Over the past few days, I've seen a picture on several websites, Twitter and Facebook. It's a picture of a Burger King in Queens, New York in its Halloween costume. Please have a look.
And... I just don't get it.
So the Burger King, ostensibly, dressed up as McDonald's. They painted (faint, not immediately noticeable) golden arches over the eyes of the ghost, spray painted the word "McDonald's," and changed their marquee to read, "BOOOO! Just kidding. We still flame grill our burgers. Happy Halloween." The rest of the BK is also covered in another large tarp/sheet with the same eye holes and faint yellow arches.
But that's where I start running into logic problems. It's not only dressed up as a McDonald's, but also as two ghosts. Is it supposed to be the ghost of a McDonald's? Was Burger King invaded by ghosts that transformed it to a McDonald's? Did a McDonald's used to be in that location, but it closed ("died") and now the Burger King is there?
Upon first viewing, I basically wrote it off as "who gives a shit?" Even judged against the low, low bar of corporate-approved hilarity (see: every company's April Fools' Day prank ever) it's not particularly spicy. The premise is shaky and garbled, the execution is amateurish, the zinger on the marquee is WAY too wordy, and, again, I'm still not sure how ghosts, Burger King, McDonald's and flame grilling are all connected.
So why am I spending so much time talking about it? Because the Internet is celebrating it like it's Kadeem Harrison dropping disses in White Men Can't Jump.
"This Burger King Won Halloween Early With A McDonald’s Ghost Costume." --Uproxx
"This Burger King Just Pulled an Epic Halloween Prank on McDonald's." --Fortune
"Burger King Trolls McDonald's With a Classic Halloween Prank." --Mashable
"Burger King Brilliantly Mocks McDonald's For Halloween." --cnet
"Burger King Dressed Up as the Ghost of McDonald's in This Scary Good Halloween Prank." --Adweek
"Burger King Trolls McDonald's With Epic Halloween 'Costume.'" --UPI
"Burger King Trolls McDonald's With the Best Halloween Costume Ever." --Mo4Ch
"Burger King Makes Massive Dig at McDonald's in Halloween Prank, Everyone Loves It." --Daily Mirror
"A Burger King Restaurant Has a Halloween Costume That Expertly Slams McDonald's." --Business Insider
"Burger King Pulled off the Most Savage Troll By Dressing Up As McDonald's." --Elite Daily
And that's just scratching the surface of all the tweets and comments that concurred with the above headlines.
I'M SO CONFUSED. What are they seeing that I'm not?
Therefore, I now propose three theories on what's happening here, one of which essentially has to be true.
I'm missing something. I've studied the prank. Analyzed it. I just spent a half hour reading articles about it to compile those quotes above. I've gone deep deep deep. And I still just don't see it. Look. I'm not infallible. I had trouble with thermodynamics when I was in school. I never was great at analyzing (or writing) poetry. I'm terrible at Goldeneye on N64. And some things that click for other people -- like Futurama or Danny McBride -- just don't click for me. I'm in my mid 30s. I don't think I'm out of touch with youth-y Internet culture, but maybe I am? It's all on the table.
The Internet has so thoroughly murdered hyperbole that formerly powerful words no longer carry weight. You can't write a headline about a prank, it has to be a "classic" prank or an "epic" prank or a "savage" prank. I get it; I'm guilty of it. Gratuitous adjectives find their way into plenty of my headlines. But maybe it's not just confined to click-craving headlines anymore. Maybe hyperbole has been diffused and absorbed on such a large scale that even a person posting a basic tweet feels the need to epic-ify it by 200 percent. So people saying the prank is "epic" or the "best Halloween costume ever" are really just saying: "Burger King pulled a prank" according to an Internet-to-English dictionary.
Comedy has become so watered down that this prank counts as hilarious. Sam was just an old dinosaur, sitting in front of his keyboard, lamenting, like generations before him, how comedy isn't funny anymore. "Seinfeld still holds up," passers-by might hear him say, "The clothes are dated but the jokes still work. And it had a freaking laugh track. No, they don't make 'em like that anymore." And so he sat on high, rolling his eyes at the twentysomethings and their ghost/McDonald's mashup pranks. "Back in my day," he said to no one in particular, "the only time we cut a hole in a sheet was--" And then he trailed off, not willing to make a hacky wedding night/sex-through-a-sheet joke, sticking by his lonely, solitary, snobbish guns until the bitter end.
I mean this with all sincerity: If you understand why this Burger King's costume is an epic prank and the best Halloween costume ever, please explain it to me. I'm actually bothered..
This post was originally published on Friday, October 28, 2016 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Food & Drink.