Why Aren’t Vegetarians Offended by Ranch Dressing?

After their freakout over a Red Robin ad, I’m starting my own campaign to give them something to get really (really really) mad about.

I am getting offended by how easily everyone else is offended and how much energy folks put into being angry about … nothing. “Offended” gets tossed around so rapidly and readily that it’s losing its meaning, like “really” when used in a cluster (really, really, really) and “God” when used in the phrase “Oh my ____.” The latest example to offend the easily offended and be hated by haters: the Red Robin restaurant chain.

In a new 15-second ad, a nice-enough-looking lady — really, she doesn’t seem like she would hate anybody — tells us that Red Robin offers 24 kinds of burgers and then adds: “We even have a veggie burger, if your teenage daughter is going through a phase.” She says this in an overt whisper with her hand blocking her mouth while we see the back of a teenage girl’s head.

Apparently, vegetarians and vegans far and wide are freaking out, calling for a boycott, and using the word of the new millennium: offensive. To me, the vegans and vegetarians are taking a very light joke very seriously. Dare I suggest they eat some red meat and build up their fortitude a bit?

Currently, 13 percent of Americans self-identify as vegans or vegetarians. My natural follow-up question is: “How many stay that way?” And I think that’s the only point in Red Robin’s teenage daughter reference — people try vegetarianism all the time, but often get “called back” by meat. I know a mother who was meat-free for more than a dozen years, and one day, as she stood alone in the kitchen after grilling pork chops for her family, saw and smelled the platter of chops, picked one up with her bare hands and ate it all as fast as she could chew and swallow. I know a guy who was a vegetarian for six years and was called back by Buffalo wings: He smelled them, dreamed of them, and eventually succumbed. I have a vegetarian friend who has had “meat accidents” on several occasions, and oddly, they all have involved bacon. Not sayin’, just sayin’.

I don’t know how anything new gets created anymore, or how ad copy writers don’t feel completely restricted: A couple of months ago I did a post on those special limited-time-only flavors that Lays had going on. I brought them to an event and was told that Lays was getting backlash by people offended by the chicken-and-waffle flavor (and this is even though a white person suggested it and no ads targeting any specific race appeared).

Earlier this year Taco Bell quickly and quietly removed an ad that showed someone showing up to a party on game day with a plastic box of crudité. The voiceover: “People secretly hate guests who bring vegetables to game day parties.”

The result: the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, asked the public to complain, and since complaining is something Americans are good at, hate happened.

Christian groups, always the first to hate (hey, facts are facts), attempted to force failing and flailing Kmart to remove the funniest ad ever: “Ship My Pants”:

Kmart, thankfully, did not comply and has actually followed up with an equally hilarious “Big Gas Savings”:

(Turn it around, Kmart — go go go! You can be cool! You can!)

I’ve decided that I need an ad and product to be offended about, and I have chosen Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. I will rail against the assumption that I should like ranch dressing just because I am ethnically challenged. Ranch seems more of a texture than a flavor to me; it’s white and creamy and insulting. I am plied with it at restaurants: I am offended when asked “Would you like ranch with that?” and even more so when the ranch just comes. Almost every HVR ad accurately depicts my life: platters of vegetables and salad being served at a large table in an open field to ambiguously related people dressed in water-colored pastels.

But then the big lie comes: “There’s a place where kids always eat their vegetables.” The false advertising is even worse in another Hidden Valley ad that avers “Kids eat more vegetables when Hidden Valley Ranch is on the table.” That’s how powerful they claim this concoction to be, when we all know no one eats vegetables (see that Taco Bell Game Day ad).

I am going to create a “Stop Hidden Valley’s Offensive Lives” Facebook page as soon as I finish this. Join me!

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  • Alex

    I’m not vegetarian (or vegan), but I get why people don’t like the ad. Many vegetarians and vegans make that choice for ethical reasons, and yeah it’s insulting to dismiss that as “a phase.” Whether they stick with it or not isn’t the point.

