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!