.

Behind the mask of the jester, Ronald McDonald, lies tragedy. Clowning has a long tradition
of distracting people from tragedy. That is where Ronald McDonald comes in. Theatres of
Capitalism use theatrical practices, the scripts, images, sets, and plots that reframe reality in
ways that oppress critical thought and reflection by consumers and workers.

Bovémania - Contrast Ronald McDonald's as a corporate theatrics, jester, with the
carnivalesque personality, in the Theatre and dramaturgy staged by Jos6 Bové. Bovémania, an
alliance of farmers, consumers, and ecologists is spreading around the world, as more people
resist biotech agribusiness, GMO, and junk food with festive and carnivalesque theatrics.

Carnivalesque theatrics can be grotesque, violent, or quite peaceful, and almost festive. On
February 15, 2001, Bové lead a group of farmers to dismantle a McDonald's restaurant, under
construction outside the ancient French village of Millau, and after leading a parade of angry
farmers displaying the debris on their farm vehicles, did deposit the deconstructed girders,
signs, and symbols of the Golden Arches, gently on the lawn of the local government offices

(Williams, 2001: 68-69; Bové & Dufour, 2001). Along the parade route, festive women passed
out local Roquefort snacks to gawking and cheering spectators. The U.S. government imposed
a stiff tariff tax on 77 French farm products in retaliation for France's restrictions on beef
imported from the U.S., such as the hormone bovine somatotrophine (BST) in milk and GMS's
(genetically modified organisms) to fatten animals for their meat. McDonald's closed its doors
during the two days of the Bové trial in the French city of Montpellier, that became a stage for
more carnivalesque, satiric clowning and more resistance to the global spectacle of
McDonaldization. Consider these satiric lines inside the courtroom:

       "McDonald's is a French investment," the chief justice argues, "with local jobs,
       local meat, local produce." Then he [the Judge] switches task. "What did you
       think of the headlines saying you sacked the place?"

       Bové: "It was an exaggeration. We didn't sack it. We dismantled it."

       Judge: What does 'dismantle' mean? When you took off the tiles, some of them

       Bové: "What did it mean when they dismantled the Bastille?" The crowd guffaws
       (Williams, 2001: 69, addition in brackets mine).

Bové, together with the General Secretary of the French Farmers Confederation, Francois
Dufour, recount the dramatic theatrical events of the day of the demonstration, the courtroom
drama, and Bové's subsequent imprisonment (Bové & Dufour, 2001). Below are additional
excerpts from Bové's address to the court during his trial:

       On January 8, 1 participated in the destruction of genetically modified maize,
       which was stored in Novartis' grain silos in Nerac. And the only regret I have
       now is that I wasn't able to destroy more of it. I knew that by acting in this way I
       was doing something illegal. But it was necessary, and we had no other choice.
       The way in which genetically modified agricultural products have been imposed
       on European countries didn't leave us with any alternative. When was there a
       public debate on genetically modified organisms? When were farmers and
       consumers asked what they think about this? Never. The decisions have been
       taken at the level of the World Trade Organization... The WTO dictates its own
       law on the opening of trade barriers. The obligation to import bovine
       somatotrophine meat from the USA is a good example of this. The Panel of the
       WTO, the true policeman of world trade, decides what's "good" for both countries
       and their people, without consultation or a right of appeal (Paul, 2000).

Bové & Dufour (2001) propose a postmortem alliance of resistance by farmers, consumers and
ecologists to promote public awareness of the McDonaldization of the supply and distribution
chain, from factory farming to factory restaurant work, to consumption in the fast food factory.

Carnivalesque is the use of theatrics to face off with power via satire and parody, and invite
spectators to a new resistance and reading of the spectacle Theatre of global capitalism. Bové
uses a combination of street and courtroom theatrics to resist corporate and state power, and
recruit spectators to become spectactors in Theatres of civil disobedience (Bové & Dufour,
2001). For me, the dismantling of McDonald's, outside the ancient farming village of Millau, is
a splendid example of the dynamics of Theatres of Capitalism, the ways in which spectacle
Theatre is resisted by the carnivalesque acts of resistance, while protagonist and antagonist
appropriate festival theatrics to their cause. Outside the Palais de Justice, a "cow-costumed,
sign-waving crowd" of about 15,000 spectators, join in with their own acts of McDonald's
deconstruction, and civil disobedience to "festive zydeco and reggae waft" music and dance on
the Montpellier city plaza (Williams, 2001: 69).

