Would you believe us if we told you KFC was going organic?
No? Luckily for you, we don’t plan on saying that today. In fact, we’re going to say the opposite: In a weird new Facebook ad, KFC U.K. and Ireland actually makes a point of being the proud antithesis of so-called “clean eating.”
Ironically captioned, “So here it is—the KFC Clean Eating Burger, presented by Figgy Poppleton-Rice herself,” the video features a hackneyed version of a food influencer. (Think of her as the personification of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, which is hate-read as a competitive sport.)
Figgy explains how to make the Clean Eating Burger, co-created by herself (“Yummo!”), using the following ingredients—a white cauliflower, “spiralized” boiled chicken breast, ice cubes, kale, unsweetened almond yogurt, and “everyday, all-natural, Guatemalan milled chia seeds.”
How far do you think KFC is willing to let the joke go? Finding out is half the fun:
Spoiler: Figgy is violently cut off at the end, falling-piano style, by a giant ad for the actual product, the Dirty Louisiana burger.
There’s lots of crazy in the world, and plenty of legit fights to take on—like hunger, cancer, rising inequality, environmental annihilation, and various civil rights battles—so it’s fairly critical to our everyday sanity to avoid getting too incensed over a brand that’s given us chicken-flavored nail polish, misguided porn jokes and a comedic reenactment of surfer Mike Fanning’s actual shark attack.
Let’s start with the surface bait. Figgy’s ludicrous name, use of ice as a “relish” and affection for hashtags (#gettingFiggywithit!”) is a fair critique of social foodie culture. Who isn’t occasionally incensed by #blessed food gurus whose imaginations mostly extend to gorgeously photographed variations on chia pudding and issues of Kinfolk? Isn’t this why we loved Socality Barbie?
If it stopped there, it would perhaps have been satire, not something else. But there’s a streak of aggression that cuts through like a hot knife. KFC isn’t just making a statement about who it is as a brand; it’s saying something about who actually deserves a platform in our brave new world.
Figgy’s preference for cutting boards made of Norwegian wood (“from Finland!”) and Guatemalan-milled chia seeds is a pretty flagrant attack on globalized elitism. There’s some legitimacy to this; the uptick in Western demand for “superfoods” like chia seeds can wreak havoc on their local economies.
But really, Figgy is a shot fired at people who profess a certain cultured worldliness, especially post-Brexit (which raises questions about the country’s responsibility to other Europeans, and vice-versa): They’re actually quite shallow. (Say what you want about American goods. We can innovate and entertain, but we’re rarely accused of making an older Western culture more cultured, particularly one that in many ways sees itself as America’s parent.)
Even there it doesn’t stop. Figgy’s vapid camera gaze, her failure to understand that “halving” something already means cutting it in two, her assertion that “chicken” is what the K in KFC stands for, and her weird giggle at her own bland jokes reinforce ideas about a certain type of woman.
She thinks she knows something we don’t—but actually, the joke’s on her. She’s frivolous, and so is her stupid belief in “clean” eating.
So in due course, she is punished. Like in a bad horror movie, she isn’t just interrupted at the end (though isn’t that apt, especially now?); she’s sliced off-camera with a scream, her healthy creation rended in half (that is, two pieces) by something more important—the real brand, personified by a male voice with an American deep-South accent, and its proudly unhealthy food: “Nothin’ satisfies like the Dirty Louisiana. It’s finger-lickin’ good.”
Advertising is nothing if not a reflection of what societies value and fear at any given moment in history. This one is an ad for our times, for better or worse. This is perhaps best underlined by its reception of over 12,000 comments, mostly gleeful, and KFC’s smug answers.
“Oh good its just a joke,” one guy says—because that’s all this is, a harmless joke! “I thought KFC had finally thrown in the towel to everyone else.”
“We’ll never throw in the towel,” KFC assures him, “we wont even throw in a wetwipe.”
Well, that’s a relief, KFC. For a minute there, we thought we were losing you to mindful nourishment, cultural mobility and all those mouthy women.