You want cheese with that shirt?

I try not to let day-to-day worries loom too large on my horizon.

Sure, I occasionally fret about the rising cost of petroleum products, the ease with which pit bulls can purchase handguns and the fact that Republicans are allowed to roam freely throughout the nation, but I somehow manage to keep smiling through it all.

A recent trend in television advertising, however, has me more than a little bit concerned. There appears to be a growing movement to establish voracious slobs as the next Great American Icon.

It seems like every time I turn on my TV there’s some food-splattered guy cramming an 18-pound cheeseburger into his mouth while making sounds similar to an untuned diesel engine with dirty glow plugs.

Our hero usually manages to spill about two-thirds of his meal onto his shirt, jeans, boots or hapless passers-by who express delight in being splattered by Mr. Cheeseface.

Whadda guy!

I think the Carl’s Jr. restaurant chain started this zany advertising campaign, and it seemed somewhat amusing at first. After about the 500th time you’ve seen one of these little gems, though, the chomping, splattering and licking gets a little tiresome.

And it’s spreading…

More and more commercials focusing on food products and the enthusiastic consumption thereof seem to be getting just a little bit sloppier as time goes on. Helpings are getting bigger every day and more of them seem to be landing in untoward places for no apparent reason.

(Can you sat ‘Splat!’? I knew you could…)

Hey, I’m no Emily Post. I’ve dribbled my share of chili dogs on ties and shirt fronts, but I’ve never reveled in the experience and certainly never wanted it televised. There’s just something about reddish-brown chili spilled on a turquoise shirt and maroon tie that used to make the average person want to hide behind the nearest Dumpster.

No longer, amigos.

Thanks to the miracle of television, we’re slowly and subtly being persuaded that it’s not only OK but commendable to feed your face, shirt and trousers before you actually swallow any significant portion of your meal. It’s cute, it’s manly, it’s American and chicks dig it.

You’re not a slob, you’re a diamond in the rough who likes his food – lots of it – on your forehead, chin, chest and dining companions.

And don’t forget the sound effects that frequently go along with these brief glimpses into American fast-food consumption. They’re kind of a loud pastiche of the zombie feeding noises heard during “The Night of the Living Dead” and one of those old high school science films during which you actually got to hear the amplified sounds of a pop-eyed praying mantis chowing down on a juicy caterpillar.

Yeah, like this is gonna give you a big hankering for a double cheeseburger.

We can only hope and pray that this trend doesn’t spread to soup or pasta distributors. Turning on the TV and seeing a big, hairy guy gleefully wallowing in a tub of ravioli is just a little more than I care to think about – particularly before lunch…

Originally published July 22, 2001

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