The T-shirt seen all over the streets outside the Palais de Justice, quotes Bové, "Le Monde n'est
pas une merchandise" (The world is not merchandise, not a product, not for sale). On the back
it says, "Moi non plus" (Me neither). In McDonaldization everything is for sale (Bové &
Dufour, 2001; Meadows & Hamilton, 2000).

Carnivalesque resistance to the agribusiness capitalism of the Biotech Century is increasing and
it is more than a revolt against McDonald's (Rifkin, 1999). Bovémania taps a deep desire of
spectators to become spectactors, to express their discontent on subjects ranging from
genetically modified foods to Americana culture invasion by engaging in non-violent protest.
American farmers actually donated to help with Bové's legal expenses.

Bové is a charismatic leader with a sense of the dramatics and satire it takes to stage successful
political Theatre. In the 1970s when an army base planned to appropriate sacred cheeseland,
Bové joined local farmers to resist the expansion and save their farmland. In 1996, he led
Gertrude and Laurette, a cow and her calf, "to the steps of the Museum National d'Histoire
Naturelle in Paris to dramatize how normal fan-n animals would be rendered obsolete if the
import of hormone-fed mean was permitted" (Williams, 2001: 69). During the 1999, anti-WTO
protests in Seattle, Bové distributed "500 kilos of contraband Roquefort cheese smuggled in
from France" (Williams, 2001: 69). He did this in front of a McDonald's. In January 2001,
Bové recruited Brazilian campesinos for a midnight Theatre; a raid to uproot genetically
reengineered soybean plants on farmland owned by Monsanto Corporation (Williams, 2001:

We all have been recruited as characters (workers and customers) in McDonald's Spectacle
Theatre, but it is only in the past decade that citizens around the world have taken roles in
carnivalesque protest and resistance, and begun to seek more festive alternatives to fast food

The Southold Story of Resisting McDonalds

A hamlet of farmers, known as "Southold" located one hundred miles due east of New York
City decided to become the last place in New York State where you could look from a rolling

road across an open cornfield uninterrupted by Golden Arches. The town government voted
against a McDonald's request to build, 'Just not part of our rural character,' it said. A group of
visiting English land-use experts had planted the un-American idea of „stewardship‟ trumping
property rights. Southold held out for six years against McDonald's threats of lawsuits.
"Today, Southold schools take students on 'educational' outings to McDonald's."

Resistance to McDonald’s by Meat Eaters. In Fast Food Nation, Author Eric Schlosser
(2000) says he no longer eats at McDonald‟s, not because he is vegan activist, but you don't
want to know what the burger giants are serving. As in Sinclair‟s (1905) time, when consumers
because fearful of threats to health from eating meat from slaughterhouses, there is growing
concern today. On June 13, 2001, The Humane Farming Association (comprises of Food
Inspections local unions, concerned citizens and five groups representing inspectors and more
citizens) delivered a petition to US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, calling on her to take
immediate action to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act (HSA).10 A growing number of
citizens (both meat eaters and vegetarians) object to revelations of widespread abuse of the
slaughter of animals.

McSweatshops - Who makes the Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty toys sold
with McDonald's Happy Meals? McDonald‟s is accused of sweating teenagers (under age
16) to make the toys that are packed into Happy Meals.

       Seventeen year old women are forced to work 9 to 10 hours a day, seven days a
       week, earning as little as six cents an hour in the Keyhinge factory in Vietnam
       making the popular giveaway promotional toys, many of which are Disney
       characters, for McDonald's Happy Meals. After working a 70 hour week, some of
       the teenage women take home a salary of only $4.20! In February, 200 workers
       fell ill, 25 collapsed and three were hospitalized as a result of chemical

       Keyhinge management which refuses to improve the ventilation system in the
       factory or remedy other unsafe working conditions… Many of the young women
       at the Keyhinge factory making McDonald's/Disney toys earn just 60 cents after a
       10 hour shift.12

Young workers at the fast food restaurant also allege that McDoanld‟s owners violate local
child labor laws. For example, in the UK, a teenagers girl was putting in 16 hour shifts and
others were working till 2AM on school nights.13 In October 2000, employees of a McDonald's
franchise in Florence went out on strike in protest against an alleged "intimidatory climate" -
the first time that industrial action has hit the restaurant chain's Italian operations.

