This week's featured Insta Art, O happy meal 🎵 by Dan Cretu, sparks a conversation about its all too literal representation of McDonald's first Restaurant-Museum in Italy. For the sake of this article, we're just going to bypass the figurative discussions you can have with your friends after watching Fast Food Nation. If you want to know more about the piece, watch the video below. The following is what I know.
We can all agree that this image of an ancient McDonald's is capable of signifying or instigating limitless meanings. O happy meal 🎵 is additionally comically literal because aside from the actual existence of a McDonald’s chain restaurant across the plaza from the historical Pantheon in Rome, Italy, a relatively new McDonald’s location has just broken historic ground, so to speak. The restaurant is located in Marino (about twelve miles south of Rome), and upon construction preserved an ancient Roman road dating back to 2nd/1st Century BC beneath it. The ancient archaeological find funded by McDonald's Italia birthed the chain's first "restaurant-museum". I guess they figured we’ve got so many preservatives in our food, and they’re already seeping into the ground like chemicals from a dry cleaner, we might as well preserve history. Whether in line or eating, you can view the ancient highway below via glass/clear plastic floors. Additionally, along this Mc’Stretch of road lie the remains of three bodies. The skeletons were moved to a research lab for investigative purposes, but replaced by casts on these tracks, so you still get to view a taste of where your meat really comes from…
Nah, McDonald's meat isn’t even that good.
Back here in America, if you were not already aware, long before you you spot the sign off the freeway, McDonald's is in your head. It is so woven into American culture, that causality of the positive correlation between the consumer and the company is inconclusive. In other words we are dealing with a McChicken and Egg McMuffin scenario of which drives which, America's greasy appetite towards extra large meal sizes and obesity and McDonald's psychological research to instigate our eating habits. Which came first? Are we really that greedily hungry either innately or due to some other force of American culture, or did they make us that way? The whole experience is an art, crafted in a McLabratory. McDonald's entices us with pristine photos of culinary choices right on the menu to increase our "eyes are bigger than our stomach" ordering skills and the profuse perfume of greasy french fries pouring through the air, out each door and drive through window, for miles. I can definitely smell McDonald's long before I see one. Additionally, if McDonald's fries don't give you a hard on, there might be something wrong with you---like, you might be a vegan. When you order inside, all aspects of the interior decor are strategically implemented to get you to eat and to get the fuck out. No jokes here, those awful bright lights that make everything visible, such as the ketchup smears on the table to the zits on the person sitting next to you, are purposefully set to keep the flow of patrons moving in the restaurant. Have you ever noticed no one hangs out there? I take one look at the freak show around and immediately wish to return back to my car and eat if I have any intention of putting this food in my mouth. Considering all of this, let's come back to the idea of having a McDonald's restaurant with dead bodies on display. Despite their replication, the idea of death must still linger on the tip of visitor's tongues.
Before putting hands to keyboard, I was convinced that despite "novelty" appeal, such a layout might be counter intuitive to heightening appetite, however, as I delve more into the topic, I realize it actually fulfills their business designed model perfectly. For all of those tourists that would rather not take a gamble on where to eat lunch and crave some nostalgic relief in the process, score. For all of those tourists and even natives that have not yet seen the newly discovered/on display corpse covered route, they feel uber (the forgotten adjective not the ride-sharing service) productive in their sight-seeing and get to stop and eat a meal before the long trek back, because when in Rome... For all of those hungry history hunters, once they order, take their gaze off the menu and turn around, they realize they are basically in an underground tomb, and want to get the fuck out to eat. Attempting to hurry out a Happy Meal to-go-bag, a previously hidden sign lets them know they haven't even made it to the gift shop yet, and no food or drinks are allowed beyond that point.
If you take away anything from this, all golden arches lead to Rome, and "when in Rome...do as the Roman's do..." and die on a trek to a future McDonald's. Additionally, if McDonald's is willing to use their earnings to fund the preservation of art and artifacts, providing a means of permitting and encouraging its viewing by the public, "I'm lovin' it", AND I'll have some fries with that. Now if only they would bring back the trans fats...
As far as I'm concerned, that's my choice. Hell, Starbucks recently got caught with cancer causing agents created via their coffee production process, and all they have to do is post a warning sign. Oh the art of personal responsibility...
Have a clever thought, pun, or perhaps an opinion? Comment below (or elsewhere) using the hashtag #instaartotw and #wheningoldenarches
Watch the video below to learn more about Dan Cretu's piece and the Italian Renaissance painting it references.
If you take away nothing from this, go experience another piece of art.