If you always thought there was something creepy about Ronald McDonald, now you know why. A class action lawsuit filed in September puts the baggy-trousered, red-haired icon at the center of a conspiracy to entice America's children into a debilitating diet full of saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar.
The three lead plaintiffs are New York City teenagers of formidable size who have eaten at McDonald's nearly every day for at least five years. "We feel that the advertising strategies target young children," said their attorney, Samuel Hirsch.
"Toy promotions and Happy Meals are a lethal combination." He didn't mention the chain's ubiquitous playgrounds—probably because the opportunity for exercise they offer might be seen as mitigating McDonald's guilt.
Hirsch also represents Caesar Barber, a middle-aged maintenance man with two heart attacks under his belt and substantial flab above it, who for decades assumed that cheeseburgers, onion rings, and fried chicken were health foods. Upon discovering his error, he sued McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Wendy's.
As in the campaign against the tobacco industry, the seduction-of-the-innocent angle seems more promising than claiming ignorance of common knowledge. Indeed, was not Barber once a naive, shortsighted youth, tricked into unhealthy habits he now finds it difficult to break?
"This is nothing more than a frivolous lawsuit," a McDonald's spokesman said in response to Hirsch's latest effort. "Its claims are ridiculous." It wasn't clear why he thought that was relevant.