       The accusations made by the workers at this franchise are similar to those levelled
       by the Florence staff: "inhuman working conditions, a ban on drinking or going to
       the bathroom during working time, timed work tasks, non-paid overtime hours
       and notification of shifts just with a day's notice".14

There are also accusations that McDonald‟s resists all efforts to unionize the mostly young
workers. For Example, McDonald's hired fifteen lawyers to fight workers at just one restaurant
in Quebec. After 51 out of the 62 McDonald's workers signed a request for Teamsters'
certification, franchise owners closed their restaurant in Quebec. McDonald‟s also quashed
union efforts by quickly bringing in new hires and firing any suspected organizers. This
occurred in Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, East Lansing (Mich.), San Francisco and worldwide.
There is growing resistance to economies whose only demonstration of employment growth, is
more McJobs.


McLibel is a legal farce, a play reenacting the plot of David and Goliath. The live performance
closed in London on June 19 1997, but the web versions (McLibel Two) rerun still. This is part
farce, and part Theatre of the absurd, and the longest trial in British history (from June 1994 to
1997). McDonald's spent 15 million dollars defending its corporate face against a pair of
anarchists, vegetarian militants of London Greenpeace, with a combined income, under $12
thousand, who passed out a leaflet, titled, "What's wrong with McDonald's?" (with the sub-title
“Everything they don‟t want you to know” (Morris & Steel, 1993).15 Inside are new McWords:

                  McDollars
                  McGreedy
                  McCancer
                  McMurder

Dave Morris and Helen Steel, the McLibel defendants, passed out their leaflet (first published
in 1986 by London Greenpeace), featuring a cigar-chomping, cowboy-hatted caricature of an
American fat cat hiding behind a smiling Ronald McDonald mask, and the parody logos
"McDollars, McGreedy, McCancer, McMurder" (Morris & Steel, 1993). British libel law does
not have free speech provisions, and those who bash corporations, even in jest, face criminal
prosecution. The pamphlet mentions many of the social causes and movements that have taken
to the streets in our postmortem culture:

      Rainforest depletion (to raise the cattle),
      Third World poverty (forcing peasants off their farrns to make way for export crops and
       McDonald's livestock needs),
      Animal cruelty (in treatment of the livestock), waste production (disposable packaging
       and litter),
      Health (ftied fatty foods),
      Poor labor conditions (low wages and union-busting in the McJob sector) and,
      Exploitative advertising (in McDonald's target marketing to children).

McDonald's issued libel writs against five Greenpeace activists in 1990 over the contents of the
now notorious leaflet, they apologized rather than risk going to trial against a $27 billion dollar
corporation, a strategy that Mcdonald's used with 90 other pesky protest organizations, to get
them to back off. When Dave and Helen refused to apologize after distributing the leaflet,
McDonald's went to court. What is noteworthy about the trial, is how the procedures that
privilege corporate power, make Dave and Helen into the David character and McDonald's into

       Denied trial by jury after McDonald's lawyers argued that the issues were too
       complicated for ordinary people to understand, Morris, a 43-year-old unemployed
       postal worker, and Steel, 3 1, a part-time barmaid, filed motions, cross-examined
       experts and plotted legal strategy on the subway ride to court (Guttenplan, 1997).

Dave and Helen, were had insulted Ronald McDonald, and no face saving corporation
could let this stand:

       ONCE told the grim story about how hamburgers are made, children are far less
       ready to join in Ronald McDonald's perverse antics. With the right prompting, a
       child's imagination can easily turn a clown into a bogeyman (a lot of children are
       very suspicious of clowns anyway). Children love a secret, and Ronald's is
       especially disgusting (Morris & Steel, 1993).

Worse, two vegetarians had accused McDonald's corporation of exploitation of animals,
the death of the rain forest and in general the crime of McMurder:

       In the slaughterhouse, animals often struggle to escape. Cattle become frantic as
       they watch the animal before them in the killing-line being prodded, beaten,
       electrocuted, and knifed.

       A recent British government report criticized inefficient stunning methods which
       frequently result in animals having their throats cut while still fully conscious.
       McDonald's are responsible for the deaths of countless animals by this supposedly
       humane method. We have the choice to eat meat or not. The 450 million animals
       killed for food in Britain every year have no choice at all. It is often said that
       after visiting an abattoir, people become nauseous at the thought of eating flesh.
       How many of us would be prepared to work in a slaughterhouse and kill the
       animals we eat?

They had written a theatrical review, critical of McDonald's theatrics, challenging its colorful
gimmicks, corporate clown, and show of 'family fun as a facade.

