Friday, November 26, 2004

McDonald's to patrons: you're all scum

Some time ago, I reviewed the some spots for McDonald's "i'm lovin' it" ad campaign. I wasn't too thrilled with the local offerings of Mickey D's global offensive, and I am displeased to report that the new ads are worse. Not because they're omnipresent on my Canadian-based radio station, not because the "food" they promote is likely as crappy as anything else McDonald's has squeezed out in the past, but because these ads betray a breathtaking contempt for the losers who buy into it.

Really. Take one of the current ads for the "McDeal": Male Voice and Female Voice offer interwoven accounts of how they met, fell for one another, and then how he treated her to a McDeal. Nice, eh? Then there's the closing lines-- she can't wait to introduce her new honey to all of her friends. He can't wait to date all of her friends.

Yeah. I guess the moral of this one is that real friends don't treat friends to McDeals.

I thought the "Queen Bee" salad ad from this summer was repellent, but this one is certainly worse. Salad Girl was a narcissistic moron. McDeal Guy is flat-out scuzzy, and his "girlfriend" is no bright light either if she's so knocked out by his crappy "treat."

Then there was the Monopoly ad from last month. Now, this one had nothing to do with the food-- it was a promotion for the McDonald's monopoly game tie-in. It was playful and innocuous compared to the McDeal ad, but still contained the weirdo notion that treating someone to McDonald's lunch is something special.

They have to be taking the piss. I thought Mommy taking me to McD's for lunch was something neato when I was four, and that's half because I kept pretending I was Ramona Quimby going to Wonderburger. (Wonderburger was portrayed as something special in the Ramona books, but it seems to have been inspired by joints other than McDonald's-- Burger King and Wendy's, perhaps-- plus the Quimbys were dirt poor and couldn't afford to buy gummi bears.)

I am not reviewing the other McDeal ad currently on, which features a gaggle of Female Voices fantasizing about the food, the guy behind the serving counter, and the sexy voice of Mr. Announcer. Really.

In conclusion: McDonald's is demonstrating pure contempt for the people who eat their food. Maybe they think it's po-mo or something.... It's kinda like the Citibank "Live Richly" campaign: who are they trying to kid?

Screw 'em. Go to Wendy's.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mall of Memories

So, the Mall of Memphis, once the largest shopping mall in the Mid-South, is now a rubbish heap by the side of the freeway. It actually closed nearly a year ago-- Christmas Eve, apparently, but I was unaware of of its demise until I saw its bulldozed remains this weekend on a brief visit back there.

The signs of terminal malaise had been present for years; from abput 1988, when I first would have visited, to 1999 or so, when I last went there with a friend, it became a markedly less fun place to shop. Same thing with Hickory Ridge, the carousel notwithstanding, same damn thing with poorpoor Raleigh Springs. More on that later, but let's take a look about at the late, great Mall of Memphis.

I first went with my grandmother, 1988 or thereabouts. It was a special outing-- I felt even a trip to the local Marshall's with her was pretty great, and going across town to the big mall was really something. I remember the bizarre murder mystery I thumbed through on the car ride (I don't know why she let me, as it wasn't a book for kids); I remember the hotels flanking the mall-- the Marriot, the Wilson Inn, the Wilson World Hotel. I remember the huge parking lot, the two-story horseshoe-shaped food court, where Grandfather's Ice Cream (?) offered Blue Vanilla as a trademark flavour. I was surprised by the ice rink, and probably awed at the sheer scale of the place. People, that was one big mall.

Grandma and I didn't go to the movie theatre that day, but Mom and Dad took me with some of Dad's friends and their kids to see Kindergarten Cop when it came out. I was probably too young to be watching that, too, but that's what you get for mixing Arnie, guns, and little kids in one "family" film.

In the winter of 1990 0r 1991, Mom got a job in the houseware's department of Thalheimer's, then one of the MoM's anchor department stores. She hated the job and hated the clothes (and shoes!) she had to wear for it, but it was holiday money. She got me Thalheimer's Snow Bear, a huge white bear in a red vest, for Christmas that year. Thal's was the first of the anchor stores at MoM to close; I think Service Merchandise was next. That's when things started to get bad, I suppose. The smaller but far more posh Oak Court mall opened in East Memphis, and people and their money were streaming to Cordova, Bartlett, and Germantown. The horrors of Wolfchase Galleria glimmered on the horizon...

Also, a woman was killed in the parking lot in '92. It wasn't the last violent death at the MoM, and the place acquired the sobriquet "Mall of Murder."

Still, the Mall of Memphis turned out to be a prime meeting place for my far-flung high school friends (I think it was equally inconvenient for all of us to get there). Those are the best memories-- running around the music stores and T-shirt shops, looking through the blown-glass critters sold next to the ice rink, watching ferrets play in the windows of the pet store, eating warm Mrs. Fields Toffee Cookies. Best of all was playing "Claudia"; going into the children's dress shops and trying on dresses meant for little girls, then modeling them for my Anne Rice-loving friends like I was Claudia the child vampire. Kinda sick when you think about it, but I loved it. Those were cool dresses, too-- velvet-and-lace confections with artificial pearl drops, or chiffon-and-tulle billows dripping with ribbon roses.

We had Geralyn's birthday party there one year-- I baked the cake (yellow with chocolate icing) and brought it into the food court for us to enjoy. Another time, Ger and I went there with only her brother Michael. We had fun being mouthy to the clipboard-bearing God-botherers near the main stairs, but by that time the mall's decline was clear and there wasn't all that much to do. I think that was also one of the last times I saw Michael before his death in a car wreck.

I was shocked, but not very surprised, when I saw the ruins where the mall had been on Friday morning. I was also not very sad; for all the times I went there, I was not personally attached to the place (never even ice skated), and the stores that did have memories attached, like Thal's and Grandfather's Ice Cream, were long vanished. Perhaps the sheer scale of the mall turned me off; in the end, the tragedy is that a once-grand shopping centre of that magnitude should have fallen vacant as it did. By the time its closing was announced, it had but thirteen tenants. Blame crime, blame shifting demographics, blame a combo platter of both with a side of racism, but all in all... what a damn waste.

I feel worse about Raleigh Springs, though. That was my mall, and once it was a lovely place-- dated in its structure and atmosphere but packed with places to shop and eat. It had a whopping four anchor stores: Sears, Penney's, Goldsmiths, and Dillards, plus a Walgreens, a Woolworth with an attached diner, a two-screen budget movie theater, two music stores, an Asian import shop that sold framed butterflies, a Waldenbooks, and a variety of places to eat (A&W, Milano's Pizza, Chick-fil-a, Bresler's 33 Flavor Ice Cream...).

Last time I went, they still had Waldenbooks and Sears. For a couple of years, one whole side of the mall advertised the date that the new Food Court/Strip would open. After a while, they didn't even bother to paint over dates that had already passed with new bogus numbers. I stopped even poking my head in there two years ago, when I learned Dillard's and Goldsmith's were going elsewhere. I wonder if they still have the two fountains with aquamarine-tinted water, or the pink-flowered bromeliads.

I'm afraid to go to Hickory Ridge. Not because of the crime, but because I remembered it as being so very nice, and the last time Geralyn and I went it was Kinda Shabby, and that was six or seven years ago. For all I know, they've ripped out the carousel.

The fate of the Mall of Memphis, like that of earlier showpiece shopping complexes on Summer and Lamar, should be a lesson to the happy yuppie shoppers at Wolfchase Abomination and the Shops of Saddle Creek: today's "shopping centre of the future" will be the wasteland you're afraid to take your children to. And you've only yourself to blame.