I worked for McDonald’s for twelve years and wouldn’t be who or what I am today without the experience, but the place keeps getting funnier every time I see them try something different.
In the past week the venerable fast food behemoth had announced plans to ditch several superfluous menu items, add a few new superfluous items, test a McDonald’s delivery service, and consider raising its workers’ wages across the board so they’ll have an excuse to double their prices. Today the veil of secrecy was lifted on an upcoming TV project in which the company has paid an ad agency to reboot the Hamburglar for a 21st-century audience, maybe because his copyright was about to expire and Arby’s was ready to make a play for him.
The Golden Age Hamburglar was a staple of my childhood Saturday mornings, helping to fill the dead air between cartoons with his kleptomaniacal shenanigans. Too poor to cough up a measly handful of pocket change for a single McDonald’s sandwich, he dedicated every waking moment to filching meals out of the mouths of his perennial rivals: the equally sketchy pirate Captain Crook; the election-rigging Mayor McCheese; unskilled pilot Birdie McQuack, teen mom of Launchpad; Grimace the Two-Eyed No-Horned Waddling Purple Quarter-Pounder Eater; the armless, deformed, non-verbal Frypeople; and, of course, Scottish folk legend Ronald McDonald, our happy-go-lucky hero whose unflappable attitude and bananas-and-stripes jumpsuit made him the sanest one of them all.
This motley crew spent time on Saturday mornings and afternoons after school teaching us impressionable youngsters the emotional benefits of wearing whatever you want and dueling your neighbors over cheap grub. Years later we came to ignore the cast and their increasingly complex story arcs after McDonald’s scientists invented Happy Meal toys and made those our #1 reason to like them.
All that was decades ago. The above photo is an actual promotional image of the all-new, all-different, extreme Ultimate Hamburglar, who’ll be popping up shortly in new ads touting Mickey D’s next temporary sandwich experiment, the Sirloin Third Pounder, which would be a great name for a Japanese punk-pop band. You’ll notice this technically grimmer-and-grittier Hamburglar has been working out at the gym and gotten some much-needed dental work, but his fashion sense is as iconoclastic as ever, because even today red gloves, yellow hatband, and a burger tie all cry “stealthy realism”.
The company swears we’ll love our new fast food antihero, who I assume will be revamped into a Robin Hood-esque people’s champion with his own complicated code of honor, who steals burgers from the 1% and gives them to the 99%. The overall plot of his first fifty commercials, which have already begun filming and will air in theaters between 2018 and 2025, remains shrouded in secrecy, but our best guess is a large part of it will have to invent a plot device explaining why any of the 1% would come within 500 yards of a Big Mac.
McDonald’s hopes Nü-Hamburglar will succeed with the coveted adults 18-25 demographic and has already hired an army of screenwriters to devise storylines for his potential new antagonists such as the French Friar, the Salad Shooter, and the Bacon Egg & Limp Bizkit. We can also expect a retooled line of McDonald’s licensed merchandise and new action figures, none of which will be female characters. Best-case scenario: America embraces the Ham Man and his buds so lovingly that Disney decides to buy McDonald’s and triples the visual effects budget on their ads.
So this is where we are now. Hamburglar Begins. You either die a gourmet, or live long enough to see yourself become the glutton.