Somewhere, Grimace is blinking his eyes, shedding a hairy, purple tear or two.
That's because last week, a consumer watchdog group hit media pay dirt by demanding the retirement of Ronald McDonald. (Actually, for a group trying to deep-fry a clown, the organization bears the cartoonishly generic name of Corporate Accountability International. CAI? Sounds like a CIA cover.)
Anyway, in calling for Ronald's deep-sixing, CAI spokesperson Deborah Lapidus said, "This clown is no friend to our children or their health," and compared him to Joe Camel.
Well, obviously, there is no arguing with her from the health point of view. Cheap and easy, McDonald's food is the new tobacco; it's an addictive, artery-clogging enemy that no doubt has added to the country's childhood obesity problem. And from a PR angle, calling for Ronald's bewigged head on a platter is a skillful, shorthand way to attack all fast food in general.
Specifically, though, it appears that as a corporation with at least some accountability, McDonald's has already thought this clown-as-target thing through. They now call him the company's "Chief Happiness Officer," which is cheesy, to be sure, but also connotes that he's been kicked upstairs, as have the other non-PC characters in McDonaldland, like the Hamburglar and Grimace.
Rather, his name now mostly stands for the Ronald McDonald Houses, a global system of extended-stay housing for families with chronically ill children. It serves an incredibly useful niche in every community in which it operates, and deserves buckets of praise.
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