McDonald's spent four years preparing the case (1993-1997) then another 313 sitting days to
stage it. 130 witnesses came from around the world to give evidence in court, including
environmental and nutritional experts, trade unionists, animal welfare experts, McDonald's
employees, top executives, and five infiltrators employed by McDonald's. Most describe the
trial as the biggest corporate PR disaster in history.

While there was a $95,490 fine imposed against Dave and Helen, the legal findings was, as
stated in their open letter, following the McLibel trial:

       ... McDonald's "exploits children" through their advertising, that they are
       "culpably responsible" for cruelty to animals, and that the company pays low
       wages and is anti-union

       ... The Judge also found that McDonald's food was "high in fat and saturated fat
       and animal products and sodium" and that "advertisements, promotions and
       booklets have pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which McDonald's food...
       did not match" (i.e.. that the food is not nutritious and that they are therefore
       deceiving the public when they promote it as such). Action should now be taken
       on all these matters, which go to the very core of the Corporation's business.
       (Morris & Steel, 1997).

Even a Kids Against McDonald's network was formed. In March 1999, an appeals court judge
found that Judge Bell had been overly harsh and sided more forcefully with Steel and Morris,
and lowered the amount of damages to $61,300. The PR fallout from the trial exceeds the
yearly advertising budget of McDonald's.

       John Vidal had published his critically acclaimed book McLibel: Burger Culture
       on Trial; 60 Minutes had produced a lengthy segment about the trial; England's
       Channel 4 had run a three-hour dramatization of it; and Franny Armstrong's
       documentary, "McLibel: Two Worlds Collide" had made the rounds on the
       independent film circuit (having been turned down, ironically, by every major
       broadcaster for libel concerns) [From No-Logo by Naomi Klein, 2000].16

There are moments in the trial that seem lifted straight out of Theatre of the Absurd
(Cienfuegos, 1997):

       When asked how McD's could claim that Coca-Cola was nutritious, McD's Senior
       VP of Marketing (US), David Green, stated:

       Because it is "providing water, and I think that is part of a balanced diet."

       When asked how it could possibly be environmentally friendly for McD's to
       produce mountains of disposable packaging and then dispose of it as landfill,
       McD's Chief Purchasing Officer and VP (UK), Ed Oakley, stated:

       "...otherwise, you'd end up with lots of vast, empty gravel pits all over the

There is also "McLibel Two," the e-Theatre of McSpotlight, a World Wide Web site devoted to
"McDonald's, McLibel, and Multinationals" (www. On February 16th 1996

when Helen and Dave launch the McSpotlight intemet site from a laptop connected to the
intemet via a mobile phone outside a McDonald's store in Central London. The website was
accessed more than a million times in its first month. The banned leaflet "What's Wrong with
McDonald's?" has been duplicated over two million times, and is available in 14 languages.
Their site has over 1,800 files, including audio interviews with the defendants, and nearly every
film clip, cartoon, and article McDonald's has ever tried to suppress (25 megabytes in all).

                                Part IV Conscious Capitalism

Consciousness of consumerism's connection to production and distribution takes a more
interconnected scholarship than our separate disciplines of marketing, management, and
economics permit. Watson's (1 997) ethnographies of consumers get us into a consumption
understanding of consumer-seduction and resistance, but do not focus too much upon
production or distribution. Ritzer (I 993/2000) goes further into the interconnectivity of
production, distribution, and consumption. He gives an exceptional and thorough analysis of
production, the way in which Weberian bureaucratic concepts such as rationalization, combine
with Taylorist versions of scientific management in McDonalds. Ritzer bridges production
with consumption, to show the postindustrial production processes connectivity to postmortem
marketing practices, and connects these to sociological forces of resistance to the kinds of
soulless corporate power and domination of our worker and consumer lives and planet that
McDonaldization symbolizes. My own search for connectivity will connect the postmortem
consumer with the postindustrial supply and distribution chain.

When animal rights activists protested the inhumane ways beef, pork, and chicken
slaughterhouses were raising and killing animals, McDonalds began to implement standards
that would reduce pain and suffering. For example, more humane killing processes, increasing
the space in cages for chickens, and stopping the practice of withholding food and water to get
chickens to lay more eggs.

As the conscious capitalism movement grows, McDonald's will need to get a new script.

