Eat This, and That: How Applebee’s and Taco Bell Speak to America

If you watch any amount of TV commercials, you are either unable to afford a DVR or too unbelievably lazy to fast-forward through the insipid commercials that plague the spaces between network television shows. And if you have had the displeasure of seeing any such recent ads, you’ve probably noticed that the majority of these commercials represent flights of fancy even greater than that which declares Adam Sandler to still be funny (if he ever was) or Tyler Perry a great screenwriter.

I’m not talking about commercials with exceptionally prudent neon-colored bears with a fastidious penchant for wiping their ass with toilet paper or talking amphibians with an interest in auto insurance. Some of the greatest flights of television fancy occur in seemingly banal contexts that are all the more noteworthy for their insidious subterfuge.

Take for instance a recent Applebee’s commercial, cryptically titled “Come Back Kid”, which is probably a callous and insensitive allusion to the central character’s missing child of five years. Now I recognize that you may think most Applebee’s commercials typically bereft of any substantive material befitting a blog post, but I should point out that when you watch commercial TV with just the right amount of wine and heroin coursing through your system, you sometimes find that even an episode of Two and a Half Men can be mentally stimulating.

An account of this commercial’s anachronisms should immediately address the moderately attractive waitress dressed in a standard Applebee’s uniform with a suggestively plunging neckline bringing to a table of moderately attractive and racially-mixed group of friends several plates of steaming Applebee’s food. In regards to the waitress’s attractiveness, the fact that her face is not cratered with acne nor her waistline smothered by an enormous fatty overhang acquired from a steady diet of picked over onion rings and deep fried mozzarella sticks is patronizingly insulting, as we are all familiar with the collective appearance of a typical Applebee’s waitstaff.

Furthermore, one can’t help but notice that each of the apparent friends inexplicably sit crowded about one side of their round table as though waiting for a guest that never comes, perhaps making Applebees’ commercial some sort of existential dilemma penned by the likes of Samuel Beckett or some other such Modernist Parisian playwright looking for a message in the vacuous homogenized ennui of American chain restaurants catering to the nation’s plebian masses while bestowing vast wealth upon its industrialist magnates who would rather die than descend so low as to touch so much as one fork full of Applebee’s food to their desiccated lips.

One can’t also help but notice that the plates of food carried to our raucous friends seem to spew forth steam in quantities that could supply a David Copperfield Las Vegas stage show and which equally recalls the steam issuing from a fresh pile of dog shit on a frigid Midwestern winter’s morning.

Now I don’t know when was the last time you ate at an Applebee’s restaurant, but I was recently unemployed and burdened with a crippling meth habit, and so I’ve had occasion to eat there once or twice in the past year. This recent exposure has afforded me some insight regarding the true nature of a typical Applebee’s dining room, which I shall enumerate here:

  1. The ratio of teeth to customers, even on slow nights, is disproportionately weighted towards the latter.
  2. A black light held above the flipable drinks menu reveals, on average, a 9 to 10 chance of finding semen stains on at least one page.
  3. Your waitress doesn’t give a shit about your food allergies, so don’t be upset when you get a dish piled high with extra shellfish.
  4. At least two customers seated to either side of you, at any particular time, have just arrived from a swingers party.
  5. Your order of onion rings will invariably contain at least one hair from the Sous-Chef’s genital region. No particular reason, it’s just his thing.
  6. During the course of your meal at Applebee’s, the manager’s office will be used at least once for oral copulation between the manager and a waitress looking to get scheduled for the “money” weekend hours.
  7. The bar at Applebee’s is the number one choice of rapists looking to do some serious date night pre-drinking.

Missing from this Applebee’s commercial, then, is the legal caveat at the commercial’s end, “Your experiences may differ from those shown here. Namely, if you’re expecting to go out to dinner and return home without an STD or an impacted colon from our questionable grade of meat selections, then Applebee’s may not be your best dining option.”

Of course the most recent spate of Taco Bell commercials are carefully designed to assure viewers that there is no danger of Taco Bell becoming too haughty or removed from its role of providing this nation’s alcoholics and diabetics with not only an additional meal (Taco Bell’s very own trademarked “FourthMeal”, occurring between the hours when the bars close and the welfare office opens), but with a food menu consisting of items that can be purchased with the change from the floor of one’s car.

As I was saying, the most recent Taco Bell commercials feature visions of apparently unemployed twenty-somethings who yet have the cash and wherewithal to travel hundreds of miles from their parents’ basement in pursuit of a taco with a shell made of expired tortilla chips from a 7-Eleven clearance bin.

I remark these hipster consumers’ unemployed status merely because only the habitually unemployed could ever have the time to embark on a cross-country road trip to some methamphetamine riddled back country shitburg solely for the purposes of purchasing a taco from an establishment whose food quality is comparable to what one finds stuck to the underside of one of Khloe Kardashian’s many skin tags. I know that when I was in my twenties and my friends and I found ourselves saddled with an over abundance of time, we didn’t think to drive to another state to buy a taco. Instead we typically bought a half dozen bottles of Popov vodka and commenced a drinking game in which unwitting hobos (and they’re all unwitting hobos when they’re passed out on the streets of Chicago) became BB gun targets.

One can only imagine the drive back for these sorry hipsters when, heavy with the burden of digesting several pounds of low grade beef saturated with hormones and ammonia-based preservatives, the mood in the car becomes a little less jubilant, a little more tense, and far more rancorous. Suddenly their driver’s schemes seem a little less comical and playfully ironic, perhaps less quirky and irreverent than obnoxious and self-indulgent. And when the car breaks down miles from the last expressway exit ramp near the home of some incestuous backwoods Klan family, their jocular foray into America’s heartland in pursuit of processed food stuff is going to seem even more unsatisfying than that first salty, trans fatty bite of 59-cent taco.


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