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Perspective: The Unhappy Meal

Meghan Hessler

At his school, my son was the only child who had not eaten at McDonald's. Once we managed a few Shamrock shakes, but he reached the age of eleven without eating a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder.

When the Pokemon cards were offered, he requested to purchase his own Happy Meal with money from his allowance. Since he asked nicely, I suggested we go to the drive thru between errands. He was very excited.

His enthusiasm was short-lived. The chicken nuggets were dry and tasteless, the milk unremarkable and the apple slices had a chemical aftertaste and were peeled. The horror! How had I raised such a harsh food critic? "Try the fries," I suggested. They were the only item to merit a "good".

He liked the Pokemon box and cards, but the overall effect was underwhelming. "That's it?" he exclaimed. Then, he launched into a blistering critique of the Happy Meal's deceptive and misleading advertising, its below par food and how he felt that kids were being tricked into buying something that was not worth the money.

As I listened to my son's damning food review and deconstruction of marketing campaigns, I realized he had learned lessons and values I consider important: to eat fresh, healthy foods and to be critical of advertising. It only took One Unhappy Meal to confirm those lessons are getting through. And this time, I didn't have to say a word.

I'm Frances Jaeger, and that is my perspective.

Frances Jaeger is an associate professor of Spanish at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include Latin American contemporary poetry as well as Caribbean and Central American literature.