       "Our customers are proud to have us in the neighborhood because we are a
       socially responsible company... The world should be a better place because of
       McDonald's." Chairman and CEO Jack Greenberg, McDonald's Vision Statement,

Global McDonaldization is considered by a few in the U.S., and many in other countries to be
an oppressive ubiquity of contrived ugly-American monoculture that threatens the character of
local culture and regional food traditions. McDonald's first UK outlet opened in Woolwich,
South East London, on 2 October 1974 (Palast, 2000). McDonald's heralded the Bozo-headed
d6class6 McDonald's opening as the Americanization of Europe.

In the last decade, McDonald's has come to symbolic to much of the world, the embodiment of
Americana. "Battle of Seattle began when crazies threw a rubbish bin through the window of a
McDonald's" (Palast, 2000). When protestors on the streets of Belgrade decided to protest
Americana, the first thing they burned was McDonald's. In the post-1 1 world, McDonald's is a
target for terrorism, since it is American soil, having 64set up shop in many Muslim cities,
including places like Beirut, Cairo, and (nastaghfirullah) Makkah al-Mukarramah" (Steinberg
& Kincheloe, 1997: 270). Ethnographic research has been done on McDonaldization in Korea,
Japan, Taipei, Beijing and Hong Kong and the promulgation of postmodemism with requisite
impact on traditional culture, politics and economics (Watson, 1997).

Conscious capitalism includes resistance to the biotechnology of McDonald's agriculture,
animal hormones, and genetically reengineered food additives. Brain-wasting bovine
spongifon-n encephalopathy, or BSE of Mad Cow Disease has been a terror to McDonald's.
There was sharp "decline in consumer confidence regarding the safety of the European beef
supply," McDonald's Chairman and Chief Executive Jack Greenberg reported in a December 1
1, 2000 press release (Cohen, 2000). The short-term impact of Mad Cow disease was an I 1 %
drop in McDonald's European sales.

The slow food movement, a reaction to McDonaldization of fast food, is known an Italy as the
Convivia movement, a festive contrast to the spectacle of fast food. Convivia celebrates the
festival of life, where food means community. To remove McDonalds from the center
(spectacle) stage is to threaten the structure of predatory capitalism and patriarchal culture. The
meat and apparel industry is threatened by bringing production onto the center stage, in
carnivalesque (acts of the grotesque) and horrified at removing the veil from eyes of the
spectator. World Trade Organization's (WTO) Third Ministerial Meeting is a spectacle of
corporate and state power, held in Seattle in 1999 that collapsed in the face of unprecedented
carnivalesque protest from people around the world, taking the stage to protest the
Disneyfication and McDonaldization of their local culture and industry. We will return to
script changes that can bring about more conscious and less oppressive capitalism in Act 4.

In our next scene, we review the strange combination of Disneyfication and McTheatre that is
staged as components of Las Vegasization.

  C-Span American Writers Series – Upton Sinclair video clips -
  Eisnitz - Excerpt from; See also
  Halwell, Brian (2001). The Bioterror In Your Burger. A Worldwatch Institute Commentary. Tuesday, 6
November. On line at
  Public Citizen (2001). Groups Petition USDA To Enforce Humane Slaughter Act. June 13, 2001. On line at

  Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly (2000). Cutting the Gordian Knot. Volume 9 (4) On line at
  McDonald, Fisher Price, Monster Inc, Disney Pixar poster, accessed November 16, 2001 meal/download/img/640480.jpg
   McDonald's Coloring Book, accessed November 16, 2001 meal/color/index.html
  Fisher-Price web site, accessed November 16, 2001 http//www.fisher Table Manners http://www.fisher- flash.asp
  Disney web site accessed November 16, 2001
   Public Citizen (2001). Groups Petition USDA To Enforce Humane Slaughter Act. June 13, 2001. On line at
   Disney & McDonald's Linked to $0.06/Hour Sweatshop in Vietnam From Campaign for Labor Rights, 2 May,
   Disney & McDonald's Linked to $0.06/Hour Sweatshop in Vietnam by Mike Rhodes ( Thu, 1
May 1997.
   Black Youth Employment Netwrok reort on McDonald‟s
   First Strike by McDonald‟s Workers EIRO on line
   Morris, Dave & Helen Steel (1993). "What's wrong with McDonald's? Copy of the pamphlet distributed June
1993 in McDonald's restaurants in the U.K. that prompted the McLibel Trial. McSpotlight maintains a copy of the
original pamphlet on its web site, accessed November 20, 2001
   Klein excerpt available at, accessed November 20, 2001
   Source is McDonald's corporate web site, accessed November 16, 2001