A Happy Meal Without a Toy is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle

What Women Really Think
June 25 2010 11:20 AM

A Happy Meal Without a Toy is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle

/blogs/xx_factor/2010/06/25/banning_toys_in_happy_meals_wont_go_far_in_the_battle_against_childhood_obesity/jcr:content/body/slate_image

Amanda , I have plenty of issues with the CSPI's lawsuit (or, at the point, its notice of intent to file a lawsuit). On balance, I think Neela is right-it's not the toys, it's the food. The carefully engineered food, with its balance of sweet-salty, its umami, its mouth feel, and its chemically injected taste of smoke and grill. It's designed to lure us in, and it's backed by an elaborate system behind the food which conspires to convince us that it's reasonable to expect to pay $3.99 for a third of a pound of "Angus" beef on a fat crusty bun with slices of red onion, juicy tomato, and crisp lettuce. We eat fast food because it's cheaper and tastier than the real thing. The toy in the Happy Meal isn't bringing families to McDonald's who would otherwise be eating a veggie lasagna at home. It's encouraging families to choose McDonald's over Burger King.

Advertisement

Like Rachael , I'm angered by the infantilizing of parents (and the implied suggestion that parents should look for assistance from the courts or the government in teaching their kids that McDonald's, and many other things, are "sometime foods"). But mostly I'm infuriated by the foolishness of attempting to file a lawsuit over toys, when the toys are so far from the real problem. As I said in my last post, I question whether the law is meant for this. I can't see the connection to deceptive practices without a real stretching of the meaning and intent behind consumer protection legislation, and when we use a good law for a foolish purpose, it makes it less likely that we'll be able to pass more laws.

But I'm even more outraged by the way we fool ourselves into thinking that something like a lawsuit over cheap plastic toys will actually represent some form of progress in the struggle against obesity. We're fat, as a nation, because our easiest and cheapest options for eating are overwhelmingly things that we weren't meant to eat constantly, and because the prices of foods like Happy Meals and Angus burgers are kept artificially low by corn subsidies and our willingness to allow companies to employ millions of people for something that's not a living-wage. Sure, offering a toy with your cheeseburger and fries is an incentive in the wrong direction, but most kids will still welcome the fries without the toy-and I'd note that you can get the toy with a reasonably healthy meal like a plain burger, milk, and apple slices, too. Suing McDonald's over toys in Happy Meals isn't thinking big about reducing obesity. It's nothing more than another way to avoid thinking about the real problems at all.

Photograph by David McNew/Getty Images.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.