    I’m sure you’ve known people who go through periods of going to religious services more frequently than they used to. Maybe they continue and maybe they don’t. When you talk to them, do you tell them that they’re going through a phase? If you do, do you expect them to feel good about that? Would you expect to see a comment like that in an ad?

    • Jarron Remington

      The “Point” is exactly as stated. Most do not stick with it, and the fact a lot of teens go through phases, this included, is true. It is not insulting to point that out, and you are only stressing her point- it is not up to anyone or any company to coddle someones choice not to eat meat, Its up to them as adults to deal with it.

  • Kathleen Miller

    Kathleen, it is offensive because this is a company that is selling a product, but making fun of the customer group that buys that product. That is no way to entice customers to come to your restaurant. Since you are not easily offended, the best example I can use is this…If you walked into a supermarket, reached for an apple, and an employee chuckled and said “Going through a phase are we? The Oreo cookies are in aisle 11 ma’am” I bet you would be furious and would talk to the manager and complain.

    You seem to really enjoy meat and have expressed graphic details of it in this article you wrote, which has nothing to do with Red Robin’s commercial. I hope you will one day watch a video of the entire process of killing animals for food. There is a documentary titled EARTHLINGS, please watch it when you have a chance, it can be viewed for free at http://WWW.EARTHLINGS.COM And feel free to post an article with your views of this film.

    • dschico

      Guess what- my wife went through the whole vegetarian-phase-thing when she was… a teenager. Perhaps there are more people out there, male and female, who dabble in going meatless the same way people try smoking or a new hobby or a certain genre of music. Some continue that behavior until it becomes a life-long habit, and for others, like my wife and the people Kathleen mentioned in her article, it is just a phase.

      This article is absolutely accurate, and while Kathleen correctly points out that Christian groups are “always the first to hate,” vegetarians seem to be the ones who are the first to be offended.

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you avoid eating meat because of “the entire process of killing animals for food,” I sure hope you don’t own a cell phone. Have you seen the Chinese factories where those things are made? They have to equip the buildings with suicide nets because the millions of workers (who earn cents a day doing the most redundant and mundane actions for 12-16 hours daily so Siri can tell you if it’s raining outside as you stand next to an open window) want to throw themselves from the tops of their occupational prisons. They’re treated like caged chickens for crying out loud! (see what I did there?)

      And I hope you don’t wear any clothing made outside of America because there is no way of knowing if they were made by kids in some Bangladesh sweat-shop. I mean, you can’t avoid one thing (meat) for humanitarian reasons while also being a consumer of other products that are created without respect to safe and comfortable conditions. Right? Right! So you must be a nudist leaf-eater living in a world of peaches and rainbows (and land-line phones) where something as basic as a 20 second restaurant commercial can offend you. Give me a break.

      • Nono_Yobiz

        So, if you take an ethical stance on one issue, you must also take ethical stances on all issues, otherwise you are a hypocrite.

        • dschico

          Relax, I was exaggerating to make a point about how people take things too far in this easily offended society.

          • D

            First off, if that’s what you were trying to say, there was no way to tell from your nonsensical response full of logical fallacies and arguments adjacent to the point. Second, did you even check the sources of the article? As one adept comment or above pointed out, this whole article was based on three tepid Facebook comments. Vegans worldwide are not offended about this. I doubt many pay attention to commercials for burger places anyway. The ad was disrespectful of ethical beliefs (I’ll bet try wouldn’t advertise a bacon-free burger and say it’s for those friends who are in a Jewish “phase”) but really, vegans hear this ALL THE TIME, so it’s hard to be mad at a tiny jab from some company they wouldn’t eat at anyway when there are people like you out there saying they’re hypocrites for not taking an ethical stand on every problem in the world. It’s meat eaters who need to lighten up and open their minds. The status quo should ALWAYS be questioned. Don’t be sheep.

  • Stine

    This is a great article, very well written and on point! Anyone who is offended by this article lacks a sense of humor and is completely unreasonable. Cheers.

  • JeffWest

    Jeez, “Ship My Pants” and “Big Gas Savings” are childish third grade puns. Yes, they’re offensive. They’re also the lazy way out for an ad agency that has no real ideas and a client that has simply given up.

  • Chelsea

    I’m offended by that Geico hump day commercial, because I actually really like Wednesdays. Camels aren’t the only ones that like Wednesdays. It’s, just, like, REALLY offensive to me.

  • Sometimes I see blog posts that make me really sad at the state of journalism. Let’s backtrack through the facts. 1) The restaurant chain Red Robin recently made a fifteen-second TV ad whose joke is that its veggie-burgers are perfect for customers whose teenage daughters are “going through a phase.” It runs it a limited amount of time (it’s the 450th or so most run ad in the past 30 days).

    2) Business Insider runs a piece saying that “the chain managed to insult all potential vegetarian and vegan customers” with the ad and cites three mild comments on Red Robin’s Facebook page. Fair enough.

    But then the page-view-whores at Huffington Post sees the BI piece and write that Red Robin is “under fire for dissing vegetarians,” still citing just those Facebook comments.

    Sensing fresh (veggie?) meat, PhillyMag links to HuffPost to claim that ”vegetarians and vegans far and wide are freaking out” and that a full-out boycott has been called. We’re told that “‘Offended’ gets tossed around so rapidly…” and it must be true, right?, as our author uses it three more times just in her opening paragraph. It’s a pity that none of the three Facebook commenters actually thought to use the word. One describes the ad as “disappointing” (ouch!). Another uses the word “dissatisfied,” though that’s not about the ad per se but rather his recent experience of trying to order a veggie-burger at a Red Robin that was out of stock.

    Seems like if there is an epidemic of offended-ness going on, we might take a look at the desperation of what passes for modern journalism these days. Offended-ness must get page views, so why not be offended at being offended? I imagine some hack at Philebrity is right now reading this Phillymag piece and contemplating a headline about the worldwide vegan army issuing a fatwa on the teenage daughters of Red Roof executives. And so it goes.

    And for full disclosure, I’m a vegan who just last night squeezed a dollop of ranch dressing on my 7yo’s dinner plate to go with carrots. He finished them off.

    • thisone

      This comment is so completely dead on. I know you can’t hear my applause through the Internet, but you’re getting it anyway.

  • Nono_Yobiz

    Of course someone as fat as you would assume that nobody eats vegetables.

  • Jim Corcoran

    For a national chain that prides itself on gourmet burgers, their veggie burger sucks to no end!

  • thisone

    “Dare I suggest they eat some red meat and build up their fortitude a bit?”
    Ignorant snark like this only serves to illustrate why the ad is a problem.

  • Michele

    Go figure the woman who wrote this article could stand to lose 50 pounds. Maybe she should go vegan. Being vegan is about compassion for animals, the environment and being ultimately healthier. It’s a shame the writer doesn’t get it.

    • aaron


  • Kristen

    I wasn’t really “offended” by the Red Robin ad, but I probably won’t eat there anymore if that’s all their veggie burger is to them. I was mildly annoyed enough to boycott? But I was more offended by this article suggesting that since HER friends are just temporary vegetarians who will run from what they usually eat at the sight of bacon, of all things (eww, by the way, bacon is heavily processed and full of chemicals, glad you like it, but don’t assume everyone does), that it must be true what Red Robin says? Just because she and all her friends can’t resist the flesh of dead critters doesn’t mean actual real people elsewhere are like that also.

    • aaron

      “the flesh of dead critters”. comments like this are what make vegetarians so annoying. humans eat meat. thats just nature. vegetarians just sound a little off in the head whenever they have to refer to meat as ‘the flesh of dead critters’. thank god my wife isnt like that.

  • carter

    jokes on Mom, daughter is vegetarian thirty years and going strong